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Russian stocks tumble on Mueller indictments

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Russian stocks tumbled Friday afternoon after a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The VanEck Vectors Russia exchange-traded fund (RSX), which tracks a host of publicly-traded Russian companies, fell 1.6 percent following news of the indictments. The fund is largely comprised of energy and financial companies, according to FactSet.

The iShares MSCI Russia ETF (ERUS), a similar fund, shed 1.4 percent.

The downturn appeared to reflect investor fears over souring U.S.-Russia relations and that the latest developments could force President Donald Trump’s hand in enforcing sanctions.

Trump has been reluctant to enforce additional sanctions on Russia despite a new law designed to punish Moscow’s interference, saying that the measure was already taking a toll on Russian companies.

Known as the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” the legislation called for the administration to deliver a report on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hierarchy in and out of the Russian government in an attempt to spook political opponents.

The administration delivered a list of Russian “oligarchs” in January, though the document came under fire after Forbes went through the lists and confirmed that it was an exact replica of the Russians on its 2017 billionaires list.

Still, special counsel Robert Mueller’s latest indictments mark the latest in an investigation that has kept markets on edge.

All three major stock indexes turned negative following Mueller’s announcement, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling roughly 150 points before rebounding.

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IMF warns that inflation could prove to be persistent

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Customers shop for produce at a supermarket on June 10, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that there’s a risk inflation will prove to be more than just transitory, pushing central banks to take pre-emptive action.

The issue is currently dividing the investment community, which has been busy contemplating whether a recent surge in consumer prices is here to stay. In the U.S., the consumer price index came in at 5.4% in June — the fastest pace in almost 13 years. In the U.K., the inflation rate reached 2.5% in June — the highest level since August 2018 and above the Bank of England’s target of 2%.

For the most part, the Washington-based institution sees these price pressures as transitory. “Inflation is expected to return to its pre-pandemic ranges in most countries in 2022,” the Fund said in its latest World Economic Outlook update released Tuesday.

However, it warned that “uncertainty remains high.”

“There is however a risk that transitory pressures could become more persistent and central banks may need to take preemptive action,” the IMF said.

Higher prices increase the chances that central banks will start to curb their ultra-accommodative monetary policies, such as a tapering of market-friendly stimulus like asset purchases.

More persistent supply disruptions and sharply rising housing prices are some of the factors that could lead to persistently high inflation.

Gita Gopinath

IMF Chief Economist

Speaking earlier this month, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the jobs market was “still a ways off” from where the central bank would like to see it before it reduces stimulus. He added that inflation would “likely remain elevated in coming months before moderating.”

The IMF had already pointed out earlier this month that if the U.S. were to provide more fiscal support then this could increase inflationary pressures even further and lead to a hike in interest rates earlier-than-expected.

IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said in a blogpost Tuesday that “more persistent supply disruptions and sharply rising housing prices are some of the factors that could lead to persistently high inflation.”

She also warned that “inflation is expected to remain elevated into 2022 in some emerging market and developing economies, related in part to continued food price pressures and currency depreciations.”

Global recovery is ‘not assured’

The IMF on Tuesday kept its global growth forecast at 6% for 2021, but it revised its expectations for 2022.

Instead of a gross domestic product rate of 4.4%, as predicted in April; the Fund now sees a growth rate of 4.9% next year.

“The 0.5 percentage point upgrade for 2022 derives largely from the forecast upgrade for advanced economies, particularly the United States, reflecting the anticipated legislation of additional fiscal support in the second half of 2021 and improved health metrics more broadly across the group,” the IMF said.

However, the outlook is dependent on the coronavirus vaccination campaigns. 

According to Our World in Data, 13.81% of the global population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 13.46% are partially inoculated. This shows the stark difference between advanced and developing economies.

In the U.K. and Canada, more than 54% of all citizens are fully vaccinated. In South Africa, that number drops to 3.9% and in Egypt to 1.57%.

“Vaccine access has emerged as the principal fault line along which the global recovery splits into two blocs: those that can look forward to further normalization of activity later this year (almost all advanced economies) and those that will still face resurgent infections and rising COVID death tolls,” the Fund said.

“The recovery, however, is not assured even in countries where infections are currently very low so long as the virus circulates elsewhere,” the IMF warned.

 

 

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OnePlus founder Carl Pei’s Nothing takes on Apple with Ear 1 earbuds

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LONDON — The co-founder of Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus is challenging Apple with a cheaper alternative to the tech giant’s popular wireless earbuds.

Carl Pei helped create OnePlus with ex-colleague Pete Lau in 2013. OnePlus attracted a following by making cheap Android phones with attractive specs. Pei left the company in October. 

