Розділ: Фінанси

January 18th, 2022 by Vbiz

As winter bites, Europe is facing a gas shortage – with lower volumes of gas exports from Russia forcing a big spike in prices. But the volatility of Russia’s gas supply could be about to get worse – as Moscow plans to build a new pipeline to China, which could give Russia the power to sell gas to the highest bidder. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 17th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged international business leaders and economists on Monday to do their part to make post-COVID19 economic recovery equitable across the globe. 

“At this critical moment, we are setting in stone a lopsided recovery,” he told the World Economic Forum, which normally meets in Davos, Switzerland, but is virtual this year due to the pandemic. 

“The burdens of record inflation, shrinking fiscal space, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices are hitting every corner of the world and blocking recovery — especially in low- and middle-income countries,” Guterres said. 

The U.N. chief said recovery remains “fragile and uneven” as the pandemic lingers, and poorer countries are seeing their slowest growth in a generation and need debt relief and financing. He urged reforms to the global financial system so it works for all countries. 

“The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth — if we leave anyone behind, in the end we leave everyone behind,” he said of the lifespan of the pandemic so far. 

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that 90% of countries have not met the goal of vaccinating 40% of their population by the end of 2021. In Africa alone, about one billion people have not received a single vaccine dose. 

“If we fail to vaccinate every person, we give rise to new variants that spread across borders and bring daily life and economies to a grinding halt,” Guterres warned. 

He said more must also be done to support developing countries to fight climate change. 

“To chart a new course, we need all hands on deck — especially all of you in the global business community,” he said, urging a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. To accomplish that, he reiterated his call to phase out coal and cease building new coal plants. 

“We see a clear role for businesses and investors in supporting our net-zero goal,” he added, referring to the global target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Guterres told the forum that in economic recovery and climate action, the world cannot afford to repeat the inequalities that continue to condemn millions to poverty and poor health. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 17th, 2022 by Vbiz

A new assessment of the global labor market finds that recovery from the employment crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic will be fragile and will worsen inequalities between rich and poor countries.  The projection comes in a new report from the United Nations’ International Labor Organization.

ILO economists say labor markets are recovering from the pandemic-induced crisis much more slowly than previously expected. They project the number of global working hours this year will be 1.8% below the numbers of pre-pandemic hours worked in the last quarter of 2019.

That deficit, they say, is equivalent to a loss of 52 million full time jobs, twice as large as the number predicted in last year’s global market survey. ILO director general, Guy Ryder, says this shortfall in the labor supply comes on top of persistently high pre-crisis levels of unemployment.

“In 2022, we project that global unemployment will stand at 207 million and that is 20 million above the pre-pandemic level in 2019.  Put in percentage terms, we expect the 2022 unemployment rate to be 5.9%,” Ryder said. 

The report finds a great divergence in recovery between regions.  It says the European and North American regions are showing encouraging signs of recovery. The worst affected regions are Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  

Ryder says the richer countries are expected to emerge from this crisis in better shape than the poorer countries. He says a big gap exists between the labor market prospects of countries depending on their level of income and development.

“Many low-and-middle-income economies are struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment and to job quality. An insufficient access to vaccines is putting pressure on their health care systems with tight fiscal space limiting the ability of their governments to use stimulus measures to support their labor markets,” he said.  

Ryder says the International Labor Organization has not taken a policy position on the legitimacy or otherwise of vaccination mandates in the workplace. He says a fundamental problem facing worksites is the unequal access to vaccines.  

For him, he says, the bottom line is to ensure that people are able to work in healthy, safe environments.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 17th, 2022 by Vbiz

The world’s 10 wealthiest men doubled their fortunes during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic as poverty and inequality soared, a report said on Monday.

Oxfam said the men’s wealth jumped from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion, at an average rate of $1.3 billion per day, in a briefing published before a virtual mini summit of world leaders being held under the auspices of the World Economic Forum.

A confederation of charities that focus on alleviating global poverty, Oxfam said the billionaires’ wealth rose more during the pandemic more than it did the previous 14 years, when the world economy was suffering the worst recession since the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

It called this inequality “economic violence” and said inequality is contributing to the death of 21,000 people every day due to a lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, hunger and climate change.

The pandemic has plunged 160 million people into poverty, the charity added, with non-white ethnic minorities and women bearing the brunt of the impact as inequality soared.

The report follows a December 2021 study by the group that found the share of global wealth of the world’s richest people soared at a record pace during the pandemic.

Oxfam urged tax reforms to fund worldwide vaccine production as well as healthcare, climate adaptation and gender-based violence reduction to help save lives.

The group said it based its wealth calculations on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available and used the 2021 Billionaires List compiled by the U.S. business magazine Forbes.

Forbes listed the world’s 10 richest men as: Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, U.S. investor Warren Buffet and the head of the French luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 16th, 2022 by Vbiz

On a cold winter afternoon in the Indian capital, New Delhi, a group of auto rickshaw drivers huddled outside a metro station hoping to pick up passengers. Since the city shut schools, colleges, restaurants and offices to cope with a third wave of the pandemic fueled by the omicron variant, though, they know their wait could be long and probably futile.

“We work on the streets and depend on people being out,” Shivraj Verma said.

“Now I will not be able to earn enough to even buy food in the city. We get crushed when the city closes.”

This is the third consecutive year that tens of millions of workers in India’s vast informal economy are confronting a loss of livelihoods and incomes as megacities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, which are the epicenter of the new wave, partially shutter.

 

While India has not enforced a stringent nationwide lockdown as it did in 2020, Delhi has closed offices, imposed a weekend and night curfew and restricted large gatherings. In the business hub of Gurugram, markets shut early as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

For those that work on the street, though, contracting the virus is of little concern — their masks hang loosely on their faces, only to be pulled up when a policeman, who might impose a fine, passes by. Their pressing problem is to earn enough money to feed families, send children to school and pay rent for their tiny tenements.

In the lives-versus-livelihoods debate that has posed one of the pandemic’s greatest dilemmas, their vote is squarely with the latter.

“We don’t worry about the virus, we worry about how to take care of our families. I will have to return again to my village if the situation stays the same,” auto rickshaw operator Mohammad Amjad Khan said.

Khan was among millions of migrants returned to their villages when India witnessed a mass exodus in 2020. He only picked up the courage to return to Delhi after a year and a half in September. At that time India had recovered from its devastating second wave.

Its cities were humming, restaurants and markets were packed, and businesses saw a revival. As India’s economy picked up pace briskly, Khan made a decent living from the auto rickshaw he took on hire to ferry customers and could send some money home. The pandemic appeared to have become a distant memory.

 

The good times lasted for four months. From less than 7,000 new cases a day in mid-December, India has been counting more than a quarter million in recent days. As cities like Delhi hunker indoors, earnings have again plummeted.

“Now I don’t even make enough money to pay for the daily hire of this vehicle. It’s really tough,” Khan said with a despondent shrug.

Indian policymakers have underlined the need to protect jobs.

At a meeting with chief ministers this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that there should be minimal loss to the ordinary people’s livelihoods and related economic activity as the country battles the latest wave.

“We have to keep this in mind, whenever we are making a strategy for COVID-19 containment,” he said.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has reassured migrant labor that a lockdown will not be imposed.

On the ground however, even partial curbs hit hard the tens of thousands of vendors who line Indian streets – vegetable and fruit sellers, small kiosks selling chips, soft drinks and cigarettes, and food carts.

Anita Singh is allowed to operate her street cart that sells hot meals and snacks till 8 p.m., but in the last two weeks, there have been very few customers to serve.

 

“Most of my sales were to college students or in the late evening when people left offices. Now they are shut,” she said.

Employment has not returned to its pre-pandemic level since the Indian economy was battered by COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a recent report by the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy. The report said that there are fewer salaried jobs, whereas daily wage work and farm labor has increased – a sign of economic distress.

“There has been a drop in average wages and daily earnings across sectors because of COVID stipulations,” said Anhad Imaan, a communication specialist with several nonprofit organizations working with migrant labor.

“Even in the construction and manufacturing sectors which have remained open, there is less work available per worker.”

That means the quality of lives of those in the informal sector has taken a huge hit.

“They used to spend much of what they earned on food and a place to stay and sent home whatever they saved,” he said, “Now they are down to subsistence levels.”

Although estimates vary widely, studies say millions in India have slipped below the poverty line during the pandemic. A study by Pew Research Center in March pegged the number at 75 million. Another one by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University in May after India experienced a second wave put it at 230 million due to “income shocks.”

Whatever the numbers, it is a reality that the group of auto rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers knows too well. As they talked to each other, their top concern was whether there will be a lockdown and whether they should be heading home for a third time.

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 15th, 2022 by Vbiz

To match the festive spirit of South America’s first Olympics, officials from Brazil, the host country for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, boasted that the medals hung around the necks of athletes on the winners’ podium were also a victory for the environment: The gold was produced free of mercury and the silver recycled from thrown away X-ray plates and mirrors.

Five years on, the refiner that provided the gold for the medals, Marsam, is processing gold ultimately purchased by hundreds of well-known publicly traded U.S. companies — among them Microsoft, Tesla and Amazon — that are legally required to responsibly source metals in an industry long plagued by environmental and labor concerns.

But a comprehensive review of public records by The Associated Press found that the Sao Paulo-based company processes gold for, and shared ownership links to, an intermediary accused by Brazilian prosecutors of buying gold mined illegally on Indigenous lands and other areas deep in the Amazon rainforest.

 

The AP previously reported in this series that the scale of prospecting for gold on Indigenous lands has exploded in recent years and involves carving illegal landing strips in the forest for unauthorized airplanes to ferry in heavy equipment, fuel and backhoes to tear at the earth in search of the precious metal. Weak government oversight enabled by President Jair Bolsonaro, the son of a prospector himself, has only exacerbated the problem of illegal gold mining in protected areas. Critics also fault an international certification program used by manufacturers to show they aren’t using minerals that come from conflict zones, saying it is an exercise in greenwashing.

“There is no real traceability as long as the industry relies on self-regulation,” said Mark Pieth, a professor of criminal law at the University of Basel in Switzerland and author of the 2018 book “Gold Laundering.”

“People know where the gold comes from, but they don’t bother to go very far back into the supply chain because they know they will come into contact with all kinds of criminal activity.”

Much like brown and black tributaries that feed the Amazon River, gold illegally mined in the rainforest mixes into the supply chain and melds with clean gold to become almost indistinguishable.

Nuggets are spirited out of the jungle in prospectors’ dusty pockets to the nearest city where they are sold to financial brokers. All that’s required to transform the raw ore into a tradable asset regulated by the central bank is a handwritten document attesting to the specific point in the rainforest where the gold was extracted. The fewer questions asked, the better.

 

At many of those brokers’ Amazon outposts — the financial system’s front door — the gold becomes the property of Dirceu Frederico Sobrinho, known universally by just his first name.

For four decades, Dirceu has embodied the up-by-your-bootstraps myth of the Brazilian garimpeiro, or prospector. The son of a vegetable grocer who sold his produce near an infamous open-pit mine so packed with prospectors — among them Bolsonaro’s father — they looked like swarming ants, he caught the gold bug in the mid-1980s and began dispatching planeloads of raw ore from a remote Amazon town. He secured his first concession in 1990, one year after the nation rolled out a permitting regime to regulate prospecting.

Today, from a high rise on Sao Paulo’s busiest avenue, he is a major player in Brazil’s gold rush, with 173 prospecting areas either registered to his name or with pending requests, according to Brazil’s mining regulator’s registry. In the same building is the headquarters of the nation’s gold association, Anoro, which he leads. Dirceu, until last year, was also a partner in Marsam.

But even with gold jewelry dangling from his fingers and wrist, Dirceu still proudly boasts his everyman garimpeiro roots.

“You don’t motivate someone to go into the forest if they’re not chasing after a dream,” he said in a rare interview from his corner office studded with a giant jade eagle. “Whoever deals in gold has that: They dream, they believe, they like it.”

“We have a saying among the garimpeiros: ‘I’m a pawn, but I’m a pawn for gold,'” he adds.

At the center of Dirceu’s empire is F.D’Gold, Brazil’s largest buyer of gold from prospecting sites, with purchases last year totaling more than 2 billion reais ($361 million) from 252 wildcat sites, according to data from the mining regulator. Only two international firms that run industrial-sized gold mines paid more in royalties in 2021, a sign of how once artisanal prospecting has become big business in Brazil — at least for some.

In August, federal prosecutors filed a civil suit against F.D’Gold and two other brokers seeking the immediate suspension of all activities and payment of 10 billion reais ($1.8 billion) in social and environmental damages.

The complaint alleges the companies failed to take actions that would have prevented the illegal extraction of a combined 4.3 metric tons from protected areas and Indigenous territories, where mining is not allowed. Dirceu said his company complies with all laws and has implemented extra controls, but he acknowledged that determining the exact origin of the gold it obtains is “impossible” at present. He has proposed an industry-wide digital registry to improve transparency.

The ongoing suit is the result of a study published in July by the Federal University of Minas Gerais which found that as much as 28% of Brazil’s gold produced in 2019 and 2020 was potentially mined illegally. To reach that conclusion, researchers combed through 17,400 government-registered transactions by F.D’Gold and other buyers to pinpoint the location where the gold was purportedly mined. In many cases, the given location wasn’t an authorized site or, when cross-checked with satellite images, showed none of the hallmarks of mining activity — deforestation, stagnant ponds of waste — meaning the gold originated elsewhere.

 

Dirceu’s name and those of F.D’Gold and his mining company Ouro Roxo have popped up repeatedly over the years in numerous criminal investigations. He has been charged but never convicted.

A decade ago, federal prosecutors in Amazon’s Amapa state accused his company of knowingly purchasing illegal gold from a national park that was later transformed into gold bars. The charges were dismissed in 2017 after a federal judge in Brasilia ruled that F.D’Gold made the purchases legally, as evidenced by the invoices. Separate money laundering charges against Dirceu were also dismissed, due to lack of evidence. Dirceu has denied wrongdoing.

Whatever its origin, all the raw ore purchased by F.D’Gold ends up at Marsam.

F.D’Gold accounts for more than one-third of the gold Marsam processes, according to André Nunes, an external consultant for Marsam.

After almost two years as a partner in the Sao Paulo-based refiner, Dirceu stepped down last year and his daughter, Sarah Almeida Westphal, assumed management responsibilities. It was part of an effort to put different family members in charge of their own businesses, which function as separate legal entities, said Nunes, who previously worked for F.D’Gold.

“As much as it’s the same family, it’s important that each monkey has its own branch,” he said.

But the federal tax authority’s corporate registry shows Dirceu and Westphal remain partners in a machine rental and air cargo venture based in the Amazonian city of Itaituba, the national epicenter of prospecting. And Westphal could be seen working on a computer at F.D’Gold’s office on the day the AP interviewed Dirceu.

From Marsam, the gold travels far and wide. More than 300 publicly traded companies list Marsam as a refiner in responsible mining disclosures they are required to file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The refiner has been virtually the only supplier to Brazil’s mint over the past decade, according to data provided to the AP through a freedom of information request.

“Why do they want our bars? Because they’re accepted all over the world,” said Nunes, who is also a member of Marsam’s six-person compliance committee.

Enabling such robust sales around the world is a seal of approval from the Responsible Minerals Initiative, or RMI.

The certification program, run by a Virginia-based coalition of manufacturers, emerged with the passage a decade ago of legislation in the U.S. requiring companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals fueling civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Later, its standards were supplemented by tougher guidelines developed by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD

Marsam is one of just two refiners in Brazil certified as compliant with RMI’s standards for responsible sourcing of gold, having successfully completed two independent audits. The last one was performed in 2018 by UL Responsible Sourcing, an Illinois-based consultancy.

But its ties to Dirceu’s family and its strategic positioning at the pinch point between the Amazon rainforest and global commerce raises questions about its previously unexamined role in the processing and sale of gold allegedly sourced from off-limit areas.

Marsam hasn’t been accused by prosecutors of any wrongdoing and insists that it only refines gold, not sell it, on behalf of third-party exporters and domestic vendors.

 

The company in 2016 introduced a supply chain policy, which it has updated over the years, requiring it to seek out information from suppliers whenever they are publicly linked to illicit activities. They are also expected to analyze a mandatory declaration of origin form submitted by each client. No such risks were identified in the most recent RMI report and Marsam was moved to a lower risk category requiring an audit once every three years.

Critics say one problem is that the OECD’s guidelines that RMI measures companies against pay scant attention to environmental crimes or the rights of Indigenous communities. Instead, they are geared toward risks stemming from civil wars and criminal networks. In Latin America, only Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela — where drug cartels or guerrilla insurgencies are active — are classified as conflict-affected and high-risk areas deserving greater scrutiny for sourcing practices.

But the influx of illegal miners into Indigenous territories has been on the rise in recent years in Brazil — sometimes ending in bloodshed.

In May, hundreds of prospectors raided a Munduruku village, setting houses on fire, including one that belonged to a prominent anti-mining activist. The attack followed clashes farther north in Roraima state, where miners in motorboats and carrying automatic weapons repeatedly threatened a riverside Yanomami settlement. In one incident, two children, ages 1 and 5, drowned when a shooting sent people scattering into the woods.

In their suits against F.D’Gold and the two other brokers, prosecutors blame expanding mining activity for the illegal clearing in 2019 and 2020 of some 5,000 hectares of once pristine rainforest located on Indigenous territories as well as exacerbating “internal rifts that may be irreconcilable.”

 

Experts say these kinds of activities barely register in corporate boardrooms where sourcing decisions are made and given the seal of approval by international certification programs.

“Certification connotes a degree of certitude that isn’t at all possible in the gold industry, especially in Brazil,” said David Soud, an analyst at I.R. Consilium, which recently prepared a report for the OECD on illegal gold flows from neighboring Venezuela. “The result is a lot of blind spots that can easily be exploited by bad actors.”

Some of those blind spots are created by Brazil’s own weak oversight.

Under Brazilian law, securities brokers like F.D’Gold can’t be held responsible if the prospector whose ore they buy lies about its provenance. Nor is there any effective way to track the information provided at the point of sale.

It’s a system that inhibits tracking and accountability at best, and at worst enables willful ignorance as a means to launder illegal gold, according to wildcat mining experts including Larissa Rodrigues of the environmental think tank Choices Institute. For starters, experts say there need to be electronic invoices feeding a database that allows information to be verified.

“The supply chain is absorbing gold that doesn’t come from that chain. We know this happens,” said Rodrigues. “It’s a fact that fraud exists, but you can’t prosecute because you can’t prove it.”

Dirceu didn’t deny the possibility that F.D’Gold has unwittingly bought dirty gold. But he insists F.D’Gold, as an entity regulated by Brazil’s powerful central bank, follows the law and goes beyond what is required — such as hiring in 2020 two companies to monitor through satellite imagery the sources of its gold.

“The moment we had knowledge this could be happening, we hired them,” he said.

As president of the nation’s gold association, he claims to have been pushing since at least 2017 a plan to create a digital profile of every participant in the supply chain, complete with the garimpeiro’s photo, fingerprints and ID number.

“Digitalization and automation is the start of traceability,” he said. “The more legality, the more security there will be for our activities.”

Yet for all the apparent industry goodwill, and the support of Brazil’s tax authority, the proposal remains just that — an idea that hasn’t even been taken up by Congress. In the past two decades, the central bank hasn’t revoked authorization for any company that purchases gold.

For its part, Marsam says it uses its “best efforts” to identify the origin of the metals it refines. That includes requiring clients to sign affidavits attesting to the metal’s legality, demanding original invoices and conducting client visits to verify they have systems in place to prevent fraud.

But it doesn’t visit the mines themselves — something that RMI requires of refiners operating only in high-risk jurisdictions.

“We have to be diligent, but not do work that isn’t ours,” Nunes said. Asked when was the last time Marsam suspended a client it suspects of trading in dirty gold he shook his head, struggling to recall.

“I don’t remember it ever happening,” Nunes said before finally harkening back to one instance more than a decade ago.

RMI wouldn’t discuss prosecutors’ allegations against F.D’Gold, despite its close affiliation with Marsam, citing confidentiality agreements to encourage refiners to participate in its grievance process.

In a statement, it said that it takes all allegations “very seriously” and works with companies to address concerns. As part of that process, refiners are expected to trace activities all the way back to the mine whenever red flags are detected. If they don’t then address the concerns, they will be removed from the conformant list.

A 2018 report by the OECD found that while RMI’s standards are aligned with its guidelines there are significant gaps in the way RMI and other industry initiatives carry out audits, relying more on a refiner’s policies and procedures than its due diligence efforts. RMI-approved auditors also demonstrated a lack of basic technical skills and familiarity with the OECD guidelines, the study found.

“There was also an observed absence of curiosity, professional skepticism and critical analysis,” according to the report. RMI said it has since strengthened implementation efforts and is awaiting the outcome of a new assessment being conducted for the European Union.

Additional analysis in 2017 by Kumi, a London-based consulting firm that advises the OECD, found that only 5% of 314 end-user companies then registered with RMI, most of them U.S. based, had policies on sourcing conflict materials that were in line with the OECD guidelines.

“End-user companies set the tone for what happens in their supply chains,” said Andrew Britton, managing director of Kumi, which is conducting a new assessment of certifiers now for the European Commission. “It’s really important that companies’ due diligence on their supply chains really probes into potential risks and is not simply a box-ticking exercise.”

 

While land grabbing by ranchers, loggers and prospectors is hardly new in the Amazon, never before has Brazil had a president as outspokenly favorable to such interests.

Bolsonaro campaigned for the nation’s top job with promises of unearthing the Amazon’s vast mineral wealth, and his support for prospectors has encouraged a modern-day gold rush.

Bolsonaro’s father prospected for gold at Serra Pelada, where Dirceu first saw gold mining, and the president sometimes draws on his upbringing to rally support from prospectors. While campaigning, he aired videos in the Amazon region in which he boasted of sometimes pulling over at jungle stream and pulling a pan from a car to try his luck.

“Interest in the Amazon isn’t about the Indians or the damn trees; it’s the ore,” he told a group of prospectors at the presidential palace in 2019, vowing to deploy the armed forces to allow their operations to continue unfettered.

Then in May 2021, he attacked environmentalists for trying to criminalize prospecting.

“It’s really cool how people in suits and ties guess about everything that happens in the countryside,” he said sarcastically.

Beyond the rhetoric, Bolsonaro’s administration recently introduced legislation that would open up Indigenous territories to mining — something federal prosecutors have called unconstitutional and activists warn would wreak vast social and environmental damages.

Dirceu said he opposes allowing mining of Indigenous lands unless local people support the activity and are given first priority to pursue it themselves. But even as he fashions himself a reformer from the inside, he’s also benefitted from the current free-for-all. For one, he doesn’t even consider prospectors working without a permit to be illegal — just irregular.

Given persistent efforts to deregulate gold extraction, calls by Dirceu and the gold association to increase accountability over the gold supply chain “ring hollow,” said Robert Muggah, who oversees an initiative on environmental crime in the Amazon at think tank Igarape Institute.

Soon, Dirceu may stand to profit even more. Recently, F.D’Gold received approval to begin exporting directly. Dirceu said the company is currently seeking clients abroad and hopes to begin shipments soon.

If he succeeds, it means that, for the first time, someone will have a hand in the entirety of Brazil’s gold supply chain: from the Amazon where the gold is mined, to the outposts where it is first sold, to the planes that bring the ore to his daughter’s refinery in Sao Paulo and, finally, into the hands of foreign buyers.

“It’s really important to understand that the nature of gold extraction in countries like Brazil is linked, ineluctably, to the global markets,” said Muggah.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 14th, 2022 by Vbiz

The federal government is moving forward with a plan to let teenagers drive big rigs from state to state in a test program. 

Currently, truckers who cross state lines must be at least 21 years old, but an apprenticeship program required by Congress to help ease supply chain backlogs would let 18-to-20-year-old truckers drive outside their home states. 