Now, Pei is back with a new hardware venture called Nothing, which aims to develop a series of smart devices connected through an app. On Tuesday, the London-based start-up debuted its first product, a set of wireless earbuds called Ear 1.

The headphones are “true wireless,” meaning there’s no cord linking them together. They come with active noise cancellation, similar to the AirPods Pro. But at $99, they are much cheaper than Apple’s mid-range earphones, which cost $249, as well as Samsung’s $200 Galaxy Buds Pro.

“We saw that the true wireless market was growing pretty quickly this year,” Pei, 31, told CNBC. “It felt like a place where we could make a difference.”

According to Counterpoint Research, sales of true wireless earbuds reached 233 million units in 2020 and are expected to surpass 300 million units this year.

Pei’s venture is up against some stiff competition. Apple last year accounted for almost a third of the market, while China’s Xiaomi and Samsung were the second and third-largest players by market share.

But Pei thinks most consumer tech today feels “cold,” and thinks there is ample opportunity for an upstart player to gain a foothold in the market.

“There’s a general lack of interest in consumer tech,” Pei said. “Instead, there is a lot of negativity around tech — tech companies being monopolistic, privacy issues and whatnot — and if you look at products, it’s also become more iterative and less fun.”

Design quirks

Nothing is hoping a few quirks in Ear 1’s design can help it differentiate from rivals. For one, Nothing’s earbuds show users the magnets that connect to its case, which are usually hidden in most wireless headphones.

The unusual request to make the magnets visible resulted in two factories parting ways with Nothing because it was considered too small a firm, Pei said.

The Ear 1’s case is also transparent, and has a dimple in between both buds to make it easier to hold.

Another unusual choice of design with the Ear 1 is the lack of the letters “L” and “R” to show users which earphone is left and which is right. Instead, the right earbud has a red dot while the left one has a white dot.

According to Pei, the color “red” would translate into “right” for many hardcore audio fans. With RCA audio cables, for example, red typically represents the right audio channel.

Design quirks aside, Nothing says the Ear 1 can play music for up to 5.7 hours of listening time after a single charge and up to 34 hours with its case — longer than the AirPods Pro. Each bud weighs 4.7 grams.

It comes with three different mics, two of which collect ambient noise while the third focuses on voice. Nothing says it’s also using machine learning to block out different types of background noise.

The buds link with an app which includes four different equalizer settings and three noise cancellation modes, Pei said.

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Billionaire Richard Branson has this advice for overcoming self-doubt

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Sir Richard Branson speaks during the “Unstoppable Weekend” kick off event at Elia Beach Club at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on June 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gabe Ginsberg | Getty Images

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said that while it’s “healthy and perfectly human to have a little bit of doubt,” it’s important not to let these fears get in the way of pursuing a dream. 

“What I’ve learnt throughout my life is that every success is built upon a thousand failures (or ‘opportunities to learn,’ as I like to think of them),” Branson said in his monthly “Ask Richard” LinkedIn newsletter, published Tuesday. 

“Whenever doubt creeps in, I remind myself that dreams aren’t linear,” the billionaire entrepreneur added. 

Branson said that he also tried to remind himself of all the “brilliant innovations and discoveries that would have come to nothing if their inventors had given in to their doubts.” 

He cited a quote by philosopher Suzy Kazeem: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” 

Branson said it was important to discuss self-doubts with colleagues and friends, and listen closely to their feedback. If these conversations leave you feeling more confident, Branson urged readers to then push doubts aside. 

He also recommended going out to “get some fresh air, and have a cup of tea” if self-doubt really starts to build up. 

“Whenever doubt starts to get the better of me, I find exercise really helps,” Branson said, adding that he liked to go for a bike ride, play tennis or spend time with family. 

“This is often when my best ideas come to me as well,” he said. 

However, Branson also acknowledged that some self-doubt could be helpful, as it’s “how we make progress and stay in touch with reality.” 

Having doubts might be the sign of a problem that needs to be addressed, he explained. 

“If you demand proof from your doubt, you’ll be able to either squash it or solve the problem,” he said. 

Branson recalled how the day after his airline Virgin Atlantic launched, in 1984, a bank manager came to his house and threatened to close down the business. 

He said he then spoke to his team to help find a solution. “It was a very sweaty moment, but I didn’t let doubt creep in and we quickly fixed the issue,” he said. 

Virgin Atlantic sought bankruptcy protection in the U.S. last year, having been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, like many airlines. 

Earlier in July, Branson went to space on a test flight for his company Virgin Galactic, after nearly 17 years of development. He beat fellow billionaire spaceflight company founder, Jeff Bezos, by more than a week with his venture into space.

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