The pilot program, detailed Thursday in a proposed regulation from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), would screen the teens, barring any with driving-while-impaired violations or traffic tickets for causing a crash. 

But safety advocates say the program runs counter to data showing that younger drivers get in more crashes than older ones. They say it’s unwise to let teenage drivers be responsible for rigs that can weigh 80,000 pounds and cause catastrophic damage when they hit lighter vehicles. 

The apprenticeship pilot program was required by Congress as part of the infrastructure bill signed into law November 15. It requires the FMCSA, which is part of the Transportation Department, to start the program within 60 days. 

The American Trucking Associations, a large industry trade group, supports the measure as a way to help with a shortage of drivers. The group estimates that the nation is running over 80,000 drivers short of the number it needs, as demand to move freight reaches historic highs. 

Under the apprenticeship, younger drivers can cross state lines during 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods, as long as an experienced driver is in the passenger seat. Trucks used in the program have to have an electronic braking crash mitigation system and a forward-facing video camera, and their speeds must be limited to 65 mph. 

Continued monitoring

After probation, the younger drivers can drive on their own, but companies have to monitor their performance until they are 21. No more than 3,000 apprentices can take part in the training at any given time. 

The FMCSA must reach out to carriers with excellent safety records to take part in the program, according to the Transportation Department. 

The program will run for up to three years, and the motor carrier agency has to turn in a report to Congress analyzing the safety record of the teen drivers and making a recommendation on whether the younger drivers are as safe as those 21 or older. Congress could expand the program with new laws. 

The test is part of a broader set of measures from the Biden administration to deal with the trucker shortage and improve working conditions for truck drivers. 

In a statement, Nick Geale, vice president of workforce safety for the trucking associations, noted 49 states and Washington, D.C., already allow drivers under 21 to drive semitrailers, but they can’t pick up a load just across a state line. 

“This program creates a rigorous safety training program, requiring an additional 400 hours of advanced safety training, in which participants are evaluated against specific performance benchmarks,” Geale said. The program will ensure that the industry has enough drivers to meet growing freight demands, he said. 

But Peter Kurdock, general counsel for Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, said federal data show that younger drivers have far higher crash rates than older ones. “This is no surprise to any American who drives a vehicle,” he said. 

Putting them behind the wheel of trucks that can weigh up to 40 tons when loaded increases the possibility of mass casualty crashes, he said. 

Kurdock said the trucking industry has wanted younger drivers for years and used supply chain issues to get it into the infrastructure bill. He fears the industry will use skewed data from the program to push for teenage truckers nationwide. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 13th, 2022 by Vbiz

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday the United Nations is “in a race against time” to prevent millions of Afghans from falling deeper into a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. 

“Livelihoods across the country have been lost. More than half the population of Afghanistan now depends on life-saving assistance,” Guterres told reporters at U.N. headquarters. “Without a more concerted effort from the international community, virtually every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty.” 

He said the situation has become so desperate that parents have sold their babies in order to feed their other children, and health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children. 

Guterres’ call comes two days after the United Nations launched its biggest humanitarian appeal ever for more than $5 billion to assist 28 million people inside Afghanistan and in five neighboring countries this year. 

Last year, the U.N. and its partner agencies reached more than 18 million people across the country. 

Economic collapse 

The secretary-general said the biggest driver of the current crisis is the free fall of Afghanistan’s economy, which he warned must not be allowed to collapse. 

“For our part, the United Nations is taking steps to inject cash into the economy through creative authorized arrangements, but it is a drop in the bucket,” he said. 

Guterres said the country’s Central Bank must be preserved and assisted, and a way found for the conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves.

“Without creative, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan’s economic situation will only worsen,” he warned.

Over the past two decades, Afghanistan’s economy has been heavily dependent on foreign aid to survive. Some 75% of the former government’s budget was donor-funded, as was 40% of its GDP. 

International donors have urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government and respect the rights of women as a condition for the release of more aid, which the group has not done.

Since the Taliban took over the government in August 2021, the suspension of most international aid has contributed to the breakdown in many basic services, including electricity, health services and education. Inflation is rampant, and the price of ordinary goods is beyond the reach of most Afghans. 

The U.N. has been raising the alarm for several months, saying there needs to be a mechanism for U.S. dollars from outside Afghanistan to be exchanged for Afghanis, the local currency, inside the country. 

In response to a question, the U.N. chief said the United States has a very important role to play in shoring up Afghanistan’s economy because most of the global financial system operates in U.S. dollars, and because Washington has frozen billions of Afghan assets to keep them out of the Taliban’s hands. 

The Taliban have repeatedly called for lifting international sanctions and for access to Afghanistan’s Central Bank assets. 

Last month, World Bank donors agreed to release $280 million from its Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. The bank had paused disbursements after the Taliban takeover. The funds were disbursed to UNICEF and the World Food Program. Guterres urged donors to make the remaining $1.2 billion available to assist Afghans in getting through the winter. 

The secretary-general also reiterated his call on the Taliban to make good on pledges to respect the rights of women and girls. Their oppression of women during their previous hold on power in Afghanistan is one of the main reasons that donors are reluctant to allow them access to funds.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 13th, 2022 by Vbiz

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation increased unexpectedly last week to their highest level since mid-November, suggesting some employers may be laying off workers as the omicron variant of the coronavirus surges throughout the country and curtails some business operations.

The Labor Department said Thursday 230,000 filed for jobless benefits, up 23,000 from the week before, but the figure was still below the 256,000 figure recorded in mid-March, 2020, when the coronavirus first swept into the United States and businesses started laying off workers by the hundreds of thousands.

For the most part, employers have been retaining their workers and searching for more as the United States continues its rapid economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s unemployment rate dropped in December to 3.9%, not far above the five-decade low of 3.5% recorded before the pandemic disrupted the world’s biggest economy.  

Many employers are looking for more workers, despite about 6.9 million workers remaining unemployed in the United States.  

At the end of November, there were 10.4 million job openings in the U.S., but the skills of available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. In addition, many of the available jobs are low-wage service positions that the jobless are shunning.  

U.S. employers added only 199,000 new jobs in December, a lower-than-expected figure. But overall, 6.3 million jobs were created through 2021 in a much quicker recovery than many economists had originally forecast a year ago.  

The U.S. economic advance is occurring even as President Joe Biden and Washington policy makers, along with consumers, are expressing concerns about the biggest increase in consumer prices in four decades – 7% at an annualized rate in December.

The surging inflation rate has pushed policy makers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to move more quickly to end their asset purchases they had used to boost the country’s economic recovery, by March rather than in mid-2022 as originally planned.  

Minutes of the Fed board’s most recent meeting showed that policy makers are eyeing a faster pace for raising the benchmark interest rate that they have kept at near zero percent since the pandemic started.

The Federal Reserve has said it could raise the rate, which influences the borrowing costs for loans made to businesses and consumers, by a quarter-percentage-point three times this year to tamp down inflationary pressures.

Meanwhile, government statistics show U.S. consumers are paying sharply higher prices for food, meals at restaurants, gasoline at service stations, and for new and used vehicles.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. consumer prices jumped 7% in December compared to a year earlier, the highest inflation rate in 40 years, the government’s Labor Department reported Wednesday.  

Higher prices coursed throughout the U.S. economy in 2021, with the biggest increases since 1982. The annualized jump in December was up from the 6.8% figure in November and was a half-percentage point gain over the course of a month.

Analysts say robust consumer demand collided with coronavirus-related supply shortages, pushing up prices over the year for big ticket items like cars and furniture, but more importantly for must-buy, everyday purchases like food and gasoline for motorists.   

Despite the year-over-year inflation surge, President Joe Biden said the report “shows a meaningful reduction in headline inflation over last month, with gas prices and food prices falling.”

He said it “demonstrates that we are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases. At the same time, this report underscores that we still have more work to do, with price increases still too high and squeezing family budgets.”

The rapidly rising costs for consumers have caught the attention of the White House and policy makers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, even as they say they expect inflation to remain high throughout 2022.  

In November, Biden called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies.” The Fed is signaling new efforts to rein in inflation by ending its direct financial support of the economy in March, sooner than originally planned, and to increase its benchmark interest rate that influences borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.  

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told a congressional committee Tuesday that getting prices down to more stable levels was key to ensure a lasting recovery from the pandemic.  

“If inflation does become too persistent, if these high levels of inflation become too entrenched in the economy or people’s thinking, that will lead to much tighter monetary policy from us, and that could lead to a recession and that would be bad for workers,” Powell told lawmakers.  

For consumers, inflation is often more of a daily fact of life than other aspects of the American economy that have recovered smartly since the coronavirus pandemic first swept into the U.S. in March 2020.  

The U.S. economy added a record-setting 6.4 million jobs last year, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% in January to 3.9% in December and rank-and-file workers’ hourly paychecks rose by 5.8%. Government assistance checks sent to all but the wealthiest American households helped many families.  

But prices consumers paid rose markedly.  

Government statistics showed that gasoline prices paid by motorists at service stations were up 58% last year, while the price of used cars and trucks were up 31% and new vehicles by 11%.   

Meat, poultry and fish prices were up 13%, furniture and bedding by nearly 12%. Fast-food and casual dining places raised their prices by nearly 8%.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2022 by Vbiz

China’s expanding sphere of influence and economic reach in Europe is met with a mixture of praise and complaints in the Greek port of Piraeus. Athens reporter Laurent Laughlin has the details.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2022 by Vbiz

Russia is contributing to an undersupply of natural gas to Europe, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol said on Wednesday, noting it comes amid a standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine. 

The Paris-based IEA, energy watchdog for developed countries, warned that the high energy prices and consumer pain wrought by the gas crunch makes the case for future mandatory storage quotas for European companies. 

“We believe there are strong elements of tightness in Europe’s gas markets due to Russia’s behavior,” Birol told reporters, noting “today’s low Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.” 

Russian gas company Gazprom reduced exports to Europe by 25% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2021 despite high market prices and reduced spot sales while other exporters boosted them, Birol said. 

“The current storage deficit in the European Union is largely due to Gazprom,” he added. “The low levels of storage in company’s EU-based facilities account for half of the EU storage deficit although Gazprom facilities only constitute 10% of the EU’s total storage capacity.” 

Russian energy exports have been in focus amid a standoff between Russia and the West as Russia has built up its troop presence near neighboring Ukraine, which is trying to forge closer ties with NATO. 

Some European Union lawmakers have accused Russia, which supplies more than 30% of the bloc’s natural gas, of using the crisis as leverage while Russia and NATO hold talks in Brussels on Wednesday. 

Moscow has denied this and Gazprom has said it has fulfilled European contracts in full. 

Yet Birol said Russia could increase deliveries to Europe by at least one-third through abundant spare capacity, the equivalent of 10% of the EU’s average monthly gas consumption or a full LNG vessel every day via commercially available pipelines. 

In contrast to its dealings with the European Union, Russia is delivering natural gas exceeding its contractual commitments to China, Birol added. 

“I think regulations in Europe should be reviewed to ensure that storage levels are in effect to cover end-user needs with mandatory minimum storage obligations for all commercial operators.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2022 by Vbiz

Cyberthreats and the growing space race are emerging risks to the global economy, adding to existing challenges posed by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum said in a report Tuesday.  

The Global Risks Report is usually released ahead of the annual elite winter gathering of CEOs and world leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, but the event has been postponed for a second year in a row because of COVID-19. The World Economic Forum still plans some virtual sessions next week. 

Here’s a rundown of the report, which is based on a survey of about 1,000 experts and leaders:  

World outlook 

As 2022 begins, the pandemic and its economic and societal impacts still pose a “critical threat” to the world, the report said. Big differences between rich and poor nations’ access to vaccines mean their economies are recovering at uneven rates, which could widen social divisions and heighten geopolitical tensions. 

By 2024, the global economy is forecast to be 2.3% smaller than it would have been without the pandemic. But that masks the different rates of growth between developing nations, whose economies are forecast to be 5.5% smaller than before the pandemic, and rich countries, which are expected to expand 0.9%.  

Digital dangers 

The pandemic forced a huge shift — requiring many people to work or attend class from home and giving rise to an exploding number of online platforms and devices to aid a transformation that has dramatically increased security risks, the report said.  

“We’re at the point now where cyberthreats are growing faster than our ability to effectively prevent and manage them,” said Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-authored the report with Zurich Insurance Group and SK Group.  

Cyberattacks are becoming more aggressive and widespread, as criminals use tougher tactics to go after more vulnerable targets, the report said. Malware and ransomware attacks have boomed, while the rise of cryptocurrencies makes it easy for online criminals to hide payments they have collected.  

While those responding to the survey cited cybersecurity threats as a short- and medium-term risk, Klint said the report’s authors were concerned that the issue wasn’t ranked higher, suggesting it’s a “blind spot” for companies and governments. 

Space race 

Space is the final frontier — for risk.  

Falling costs for launch technology has led to a new space race between companies and governments. Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space tourism venture Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson took off, while Elon Musk’s Space X business made big gains in launching astronauts and satellites.  

Meanwhile, a host of countries are beefing up their space programs as they chase geopolitical and military power or scientific and commercial gains, the report said.  

But all these programs raise the risk of friction in orbit.  

“Increased exploitation of these orbits carries the risk of congestion, an increase in debris and the possibility of collisions in a realm with few governance structures to mitigate new threats,” the report said.  

Space exploitation is one of the areas that respondents thought had among the least amount of international collaboration to deal with the challenges.  

Experts and leaders responding to the survey “don’t believe that much is being done in the best possible way moving forward,” World Economic Forum’s managing director, Saadia Zahidi, said at a virtual press briefing from Geneva.  

Other areas include artificial intelligence, cyberattacks and migration and refugees, she said.  

Climate crisis  

The environment remains the biggest long-term worry.  

The planet’s health over the next decade is the dominant concern, according to survey respondents, who cited failure to act on climate change, extreme weather, and loss of biodiversity as the top three risks.  

The report noted that different countries are taking different approaches, with some moving faster to adopt a zero-carbon model than others. Both approaches come with downsides. While moving slowly could radicalize more people who think the government isn’t acting urgently, a faster shift away from carbon intense industries could spark economic turmoil and throw millions out of work.  

“Adopting hasty environmental policies could also have unintended consequences for nature,” the report added. “There are still many unknown risks from deploying untested biotechnical and geoengineering technologies.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2022 by Vbiz

Warning that high inflation could make it harder to restore the job market to full health, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the Fed will raise interest rates faster than it now plans if needed to stem surging prices.

With America’s households squeezed by higher costs for food, gas, rent, autos and many other items, the Fed is under pressure to rein in inflation by raising rates to slow borrowing and spending. At the same time, the economy has recovered enough that the Fed’s ultra-low-interest rate policies are no longer needed.

“If we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will,” Powell said during a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, which is considering his nomination for a second four-year term.

The stark challenge for Powell if he is confirmed for a new term, as expected, was underscored by the questions he faced Tuesday from both Democratic and Republican senators. They pressed him to raise rates to reduce inflation, though without ramping up borrowing costs so much that the economy tumbles into a recession.  

Fed officials have forecast three increases in their benchmark short-term rate this year, though some economists say they envision as many as four hikes in 2022.  

Powell’s nomination is expected to be approved by the committee sometime in the coming weeks and then confirmed by the full Senate with bipartisan support. At Tuesday’s hearing, he drew mostly supportive comments from senators from both parties. A Republican first elevated to the chair by then-President Donald Trump, Powell has also been credited by many Democrats for sticking with ultra-low-rate policies to support rapid hiring for the past 18 months.  

In his testimony, Powell rebuffed suggestions from some Democratic senators that rate increases would weaken hiring and potentially leave many people, particularly lower-income and Black Americans, without jobs. Fed rate increases usually boost borrowing costs on many consumer and business loans and have the effect of slowing the economy.

But Powell argued that rising inflation, if it persists, also poses a threat to the Fed’s goal of getting nearly everyone who wants a job back to work. Low-income families have been particularly hurt by the surge in inflation, which has wiped out the pay increases that many have received.

“High inflation is a severe threat to the achievement of maximum employment,” he said.

The economy, the Fed chair added, must grow for an extended period to put as many Americans back to work as possible. Controlling inflation before it becomes entrenched is necessary to keep the economy expanding, he said. If prices keep rising, the Fed could be forced to slam on the brakes much harder by sharply raising interest rates, threatening hiring and growth.  

Powell won praise from Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the committee, and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the senior Republican on the panel.  

“The president is putting results over partisanship, re-nominating a Federal Reserve chair of the other political party,” Brown said. “As chair, together with President Biden, he has helped us deliver historic economic progress.”

“There is broad bipartisan backing for Chairman Powell’s re-nomination,” Toomey added.

Still, Toomey also criticized some of the Fed’s 12 regional banks for holding events that addressed climate change and “so-called racial justice,” which, Toomey argued, went far beyond the Fed’s mandate. He cited one event, organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, in which he said participants called for defunding police.  

“The troubling politicization of the Fed puts its independence and effectiveness at risk,” Toomey said.

And Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, criticized Powell for the central bank’s initial characterization of the price spikes that began this spring as “transitory.”

“I’m concerned if the Fed missed the boat on addressing inflation sooner, a lot of us are,” Shelby said. “As a result of that, the Fed under your leadership has lost a lot of credibility.”

Inflation has soared to the highest levels in four decades, and on Wednesday the government is expected to report that consumer prices jumped 7.1% over the past 12 months, which would be the largest such jump since 1982.

Powell said the Fed mistakenly expected that supply chain bottlenecks driving up prices for goods such as cars, appliances and furniture would not last nearly as long as they have. Once unsnarled, prices for things like used cars, which have spiked in the past year, would come back down, he said.  

But for now, those supply chain problems have persisted, and while there are signs they are loosening, Powell said that progress is limited. He noted that many cargo ships remain docked outside the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest, waiting to unload.  

The number of people working or looking for work also remains far below pre-pandemic levels, Powell noted. Millions of Americans have retired early or are avoiding jobs because of fear of the coronavirus. The Fed had anticipated that more of those people would return to the workforce than have done so.  

The smaller workforce has forced businesses to offer much higher pay to attract and keep employees. Powell said that isn’t mainly why prices are high right now, but it “can be an issue going forward for inflation.”

Economists and former Fed officials are raising concerns that the Fed is behind the curve on inflation. Last Friday’s jobs report for December, which showed a sharp drop in the unemployment rate to a healthy 3.9%, and an unexpected wage increase, has helped fan those concerns. While lower unemployment and higher pay benefit workers, those trends can potentially fuel rising prices by encouraging more spending.  

At the Fed’s most recent meeting in December, Powell said the central bank was rapidly accelerating its efforts to tighten credit with the goal of reining in inflation. The Fed will stop buying billions of dollars of bonds in March, ahead of its previously announced goal of doing so in June. Those bond purchases have been intended to encourage more borrowing and spending by lowering longer-term rates.  

And Fed officials’ expectation that they will raise short-term rates three times this year marks a sharp shift from September, when they were divided over doing it even once.  

The flood of new omicron infections won’t slow the Fed’s shift toward policies more appropriate for an economy getting back to normal, Powell said at the hearing, because so far it doesn’t appear to be weighing on the economy.  

“It is really time for us to move away from those emergency pandemic settings to a more normal level,” he added. “It’s a long road to normal from where we are.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 10th, 2022 by Vbiz

As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck.

While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can’t afford to stay home. 

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick.” 

Low-income hourly workers are especially vulnerable. Nearly 80% of all private sector workers get at least one paid sick day, according to a national compensation survey of employee benefits conducted in March by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But only 33% of workers whose wages are at the bottom 10% get paid sick leave, compared with 95% in the top 10%. 

 

A survey this past fall of roughly 6,600 hourly low-wage workers conducted by Harvard’s Shift Project, which focuses on inequality, found that 65% of those workers who reported being sick in the last month said they went to work anyway. That’s lower than the 85% who showed up to work sick before the pandemic, but much higher than it should be in the middle of a public health crisis. Schneider says it could get worse because of omicron and the labor shortage. 

What’s more, Schneider noted that the share of workers with paid sick leave before the pandemic barely budged during the pandemic — 50% versus 51% respectively. He further noted many of the working poor surveyed don’t even have $400 in emergency funds, and families will now be even more financially strapped with the expiration of the child tax credit, which had put a few hundred dollars in families’ pockets every month. 

The Associated Press interviewed one worker who started a new job with the state of New Mexico last month and started experiencing COVID-like symptoms earlier in the week. The worker, who asked not to be named because it might jeopardize their employment, took a day off to get tested and two more days to wait for the results.

A supervisor called and told the worker they would qualify for paid sick days only if the COVID test turns out to be positive. If the test is negative, the worker will have to take the days without pay, since they haven’t accrued enough time for sick leave.

“I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers,” said the worker, who is still awaiting the results and estimates it will cost $160 per day of work missed if they test negative. “Now I wish I just would’ve gone to work and not said anything.” 

A Trader Joe’s worker in California, who also asked not to be named because they didn’t want to risk their job, said the company lets workers accrue paid time off that they can use for vacations or sick days. But once that time is used up, employees often feel like they can’t afford to take unpaid days.

 

“I think many people now come to work sick or with what they call ‘allergies’ because they feel they have no other choice,” the worker said. 

Trader Joe’s offered hazard pay until last spring, and even paid time off if workers had COVID-related symptoms. But the worker said those benefits have ended. The company also no longer requires customers to wear masks in all of its stores. 

Other companies are similarly curtailing sick time that they offered earlier in the pandemic. Kroger, the country’s biggest traditional grocery chain, is ending some benefits for unvaccinated salaried workers in an attempt to compel more of them to get the jab as COVID-19 cases rise again. Unvaccinated workers enrolled in Kroger’s health care plan will no longer be eligible to receive up to two weeks paid emergency leave if they become infected — a policy that was put into place last year when vaccines were unavailable.

Meanwhile, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is slashing pandemic-related paid leave in half — from two weeks to one — after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced isolation requirements for people who don’t have symptoms after they test positive. 

Workers have received some relief from a growing number of states. In the last decade, 14 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or ballot measures requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

On the federal front, however, the movement has stalled. Congress passed a law in the spring of 2020 requiring most employers to provide paid sick leave for employees with COVID-related illnesses. But the requirement expired on Dec. 31 of that same year. Congress later extended tax credits for employers who voluntarily provide paid sick leave, but the extension lapsed at the end of September, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

In November, the U.S. House passed a version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan that would require employers to provide 20 days of paid leave for employees who are sick or caring for a family member. But the fate of that bill is uncertain in the Senate. 

“We can’t do a patchwork sort of thing. It has to be holistic. It has to be meaningful,” said Josephine Kalipeni, executive director at Family Values @ Work, a national network of 27 state and local coalitions helping to advocate for such policies as paid sick days. 

The U.S. is one of only 11 countries worldwide without any federal mandate for paid sick leave, according to a 2020 study by the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

On the flipside are small business owners like Dawn Crawley, CEO of House Cleaning Heroes, who can’t afford to pay workers when they are out sick. But Crawley is trying to help in other ways. She recently drove one cleaner who didn’t have a car to a nearby testing site. She later bought the cleaner some medicine, orange juice and oranges.

“If they are out, I try to give them money but at the same time my company has got to survive,” Crawley said. ″If the company goes under, no one has work.” 

Even when paid sick leave is available, workers aren’t always made aware of it. 

Ingrid Vilorio, who works at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Castro Valley, California, started feeling sick last March and soon tested positive for COVID. Vilorio alerted a supervisor, who didn’t tell her she was eligible for paid sick leave — as well as supplemental COVID leave — under California law. 

Vilorio said her doctor told her to take 15 days off, but she decided to take just 10 because she had bills to pay. Months later, a co-worker told Vilorio she was owed sick pay for the time she was off. Working through Fight for $15, a group that works to unionize fast food workers, Vilorio and her colleagues reported the restaurant to the county health department. Shortly after that, she was given back pay. 

But Vilorio, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator that problems persist. Workers are still getting sick, she said, and are often afraid to speak up. 

“Without our health, we can’t work,” she said. “We’re told that we’re front line workers, but we’re not treated like it.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 9th, 2022 by Vbiz

At the start of 2022 most measures show the U.S. economy is booming, with an unemployment rate that is approaching record lows and a demand for goods that has imports from the rest of the world surging.

On Friday, the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate had fallen to 3.9% in December, even as the economy produced a smaller-than-expected increase of 199,000 new jobs. The report came a day after the Commerce Department announced that U.S. imports in November had increased by 4.6% over the previous month to $304.4 billion.

The rising level of imports contributed to a trade deficit of $80.2 billion for the month, which is close to the record high of $81.4 billion set in September. While a large trade deficit is seen as a negative by many, particularly former President Donald Trump, who went to great lengths to close the gap between imports and exports, economists say it points to a U.S. economy that is leading the global recovery from the pandemic-induced recession.

“When we do better than everybody else, we get a bigger trade deficit,” said economist Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

US as economic engine

It’s a popular misconception that a trade deficit is a sign of bad economic times in the United States, Hufbauer told VOA. “Not at all. It’s an indicator of great times in the U.S., relative to other countries. And that’s exactly where we are. We’re doing very well, relative to other countries, so the dollar tends to be stronger, that tends to increase the trade deficit, because demand is greater.”

The benefits of a strong U.S. economy are felt around the world, as other countries find U.S. consumers eager to purchase their goods.

 

China, as usual, was the largest net beneficiary of the U.S. trade deficit, selling U.S. consumers $28.4 billion more than it purchased. The U.S. ran a significant trade deficit with other trade partners as well, including the European Union, at $19.4 billion; Mexico, at $11 billion; Germany, at $6.1 billion; and Canada, at $5.4 billion.

The U.S. runs a trade surplus with only a few partners. The largest is a $4.5 billion surplus with all of Central and South America. The only other surpluses of $1 billion or more are with Hong Kong, at $1.6 billion, and Brazil, at $1.0 billion.

Job growth continues

The monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor, released Friday, told a similar story of an economy that continues to demonstrate a strong recovery from the pandemic recession. The 199,000 figure for the month of December was lower than expected but contributed to an average of about 537,000 jobs per month over all of 2021.

All told, the unemployment rate fell from 6.4% at the beginning of the year to 3.9% in December.

Not all of the decline in unemployment can be attributed to job growth. Millions of American workers dropped out of the labor force, largely as a result of the pandemic. That means that even though the unemployment rate is low, there are still about 3.6 million fewer workers in the U.S. than there were in the months prior to the beginning of the pandemic.

 

“We still have aways to go in terms of absorbing the labor force, and people who’ve left the labor force, as well as population growth, but it’s certainly a positive sign,” said Elise Gould, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

On a more sobering note, the report revealed that when it comes to employment, the economic recovery has not been evenly distributed. From November to December, the unemployment rate among Black Americans rose from 6.1% to 6.5%. The problem is particularly acute among Black women, who face an unemployment rate of 5.6%, double the rate of white women.

Omicron is wild card

What the most recent economic data cannot yet tell us is the degree to which the surging omicron variant of the coronavirus has had on U.S. employment. The Labor Department uses a “reference week” each month when calculating job numbers, and the reference week in December was unusually early, encompassing Dec. 5-11, before the omicron surge began in earnest.

“Most of it happened in the second half of the month,” Gould told VOA. “So, it’s really not being reflected here at all. On February 4, when the January data comes out, I’m sure we will see a pretty big impact — hopefully a short-lived one — but probably a significant impact on the labor market.” 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 9th, 2022 by Vbiz

The European Union is under increasing pressure to further ease rules on airport take-off and landing slots to cut the number of “ghost flights” airlines are running to retain them.

Carriers say the requirement for them to use 50% of their slots — down from 80% in pre-pandemic days — or lose them is forcing them to operate empty or half-empty flights.

A sluggish return to air travel, as travelers shrink away from the omicron COVID variant and quickly changing rules for passengers, is dragging out the practice longer than they planned.

Belgium’s Brussels Airlines, for instance, says it will have to operate 3,000 under-capacity flights up to the end of March.

Its parent company Lufthansa warned last month it expected it would have to run 18,000 “pointless flights” over the European winter.

Belgium’s transport minister, Georges Gilkinet, has written to the European Commission urging it to loosen the slot rules, arguing the consequences run counter to the EU’s carbon-neutral ambitions.

The current reduced quotas were introduced in March last year in a nod to the hardship airlines faced as COVID washed over Europe for a second year running, shriveling passenger numbers.

In December, the commission said the 50% threshold would be raised to 64% for this year’s April-to-November summer flight season.

“Despite our urgings for more flexibility at the time, the EU approved a 50%-use rule for every flight schedule/frequency held for the winter. This has clearly been unrealistic in the EU this winter against the backdrop of the current crisis,” a spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told AFP.

He said the commission needed to show more “flexibility … given the significant drop in passengers and impact of omicron numbers on crewing planned schedules.”

But a commission spokesperson on Wednesday said the EU executive believed “the overall reduced consumer demand… is already reflected in a much-reduced rate of 50% compared to the usual 80%-use rate rule.”

The spokesperson, Daniel Ferrie, said: “The Commission expects that operated flights follow consumer demand and offer much needed continued air connectivity to citizens.” 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 7th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. employers added 199,000 new jobs in December, 50,000 fewer than November, the Labor Department reported Friday, as business continue to struggle to fill vacancies due to American workers’ reluctance to return to the workforce during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the hiring slowdown, December’s jobless rate fell to a healthy 3.9% — a 22-month low — from November’s 4.2%.

December’s modest jobs gains belie the fact that 2021 was one of the best years for U.S. workers in decades, even though the pandemic caused the previous year to be one of the job market’s worst since the government began tracking hiring in 1939.

A monthly average of 537,000 jobs were added to the economy in 2021, the Labor Department said Friday, and a record 6.4 million jobs were created”America is back to work,” President Biden declared Friday before reporters at the White House. “The increase in Americans joining the labor force was the fastest this year of any year since 1996.”

Companies posted a record high number of job vacancies in 2021 and offered sharply higher pay to try to attract and retain employees, a record number of whom quit their jobs in search of higher-quality positions.

Biden said U.S. workers saw their wages increase last year by nearly 16%, “the highest in history.”

“Wage gains for all workers who are not supervisors went up more in 2021 than any year in four decades. There’s been a lot of press coverage of people quitting their jobs,” Biden said. “Well, today’s report tells you why: Americans are moving up to better jobs with better pay, with better benefits. That’s why they’re quitting their jobs.”

December’s report reflects the state of the economy early in the month, before the highly contagious omicron variant sickened millions of people in the U.S., forcing the cancellation of thousands of commercial flights and leading to reduced traffic at bars and restaurants and some school closures.

Many economists believe job growth may slow in January and possibly in February because of the omicron outbreak, which has forced millions of sick workers to quarantine at home, potentially disrupting employers, including hospitals, airlines and ski resorts.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 6th, 2022 by Vbiz

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation remained near a five-decade- low level last week, with employers retaining their workers and searching for more as the United States continues its rapid economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 207,000 jobless workers made first-time claims for unemployment compensation, up 7,000 from the revised figure of the week before. The weekly total of new claims has hovered around 200,000, for a month now.

Even with the increase in claims last week, the figures from the last several weeks were well below the 256,000 total in mid-March 2020, when the pandemic first swept into the United States and employers started laying off workers by the hundreds of thousands.

The diminished number of claims for unemployment benefits, down from a 2021 high of 900,000 in one week last January, shows that many employers are hanging on to their workers, even as millions have quit jobs to move to other companies offering higher pay and more benefits.

Many employers are looking for more workers, despite about 6.9 million workers remaining unemployed in the United States.

At the end of November, there were 10.4 million job openings in the U.S., but the skills of available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. In addition, many of the available jobs are low-wage service positions that the jobless are shunning.

U.S. employers added only 210,000 new jobs in November, a lower-than-expected figure. But overall, the U.S. has added 6.1 million jobs through the first 11 months of the year in a much quicker recovery than many economists had originally forecast a year ago. The unemployment rate dropped in November to 4.2%, a figure some experts had projected would not be reached until mid-2024.

Information on job growth in December and the unemployment rate is set for release on Friday.

The U.S. economic advance is occurring even as President Joe Biden and Washington policy makers, along with consumers, voice concerns about the biggest increase in consumer prices in nearly four decades – 6.8% at an annualized rate in November.

The surging inflation rate has pushed policy makers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to move more quickly to end their asset purchases they had used to boost the country’s economic recovery, by March rather than in mid-2022 as originally planned.

On Wednesday, minutes of the Fed board’s most recent meeting showed that policy makers are eyeing a faster pace for raising the benchmark interest rate that they have kept at near zero percent since the pandemic started.

The Federal Reserve has said it could raise the rate, which influences the borrowing costs for loans made to businesses and consumers, by a quarter of a percentage point three times this year to tamp down inflationary pressures.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 6th, 2022 by Vbiz

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday canceled sailings amid rising fears of omicron-related coronavirus infections that have dampened the nascent recovery of the pandemic-ravaged cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for January 6 after nine guests on its January 2 trip were identified as close contacts to a local Hong Kong COVID-19 case.

The contacts have tested negative, but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on January 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on January 8, the company said.

A similar decision to cancel trips by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. was made against the backdrop of the United States reporting the highest daily tally of any country for new coronavirus infections on Monday.

“Due to ongoing travel restrictions, we’ve had to modify a few sailings and unfortunately have had to cancel,” the 17-ship strong cruise operator said, with the embarkation dates for a few canceled sailings as far out as late April.

The cruise line, which requires everyone on board to be vaccinated, has also had to cut short a 12-day round trip from Miami on its Norwegian Pearl ship, citing “COVID-related circumstances.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last week advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into onboard cases on more than 90 ships. The health agency starts a scrutiny if at least 0.1% of the guests test positive.

Norwegian Cruise said guests, who were supposed to embark on the canceled sailings on the eight ships, will receive full refunds and bonus credits for future bookings.

The omicron-led travel uncertainty is also causing guests on other sailings to cancel their bookings as a few ships have also had to skip ports due to onboard infections.

“We booked the cruise last March and assumed that things would be getting back to normal… by mid-December, I was mentally prepared for a change of plans,” said Holly Bromley, a consulting arborist, who canceled her booking on Norwegian Epic.

Meanwhile, bigger rival Carnival Corp. said it has not canceled any upcoming voyages, but its shares fell on Wednesday to close down 2.6%. Royal Caribbean lost 2.1% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings 3.6%.

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 5th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. human rights and trade groups on Tuesday blasted Tesla’s New Year’s Eve announcement that it had opened a showroom in Xinjiang, the latest foreign firm caught up in tensions related to the far-western Chinese region where detention camps have drawn heavy criticism. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy organization, said Tesla was “supporting genocide.” Similar criticism came from a U.S. trade group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and U.S. senator Marco Rubio. 

 

“Elon Musk must close Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said on its official Twitter account, referring to Tesla’s founder. 

 

Xinjiang has become a significant point of conflict between Western governments and China in recent years. U.N. experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps there. 

U.S. President Joe Biden and members of the U.S. Congress have pressed companies to distance themselves from Xinjiang. On December 23, Biden signed a bill barring imports of goods made in the region.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she would not comment directly on Tesla’s action, but generally the “private sector should oppose the PRC human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang,” she said. “The international community, including the public and private sectors, cannot look the other way when it comes to what is taking place in Xinjiang.” 

The United States has labeled China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide. The United States and a few other countries plan a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over the issue. 

China has rejected accusations of forced labor or any other abuses there, saying that the camps provide vocational training and that companies should respect its policies. 

Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker, announced on December 31 that it was opening a showroom in Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi.

“On the last day of 2021 we meet in Xinjiang,” Tesla said in a post on its official Weibo account. 

Other U.S. and European automakers or their Chinese partners have showrooms in Urumqi, a city of some 3 million people. German automaker Volkswagen AG has a car factory near Urumqi.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. The carmaker operates a factory in Shanghai and is ramping up production there amid surging sales in China. China has also become an export hub for Teslas headed to Europe and other markets. 

Musk last year had to smooth over relations with Chinese authorities after Teslas were banned from government properties because of concerns that data collected by the vehicles’ cameras was being transferred out of China. 

A number of foreign firms in recent months have been tripped up by tensions between the West and China over Xinjiang, as they try to balance Western pressure with China’s importance as a market and supply base. 

“There is this tension between global investors and the Chinese government. The global investors want market access. And the Chinese government says the cost of access is acquiescence,” said Michael Dunne, chief executive of Zo Zo Go, an investment adviser that works with automotive and technology companies doing business in China. 

In July, Swedish fashion retailer H&M reported a 23% drop in local currency sales in China for its March-May quarter after it was hit by a consumer boycott in March for stating publicly that it did not source products from Xinjiang. 

Last month, U.S. chipmaker Intel faced similar calls after telling its suppliers not to source products or labor from Xinjiang, prompting it to apologize for “the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public.” 

Although some have been trying to reduce their supply chain exposure to the region, especially as Washington bans imports such as Xinjiang cotton and blacklists Chinese companies that it says have aided Beijing’s policy there, many foreign brands operate stores there.

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed in December amid a cooling in demand for goods, but supply constraints are starting to ease and a measure of prices paid for inputs by factories fell by the most in a decade. 

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey on Tuesday also suggested some improvement in labor supply, with a gauge of factory employment rising to an eight-month high. Still, Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM manufacturing business survey committee, noted that “shortages of critical lowest-tier materials, high commodity prices and difficulties in transporting products continue to plague reliable consumption.” 

The survey does not fully capture the impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, which is rapidly spreading across the United States and abroad. Sky-rocketing infections could force workers to stay home and halt the tentative supply-chain progress. 

“There’s still a lot of ground to make up before supply chains fully normalize, but cooling prices and increased employment are positive signs,” said Will Compernolle, a senior economist at FHN Financial in New York. 

The ISM’s index of national factory activity fell to a reading of 58.7 last month, the lowest level since January 2021, from 61.1 in November. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the U.S. economy. 

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index would fall to 60.1. 

All of the six biggest manufacturing industries — chemical products, fabricated metal products, computer and electronic products, food, transportation equipment, and petroleum and coal products — reported moderate-to-strong growth. 

Manufacturers of fabricated metal products expressed optimism that “we have reached the top of the hill to start down a gentle slope that lets us get back to something that resembles normal.” Their counterparts in the chemical products industry said the “gut feeling says it’s getting easier to source chemical raw materials.” 

Machinery makers reported that “costs for steel seem to be coming down some.” They also noted improvements in “performance by suppliers” and “on-time deliveries.” But transportation equipment manufacturers said capacity remained “limited due to the global chip shortage.” 

The ISM survey’s measure of supplier deliveries declined to a reading of 64.9 from 72.2 in November. A reading above 50% indicates slower deliveries to factories. 

The ISM’s Fiore said transportation networks, a harbinger of future supplier delivery performance, were still performing erratically, but there are signs of improvement. 

Raw materials have been in short supply as global economies rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic. Shortages have also been exacerbated by the shift in demand to goods from services early in the pandemic. Millions of workers needed to produce and move raw materials remain sidelined. 

U.S. stocks were trading mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index having hit fresh record highs earlier in the session. The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices were mostly lower. 

Price gauge falls 

The nascent signs of improvement in supply chains suggest inflation at the factory gate could soon begin to subside. The survey’s measure of prices paid by manufacturers tumbled to 68.2 last month, the lowest level since November 2020, from 82.4 in November. The 14.2-point plunge was the biggest since October 2011. 

This supports the Federal Reserve’s long-held view that the current period of high inflation is transitory. Inflation is well above the U.S. central bank’s flexible 2% target. 

“The report is consistent with our expectation that inflation will hit an inflection point probably in the first quarter of this year,” said Tim Quinlan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

The ISM survey’s forward-looking new orders sub-index fell to a still-high reading of 60.4 from 61.5 in November. With customer inventories remaining depressed, the slowdown in new order growth is likely to be temporary or limited. 

Factories hired more workers, but turnover rates remained high, a trend which manufacturers said started in August. 

Indeed, a separate report from the Labor Department on Tuesday showed a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in November, which will put pressure on businesses to raise wages to attract workers. 

“Replacing those workers is proving unusually challenging,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “This is the tightest labor market ever.”

There were 10.6 million job openings at the end of November. The high number of vacancies meant there was a 0.65 unemployed person per job opening, an all-time low. Before the pandemic, there were normally about 2.3 unemployed people per job opening. 

The ISM’s measure of manufacturing employment rose to an eight-month high of 54.2 from 53.3 in November. This, together with very low first-time applications for unemployment benefits, supports the view that job growth accelerated in December. 

According to a preliminary Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 400,000 jobs in December after rising by 210,000 in November. The Labor Department is scheduled to publish December’s employment report on Friday. 

 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

China’s economy will increasingly rely on state investment, high-tech development and domestic consumption – with less input from its past staple of export manufacturing – as it stands to overtake the United States in the coming decade, analysts predict. 

China’s GDP should grow 5.7% per year through 2025 and then 4.7% annually until 2030, British consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) forecasts. Its forecast says that China, now the world’s second-largest economy, would overtake the No. 1-ranked U.S. economy by 2030. Credit insurance firm Euler Hermes made a similar forecast. 

Chinese leaders have pushed over the past decade to rely more on value-added services over traditional factory exports, state media have said.  The Sino-U.S. trade dispute and early 2020 workplace closures due to COVID-19 have added pressure on manufacturing. 

Reducing factory output in China, foreign multinationals have been expanding outside China, targeting places such as Vietnam to avoid rising wages and environmental compliance costs. By offshoring in multiple countries they hope to head off any repeat of China’s early 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns that shut down factories.

 

China’s economy totaled $15.92 trillion in 2020, and market research firm IHS Markit estimates that it reached $18 trillion last year on export manufacturing growth and capital for new projects. The U.S. economy reached about $23 trillion last year, the market research firm said.

State investment

The country that’s already known for fast economic growth over the past 20 years would see the state take more control over key sectors after intervening in several, including the internet, in 2021, economists expect.

 

“Beijing has the funds and the unfettered domestic political power to use China’s large public treasury to make strategic investments in the service of the leadership’s national and global objectives,” said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu.

China scored 2.98 in 2018, up from 2.45 eight years earlier and approaching about three times the world average, on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development policy forum’s Direct Control Over Enterprises index. 

That means the government’s direct control over enterprises “well exceeded the open economy average” and “reflects China’s increasing emphasis on the role of the state in the economy under Xi Jinping,” the think tank Atlantic Council says in its October report China Pathfinder: Annual Scorecard .

Growth in tech hardware

Chinese leaders will probably prioritize tech, especially hardware that does not require constant innovation, as a growth engine, economists say.

State intervention in the internet sector won’t hobble expansion in semiconductors and infrastructure software, said Zennon Kapron, founder and director of the Shanghai-based financial industry research firm Kapronasia.

“If the country does become self-sufficient in terms of technology and then is able to sell and export those products and services that are based on the technology, then that would be a huge bump to its economy, because [that] is a key driver certainly of the U.S. GDP now,” Kapron said.

The U.S. economy will keep growing but without spurts through 2030, Kapron predicts.

China has a “huge base of engineers,” albeit less creativity than it needs to foster the “zany ideas” that drive development of new technology, said Douglas McWilliams, founder and executive deputy chairman of CEBR.

Consumer spending

Domestic spending has driven most of China’s economic growth before 2021 as the country reduced its exposure to the world in view of the Sino-U.S. trade dispute, McKinsey & Co. says in its China consumer report 2021. Supply chains have “matured and localized, and its innovation capabilities were enhanced” in turn, McKinsey & Co says.

That trend is likely to continue despite hits to income under lockdowns during the first year of COVID-19, analysts say. China’s population exceeds that of the United States by 3.5 times, though American consumers are wealthier on average.

“In the past five years, domestic consumption has … become a more significant growth driver as China’s domestic consumer market has grown dramatically in size,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist with IHS Markit.

Beijing’s leadership “aims to create more than 11 million new urban jobs and expand domestic demand and effective investment,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in mid-2021. Those measures, it said, “are expected to put the economy firmly back to pre-pandemic vibrancy.”

What if China overtakes US economy?

Status as the world’s largest economy does not confer any automatic advantages over others, economists said, but countries dependent on the Chinese economy would take note.

“There is no gold medal or anything like that,” CEBR’s McWilliams told VOA. “But when you’ve got more money to spend, you do have the ability to influence things, and China will have that ability to influence things.”

China would be better placed, he said, to advance its Belt and Road Initiative, a 9-year-old effort aimed at building land and sea trade routes through Asia, Europe and Africa in the form of infrastructure projects and investments.

Officials in Beijing are already leveraging their economy in disputes with other countries, said Roy of the East-West Center. China vies with four Southeast Asian governments over maritime sovereignty, contests a group of islets with Japan and has gotten into territorial standoffs with India since 2017.

“The result of that expectation (China surpassing the United States economically) has been a bolder PRC (People’s Republic of China) foreign policy that seeks to settle regional disputes in China’s favor and to de-legitimize U.S. regional and global leadership under the assumption that China is destined to set the new rules of international relations,” Roy said. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

Global stocks began 2022 in bullish fashion, with major bourses notching records and Apple’s valuation briefly hitting $3 trillion as investors monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and looming central bank rate decisions. 

The CAC 40 index in Paris kicked off the rally with new intraday and closing records while Frankfurt’s DAX rose 0.9 percent in thin holiday trading. London and Tokyo were among global markets that were shuttered for holidays. 

On Wall Street, both the Dow and S&P 500 ended at records as indices pushed higher. 

Apple briefly climbed to $3 trillion in value, becoming the first U.S. company to hit that benchmark. The tech giant’s valuation later retreated, though its share price was 2.5 percent higher at the close. 

“Welcome to 2022, which is looking like 2021 so far for the equity market,” market analyst Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com said. 

The market “looks as if it will keep riding the rails with the help of new inflows that are typically seen on the first trading day of a new month,” he added. 

Monday’s landmarks come on the heels of a series of all-time highs in December as markets continue to bet the latest surge in COVID-19 cases won’t derail economic growth. 

Comments from health experts characterizing the omicron variant as less lethal than earlier COVID-19 strains have boosted markets. 

A bigger question mark is the shift in monetary policy, with investors now betting that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note vaulted above 1.6 percent Monday, the latest indication of this expectation.

A note from Briefing.com said the rise in yields may also reflect “an improving perspective on the economy.” 

Oil prices

Elsewhere, oil prices finished a volatile session higher as eyes turn to the meeting of OPEC and other major producers on Tuesday. 

So far OPEC+ has resisted pressure by top oil-consuming nations, such as the United States, to more aggressively boost production.

The 23 members of OPEC+ are expected to continue to stay the course and modestly boost output at their monthly meeting to be held via videoconference. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

The United States will issue new rules and $1 billion in funding this year to support independent meat processors and ranchers as part of a plan to address a lack of “meaningful competition” in the meat sector, President Joe Biden said on Monday. 

The initiative comes amid rising concerns that a handful of big beef, pork and poultry companies have too much control over the American meat market, allowing them to dictate wholesale and retail pricing to profit at the expense of their suppliers and customers. 

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” Biden said. “That’s what we’re seeing in meat and poultry industries now.” 

A recent White House analysis found that the top four meatpacker companies – Cargill, Tyson Foods Inc., JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co. – control between 55% and 85% of the market in the hog, cattle and chicken sectors. 

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will spend the $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to expand the independent meat processing sector, including funds for financing grants, guaranteed loans and worker training, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was speaking at an event with Biden. 

USDA will also propose rules this year to strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and to clarify the meaning of “Product of USA” meat labels, which domestic ranchers have said unfairly advantage multinational companies that raise cattle abroad and only slaughter in the United States. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland, also speaking at the event, said “too many industries have become too consolidated over time,” and that the antitrust division of the Department of Justice has been chronically underfunded. 

The Biden administration issued an executive order last year that advocated a whole of government approach to antitrust issues. 

A central concern in agriculture has been meat prices, which have risen at a time when the White House is fighting inflation. An analysis in December by the White House economic council found a 120% jump in the gross profits of four top meatpackers since the pandemic began. 

Reaction to plan

The meat industry has said the White House analysis was inaccurate and criticized the new plan. 

National Chicken Council President Mike Brown called the plan “a solution in search of a problem.” 

North American Meat Institute spokesperson Sarah Little said staffing plants remains the biggest issue for meatpackers and that the White House plan would not address it. 

“Our members of all sizes cannot operate at capacity because they struggle to employ a long-term stable workforce,” she said. “New capacity and expanded capacity created by the government will have the same problem.” 

Eric Deeble, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, cheered the plan, calling it a “very positive step to ensure farmers and ranchers receive fair prices.” 

The anticipated rulemaking under the Packers and Stockyards Act “could have a significant impact,” said Peter Carstensen, emeritus professor of law at University of Wisconsin-Madison and former antitrust attorney at the Department of Justice. But he noted that investment in independent processing itself would not address market concentration. 

Austin Frerick, deputy director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University, an antitrust research center, said the plan does not go far enough to tackle the power of the top meatpackers. 

“I do not believe this (plan) will meaningfully change the concentration numbers,” he said. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 3rd, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. premium electric vehicle maker Tesla said on Sunday it delivered nearly 1 million vehicles in 2021, almost twice as many as 2020, doing better than expected despite global supply challenges.

Tesla delivered more than 936,000 cars of all models in 2021, representing growth of 87.4% from the previous year. The manufacturer is thus doing much better than the objective announced last January, to increase its deliveries by 50% on average per year for several years.

The group, which chose to move its headquarters from Palo Alto (California) to Austin (Texas), sold 911,208 vehicles of its 3 and Y models, and 24,964 vehicles of its luxury S and X models.

In the fourth quarter alone, 308,600 cars were delivered, up 0.9% compared to the same quarter last year. Earlier in the year, in the second quarter, Tesla had crossed, for the first time, the threshold of 200,000 cars delivered (201,250).

Tesla has managed to sidestep the global logistics issues that have plagued the entire auto industry. Elon Musk previously said he was able to get around much of the semiconductor shortage by using new chip designs and rewriting software accordingly. 

In October, Tesla was boosted by a mega-order of 100,000 electric vehicles from the rental company Hertz, by the end of 2022. This announcement brought the automaker into the very select club of companies worth more than $1 trillion on the stock market.

The manufacturer is, however, in the crosshairs of the American road safety agency (NHTSA) for its controversial driver assistance system called “Autopilot.” 

The automaker has also agreed to update its software to prevent drivers from playing video games on the car’s system while the car is in motion, after an investigation was opened.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 2nd, 2022 by Vbiz

More than 3,000 flights were canceled around the world on Sunday, more than half of them U.S. flights, adding to the toll of holiday week travel disruptions due to adverse weather and the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant. 

Over 3,300 flights had been canceled by noon GMT on Sunday, including over 1,900 entering, departing from or within the United States, according to a running tally on the tracking website FlightAware.com. Including those delayed but not canceled, more than 4,800 flights were delayed in total. 

The Christmas and New Year holidays are typically a peak time for air travel, but the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections, forcing airlines to cancel flights as pilots and crew quarantine. 

Transportation agencies across the United States were also suspending or reducing services due to coronavirus-related staff shortages. 

Omicron has brought record case counts and dampened New Year festivities around much of the world. 

The rise in U.S. COVID-19 cases had caused some companies to change plans to increase the number of employees working from their offices Monday. 

Chevron Corp was to start a full return to office from Jan. 3 but told employees in late December it was postponing the move indefinitely. 

U.S. authorities registered at least 346,869 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rose by at least 377 to 828,562. 

U.S. airline cabin crew, pilots and support staff were reluctant to work overtime during the holiday travel season, despite offers of hefty financial incentives. Many workers feared contracting COVID-19 and did not welcome the prospect of dealing with unruly passengers, some airline unions said. 

In the months preceding the holidays, airlines were wooing employees to ensure solid staffing, after furloughing or laying off thousands over the last 18 months as the pandemic hobbled the industry. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 2nd, 2022 by Vbiz

Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said the key waterway netted record revenues last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic and a six-day blockage by a giant cargo ship, the Ever Given.

Connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the canal accounts for roughly 10% of global maritime trade and is a source of much-needed foreign currency for Egypt.

In 2021, some 1.27 billion tons of cargo were shipped through the canal, earning $6.3 billion (5.5 billion euros) in transit fees, 13% more than the previous year and the highest figures ever recorded, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said.

The number of ships using the canal rose from 18,830 in 2020 to 20,694 in 2021, or more than 56 ships per day, the SCA said in a statement.

In March, the Ever Given super tanker — a behemoth with deadweight tonnage of 199,000 — got stuck diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm.

A round-the-clock salvage operation took six days to dislodge it and one employee of the SCA died during the rescue operation. Egypt lost some $12 million to $15 million each day during the canal closure, according to the SCA.

The Ever Given safely returned back through the canal without a hitch in August.

In November, the SCA said it will hike transit tolls by six percent starting in 2022, but tourist vessels and liquefied natural gas carriers are to be exempted.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 2nd, 2022 by Vbiz

The United States on Saturday cut Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from access to a duty-free trade program, following through on President Joe Biden’s threat to do so over accusations of human rights violations and recent coups.

“The United States today terminated Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from the AGOA trade preference program due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in a statement.

Biden said in November that Ethiopia would be cut off from the duty-free trading regime provided under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) because of alleged human rights violations in the Tigray region, while Mali and Guinea were targeted because of recent coups.

The suspension of benefits threatens Ethiopia’s textile industry, which supplies global fashion brands, and the country’s nascent hopes of becoming a light manufacturing hub. It also piles more pressure on an economy reeling from the conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, and high inflation.

“The Biden-Harris administration is deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali, and by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia,” the trade office statement said.

The AGOA trade legislation provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the United States if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

“Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective,” it added.

The Washington embassies of the three African countries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry said in November it was “extremely disappointed” by Washington’s announcement, saying the move would reverse economic gains and unfairly impact and harm women and children.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 1st, 2022 by Vbiz

More canceled flights frustrated air travelers on the final day of 2021 and appeared all but certain to inconvenience hundreds of thousands more over the New Year’s holiday weekend. 

Airlines blamed many of the cancellations on crew shortages related to the spike in COVID-19 infections, along with wintry weather in parts of the United States. 

United Airlines, which suffered the most cancellations among the biggest U.S. carriers, agreed to pay pilot bonuses to fix a staffing shortage.

By early evening Friday on the East Coast, airlines had scrubbed more than 1,550 U.S. flights — about 6% of all scheduled flights — and roughly 3,500 worldwide, according to tracking service FlightAware.

That pushed the total U.S. cancellations since Christmas Eve to more than 10,000 and topped the previous single-day peak this holiday season, which was 1,520 on December 26. 

The disruptions come just as travel numbers climb higher going into the New Year’s holiday weekend. Since December 16, more than 2 million travelers a day on average have passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints, an increase of nearly 100,000 a day since November and nearly double last December. 

Led by Southwest and United, airlines have already canceled 1,500 U.S. flights on Saturday — about 700 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where the forecast called for a winter storm — and 700 more on Sunday. 

Canceled flights began rising from a couple hundred a day shortly before Christmas, most notably for United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways. 

On Friday, United canceled more than 200 flights, or 11% of its schedule — and that did not include cancellations on the United Express regional affiliate. CommutAir, which operates many United Express flights, scrubbed one-third of its schedule, according to FlightAware. 

United decided to spend more money to fill empty cockpits. The airline reached a deal with the pilots’ union to pay 3.5 times normal wages to pilots who pick up extra trips through Monday and triple pay for flights between Tuesday and January 29, according to a memo from Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president for flight operations. 

JetBlue canceled more than 140 flights, or 14% of its schedule, and Delta grounded more than 100, or 5% of its flights by midday Friday. Allegiant, Alaska, Spirit and regional carriers SkyWest and Mesa all scrubbed at least 9% of their flights. 

FlightAware reported fewer cancellations at Southwest, 3%, and American, 2%. 

The virus is also hitting more federal air traffic controllers. The Federal Aviation Administration said that more of its employees have tested positive – it didn’t provide numbers Friday – which could lead controllers to reduce flight volumes and “might result in delays during busy periods.” 

While leisure travel within the U.S. has returned to roughly pre-pandemic levels, international travel remains depressed, and the government is giving travelers new cause to reconsider trips abroad. On Thursday, the State Department warned Americans that if they test positive for coronavirus while in a foreign country it could mean a costly quarantine until they test negative.

Since March 2020, U.S. airlines have received $54 billion in federal relief to keep employees on the payroll through the pandemic. Congress barred the airlines from furloughing workers but allowed them to offer incentives to quit or take long leaves of absence – and many did. The airlines have about 9% fewer workers than they had two years ago. 

Kurt Ebenhoch, a former airline spokesman and later a travel-consumer advocate, said airlines added flights aggressively, cut staff too thinly, and overestimated the number of employees who would return to work after leaves of absence. It was all done, he said, “in the pursuit of profit … and their customers paid for it, big time.” 

Many airlines are now rushing to hire pilots, flight attendants and other workers. In the meantime, some are trimming schedules that they can no longer operate. Southwest did that before the holidays, JetBlue is cutting flights until mid-January, and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific is suspending cargo flights and reducing passenger flights because it doesn’t have enough pilots. 

Other forms of transportation are also being hammered by the surge in virus cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it is monitoring more than 90 cruise ships because of COVID-19 outbreaks. The health agency warned people not to go on cruises, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus. 

The remnants of the delta variant and the rise of the new omicron variant pushed the seven-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. above 350,000, nearly triple the rate of just two weeks ago, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 1st, 2022 by Vbiz

Tesla has recalled 675,000 cars in the United States and China over issues with the trunk and front hood of two models, raising new questions about the safety of the popular electric vehicle. 

Chinese regulators announced the recall of almost 200,000 cars on Friday, hours after some 475,000 Tesla vehicles were flagged in the United States. 

The problems with the trunk and hood increase the risk of crashes, according to U.S. and Chinese regulators. 

Authorities said the repeated opening and closing of the trunk of the Model 3 can damage a cable for the rearview camera. 

An issue with the latch assembly for the front hood of the Model S could cause it to open without warning and obstruct the driver’s visibility, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Tesla estimates that the problems affect 1% of Model 3 and 14% of Model S vehicles recalled in the United States, without causing any accidents so far. 

Mass recalls are not rare in the auto industry.

Volkswagen had to take 8.5 million cars out of circulation in 2015 due to the Dieselgate scandal, in which the German company admitted tampering with millions of diesel vehicles to dupe emissions tests. 

At least 100 million vehicles were recalled by car companies across the world in recent years due to a defect with airbags made by bankrupt Japanese group Takata. 

Tesla’s recall represents a quarter of the number of cars Elon Musk’s young company has produced so far. 

“It is a reality wake-up call for Tesla though, with a slap-in-the-face welcome to the automotive world that is perhaps more complex than the smartphone industry that many like to compare it to,” said German auto analyst Matthias Schmidt. 

“After all, a dysfunctional car on four wheels can do a lot more potential damage than a dysfunctional iPhone,” Schmidt said. 

Other incidents 

In June, Tesla recalled more than 285,000 cars in China over issues with its assisted driving software that could cause accidents. 

The company also recalled thousands of Model 3 and Model Y vehicles earlier that month to inspect brake calipers for loose bolts. 

In November, the NHTSA recalled nearly 12,000 Tesla cars due to errors with their communication software. 

U.S. safety officials are also investigating Tesla’s Autopilot after identifying 11 crashes involving the driver assistance system. 

The previous month, U.S. highway safety regulators demanded details from Tesla on issues with its new autonomous system, building on a previously announced probe. 

Tesla executives have downplayed the regulatory inquiries, saying they were to be expected with “cutting edge” technology and that they were cooperating “as much as possible.” 

Banner year 

The issues have been blights to an otherwise banner year for Tesla, as it joined the exclusive club of companies with a market capitalization of $1 trillion. 

The company delivered a record 240,000 vehicles in the third quarter, and Tesla’s billionaire chief Elon Musk was named Time magazine’s person of the year. 

Tesla’s good fortune contrasted with other, traditional automakers that were heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of semiconductors that are key components in cars. 

Trip Chowdhry, analyst at Global Equities Research consultancy, said the latest Tesla recall is a “non-event” as the company still holds a big advantage over its competitors. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 30th, 2021 by Vbiz

Applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 from 206,000 applications last report to 198,000 for the week ending December 25, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

Economists had predicted 205,000 applications.

The number of applications was near a 50-year low, but concerns over COVID-19, low labor market participation rates and rising inflation continue to add to economic uncertainty.

Labor participation, the number of people working or actively seeking a job, continues to hover at rates not seen since the early 1970s

“The claims data may be more volatile in the upcoming weeks due to the seasonal adjustment process, but looking past that noise, we expect claims to remain around 200,000 as layoffs remain low amid tight labor market conditions,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, according to CBS News.

Continuing claims reportedly were 1.72 million for the week ending December 18, which is the lowest since March of 2020, when the pandemic began to peak.

n October, the U.S. had nearly 11 million job openings, a near record.

The news sent the stock market slightly higher on low, pre-holiday volume.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 30th, 2021 by Vbiz

The U.S. trade deficit in goods mushroomed to the widest ever in November as imports of consumer goods shot to a record ahead of the second straight COVID-19-distorted holiday shopping season along with industrial supplies, while exports slipped after a historic gain a month earlier.

The goods trade gap reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department is likely to remain historically high as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, economists said. The emergence of the fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 that has driven U.S. and global caseloads to a record this week may exacerbate it further in the near term if it limits American consumers’ spending on services and restokes demand for imported goods.

Omicron also stands as a downside risk in the housing market. A reading of pending home sales also out Wednesday showed an unexpected drop in November, and while that data largely predated omicron’s ascendance in the United States, the highly contagious new variant could further limit home sales in the near term, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said.

The goods trade deficit widened last month by 17.5% to $97.8 billion from $83.2 billion in October, Census Bureau data showed. That exceeds the previous record deficit set in September of $97 billion and may damp optimism that trade might finally add to U.S. economic growth this quarter for the first time in more than a year.

Imports rose by 4.7% with industrial supplies leading the way with an increase of $5.7 billion to $63.2 billion, followed by consumer goods rising by $2.9 billion to just shy of $67 billion as retailers rushed to fill store shelves ahead of Christmas. Both were record highs.

“The emergence of the omicron variant may further ignite demand for imported goods if services activity is restricted” in the first quarter of 2022, Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, wrote after Wednesday’s report.

Goods exports, meanwhile, declined 2.1%, with weakness across the board outside of a 4.3% increase in food exports. The drop was led by declines of $1.4 billion in industrial supplies and $1.3 billion in capital goods.

The worldwide surge of coronoavirus cases to a record in recent days – including a record U.S. caseload – may weigh on global demand in the months ahead, risking an even wider trade gap, Vanden Houten said.

The so-called Advance Indicators report also showed wholesale inventories climbed 1.2% last month, while retail inventories increased 2.0%. Retail inventories, excluding autos, which go into the calculation of gross domestic product, edged up by 1.3% to $465.2 billion, the latest in a string of record-high readings.

The economy grew at a 2.3% annualized rate in the third quarter, a step-down from earlier in the year, but activity has rebounded in the fourth quarter with a consensus among economists building around a growth rate of 6% to 7% in the final three months of 2021.

Trade has been a drag on gross domestic product growth for five straight quarters, while inventories added to output in the third quarter.

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department reported a sharp reduction in the overall trade deficit – including services – for October, which had generated some optimism that trade may contribute to the improvement in output in the final quarter of the year. The big reversal to a record goods trade gap in November may prompt a rethinking of that.

Economists at Action Economics have dialed back their fourth-quarter GDP growth estimate to 6.5% from 7.0%, with exports now seen subtracting from growth rather than adding to it as had been previously expected. Economists at JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, left their estimates intact at 7%.

Meanwhile, contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes fell unexpectedly in November as limited housing stock and lofty prices crimped activity, and the explosion of new coronavirus cases poses a risk to the housing market headed into 2022.

NAR said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on signed contracts, fell 2.2% last month to 122.4. Pending home sales were lower in all four regions.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast contracts, which typically become final sales after a month or two, would rise 0.5% in November.

“There was less pending home sales action this time around, which I would ascribe to low housing supply, but also to buyers being hesitant about home prices,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Looking ahead, Yun said Omicron poses a risk to the housing market’s performance, as buyers and sellers are sidelined, and home construction is delayed.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 30th, 2021 by Vbiz

The Dow and S&P 500 closed at all-time highs on Wednesday on a boost from retailers including Walgreens and Nike as investors shrugged off concerns on the spreading omicron variant. 

The Dow has now risen six straight trading days, marking the longest streak of gains since a seven-session run from March 5-15 this year. 

Walgreens Boots Alliance and Nike rose 1.59% and 1.42% respectively against the backdrop of recent reports suggesting holiday sales were strong for U.S. retailers. 

Data on Wednesday showed the U.S. trade deficit in goods mushroomed to the widest ever in November as imports of consumer goods shot to a record and the coronavirus pandemic has limited spending by Americans on services. 

Some early studies pointing to a reduced risk of hospitalization in omicron cases have eased some investors’ concerns over the travel disruptions and powered the S&P 500 to record highs this week. 

Meanwhile, the S&P 1500 airlines index dipped. Delta Air Lines and Alaska Air Group canceled hundreds of flights again on Tuesday as the daily tally of infections in the United States surged. 

Typically, the final five trading days of the year and the first two of the subsequent year are seasonally strong for U.S. stocks, in a phenomenon known as the “Santa Claus Rally.” Market participants, however, warned against reading too much into daily moves as the holiday season tends to record some of the lowest volume turnovers, which can cause exaggerated price action. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 90.42 points, or 0.25%, to 36,488.63, the S&P 500 gained 6.71 points, or 0.14%, to 4,793.06 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 15.51 points, or 0.1%, to 15,766.22. 

As 2021 draws to a close, the main U.S. stock indexes are on pace for their third straight year of stunning annual returns, boosted by historic fiscal and monetary stimulus. The S&P 500 is looking at its strongest three-year performance since 1999. 

The focus next year will shift to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s path of interest rate hikes amid a surge in prices caused by supply chain bottlenecks and a strong economic rebound. 

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.89 billion shares, compared with the 11.15 billion average for the full session over the past 20 trading days. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 29th, 2021 by Vbiz

Rights groups in Kenya are pushing authorities to resettle tens of thousands of squatters evicted just ahead of the holidays to make way for a Chinese-backed expressway.  

Kenyan Lucy Wangare, in her forties, cleans a makeshift tent that has provided her family flimsy shelter since October, when Nairobi city authorities evicted them from their home of almost two decades.

She, her husband, and her sister spent the holiday season living in the tent, enduring cold and wet nights. 

City authorities evicted more than 40,000 squatters like Wangare from the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum and razed their homes to make way for construction of the Nairobi Expressway.  

What is left of the Mukuru slum looks like a wasteland, with scores of makeshift tents forming a small island.  

 

Authorities gave them just days’ notice to vacate their homes, says Wangare.

“If you look at where I sleep, you’d think I wasn’t a Kenyan citizen, you’d think I was a refugee, said Wangare. 

They used to have property and houses but, right now, they’ve been left destitute. She blames Kenya’s government.

The half a billion dollars elevated expressway aims to ease Nairobi’s notorious traffic by connecting the main international airport to the city center and wealthy suburbs.      

The Chinese state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation is building and financing the expressway, which should be working in 2022, and will collect the tolls for nearly three decades.    

Despite critics calling it a road for the rich, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta defended the project while taking a tour of it the day before Christmas.  

“The difference that is being occasioned by the road building, the drainage being build, by the sewage being put in — I do believe that within another two years, Nairobi will be a truly 21st century city, catering for its population in a positive manner and in a manner befitting our people,” said Kenyatta.    

But Kenyan rights activists fault the government for not striking a balance between the need for infrastructure and human dignity for those evicted.  

Anami Daudi, 25, is with the Mukuru Community Justice Center.

“It’s so traumatizing, people are having mental issues here, we have other special challenges, they should get like special attention.  But you find out that even the facilities we have around they can’t even accommodate to create maybe that space to provide such services,” he said. 

The single squatters left homeless, like 38-year-old Pauline Gathoni, struggle with security fears.      

“It’s very dangerous to spend the night here, especially for us, women,” she said. The men can defend themselves if attacked,  but she can’t fight anybody. ”If someone attacks me and steals my property, tells me to leave, I will have no choice but to obey them,” she said.

City authorities’ promises to compensate and help resettle the evicted families have yet to come true.    

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 28th, 2021 by Vbiz

With the arrival of winter in Europe and energy prices soaring, tensions are running high over the provision of gas from Russia — especially through the Yamal-Europe pipeline that runs through Poland and Belarus. 

But the Yamal pipeline is just one part of a complex gas infrastructure network shaped not only by energy needs but also wider economic interests and politics, including strife between Russia and Ukraine. 

The pipeline, opened in 1994, runs over 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) to Germany from the city of Torjok in central Russia, transiting through Belarus and Poland. 

It delivers 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe each year, making it one of the most important vehicles for the provision of Russian gas to the continent. 

Russia sells Germany gas at a cheaper rate than it does to Poland, in part to make up for the higher transit fees through the longer delivery distance. 

But this means that it is more cost efficient for Poland to buy Russian gas from Germany. 

Some of the gas sold by German traders to Poland flows directly into Polish territory, or if that is not sufficient, the pipeline can also operate in reverse to send more to Germany’s eastern neighbor. 

Since December 21, the pipeline has been operating in reverse, with gas flowing east back into Poland from the German border, according to data from management company Gascade seen by AFP. 

This means that over the last days, Germany itself has not been receiving gas via Yamal. 

Meanwhile, Russian gas continues to flow to Europe through other major pipelines such as Nord Stream I and TurkStream. 

It is not unusual for the Yamal pipeline to operate in reverse for short periods, but this latest about-turn comes against a backdrop of political tension over fears that Russia may invade Ukraine. 

Political pressure 

In Germany, the government has said that in the event of any “escalation”, it will put the brakes on another gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which is still awaiting the green light from the authorities. 

Some European states, such as Poland and Ukraine, have accused Moscow and Russian energy company Gazprom of cutting gas supplies to Europe to exert political pressure over these tensions. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the change in gas flow through the Yamal pipeline is purely down to fluctuating orders and denied any political motive. 

Gazprom, for its part, has called accusations that it is failing to deliver enough gas to Europe “absolutely groundless and unacceptable” and blamed Germany for dipping into its reserves to supply neighboring Poland. 

Berlin on Monday denied any intervention on its part. “It is not the government that decides on gas flows, but the market, the traders,” the Economy and Climate Ministry said. 

According to George Zachmann, a specialist in energy issues for the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank, Gazprom may also be “favoring its own pipelines” over those it does not 100% control, such as the Yamal pipeline. 

Low reserves

A spokeswoman for the German Economy and Climate Ministry told AFP that “security of supply is still guaranteed.” 

 

But Berlin, which has “relatively low” gas reserves with its tanks just 53 percent full, could soon have “difficulties”, according to Christophe Bonnery, president of the Association of Energy Economists. 

 

“If contracts are adhered to there will be no problems until at least March,” said Zachmann. But “if Russia cannot or will not deliver gas for technical or other reasons, then supplies could fall short.” 

 

The wrangling comes amid an explosion in gas prices, which are up to seven times higher than at the beginning of the year.

 

The surge is thought to be partly down to a particularly cold winter and an increase in activity linked to the post-coronavirus economic recovery. 

With 40% of gas consumed in Europe coming from Russia, Moscow is suspected of taking advantage of the tensions on the world market to reduce supply and drive up prices. 

 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) in September called on Russia to be a “reliable supplier” and send more gas to Europe. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси