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Japan Nikkei, Australia stocks, currencies in focus



Asian markets mostly rose on Monday after the U.S.’s S&P 500 extended its winning streak on Friday to six days. Markets in the Greater China region remain closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 428.96 points, or 1.97 percent, to 22,149.21, while the Topix index added 37.78 points, or 2.17 percent, to 1,775.15. South Korea’s Kospi index added 20.99 points, or 0.87 percent, to 2,442.82.

Meanwhile, Australia’s ASX 200 reversed early losses to finish up 37.6 points, or 0.64 percent, at 5,941.6. The heavily weighted financial subindex rose 0.56 percent, while the energy sector fell 1.26 percent and the materials subindex reversed losses to climb 0.23 percent.

Oil stocks in Australia traded mixed. Shares of Santos rose 2.58 percent, Oil Search was up 2.02 percent and Beach Energy added 7.11 percent. Woodside Petroleum declined 6.85 percent, however, after the company said it completed the institutional component of its 2.5 billion Australian dollar ($1.98 billion) share sale, announced on Feb. 14. Woodside raised gross proceeds of about A$1.57 billion at A$27 per new share.

Major indexes in the U.S. had ended off their session highs on Friday after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Meanwhile, in the currency market, the Japanese yen traded at 106.57 to the dollar at 2:24 p.m. HK/SIN, coming off an earlier high of 106.08. Still, the yen had strengthened from levels above 108 in the previous week. Major export stocks traded up, with Toyota shares climbing 2.37 percent, Honda up 2.04 percent and Sony adding 0.78 percent.

The Australian dollar traded at $0.7916 at 2:25 p.m. HK/SIN, falling from levels near $0.7980 reached last week.

Elsewhere, the dollar index remained relatively stable and traded at 89.127 at 2:26 p.m. HK/SIN, coming off an earlier high of 89.175. Last week, the index fell from levels above 90 to near 88.200 before recovering slightly.

“The U.S. dollar staged a minor comeback for no obvious reason other than position squaring into the U.S. holiday weekend, with euro leading the move and yen lagging but still managing to fully recoup the APAC session swoon to end marginally weaker on the day,” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at the National Bank of Australia, wrote in a morning note.

He pointed out that for the week, the dollar was still lower in index terms with losses led by the yen strength.

The U.S. market will be closed on Monday for Presidents Day.

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HSBC manager vows to change work-life balance following heart attack



HSBC tower at Canary Wharf financial district in London, England

Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

After suffering a heart attack, a HSBC manager in the U.K. vowed to change his work-life balance in a post on LinkedIn, which has gone viral. 

Jonathan Frostick, a regulatory programme manager at HSBC, described in a LinkedIn post last week how he suffered a heart attack on a Sunday afternoon, when he sat down to prepare some work for the week ahead. 

But instead of seeing his life flash before his eyes, Frostick said that one of his first thoughts was that “I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this isn’t convenient.” 

Frostick said he had decided he wouldn’t spend “all day on Zoom anymore” and that he planned to restructure his approach to work. 

“I’m really not going to be putting up with any s— at work ever again — life literally is too short,” he said, alongside a picture from his hospital bed following the heart attack. 

Frostick also said he wanted “every day to count for something at work,” or he would change his role. 

The post has attracted more than 200,000 reactions on LinkedIn. 

Responding to some of the more than 10,500 comments on the post, Frostick said that he didn’t expect the message to “hit home” as it much as it did — “but I’m pleased as it has seemingly helped a lot of people.” 

A spokesperson for HSBC said: “We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery.” 

They said the firm recognized the importance of personal health, wellbeing and a good work-life balance and had redoubled its efforts in these areas over the last year. 

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority,” they added.

Check out: A 4-day work week might be edging closer — here’s why

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UAE floats movement restrictions on unvaccinated people



A health worker checks a man’s temperature before receiving a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus at a vaccination center set up at the Dubai International Financial Center in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on February 3, 2021. The United Arab Emirates has suffered a spike in cases after the holiday period.

Photo by KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates will consider “strict measures” to limit the movement of people unvaccinated against the coronavirus, as it seeks to ramp up a national inoculation campaign that has already administered more than 9.9 million shots. 

“Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures such as restricting entry to some places and having access to some services, to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” Saif Al Dhaheri, a spokesman for the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, said in a statement late Tuesday.

No further details were given for the “preventive measures” beyond restrictions on access to certain places and services in the country. The new measures would add to public health measures already in place aimed at keeping the virus at bay during the holy month of Ramadan. 

The announcement sparked some negative responses online. One Twitter user by the handle Fawzia al Hashemi wrote, “Why restrict when vaccine is freedom of choice, not mandatory? When majority have taken vaccine, we are worried on them [sic] from the ones not taken? How!” 

Another user by the name of Abeer Essa tweeted, “Where were the constraints on the travelers coming from the countries that were suffering from wide spread?” 

The UAE’s coronavirus cases hit a peak of some 4,000 per day in late January, but have since fallen to fewer than 2,000 per day. The peak was due in large part to travelers coming to the UAE’s commercial capital Dubai for tourism, particularly from the U.K., which was then gripped by a new and more contagious variant of the virus. Dubai did not shut its doors to tourists nor restrict the movement of visitors or residents. 

The UAE has overseen the second-fastest vaccination campaign in the world after Israel, announcing on Wednesday that 9.9 million vaccine doses had been administered to its mostly-expat population of roughly 10 million.  

Abu Dhabi approves Pfizer-BioNTech jab

Abu Dhabi approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, reversing course on its previous strategy of only using the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine.

Residents of neighboring Dubai, the Gulf country’s most populous emirate, can choose from Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, or Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine free of charge, though Sinopharm was made universally available to adults months before the others. The UAE became the first country to approve the shot for use last year, and partnered with China, a major buyer of Gulf oil, to manufacture vaccines locally.

“The more tools we have at our disposal, the better,” Simon Bland, CEO of the Global Institute for Disease Elimination told CNBC on Wednesday. “Many countries have got several vaccine candidates that they’re using and I don’t think there is anything unusual in that, I think some diversity is valuable.”  

Authorities said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be available at designated vaccination centers by appointment only. The Sinopharm vaccine, which has been the only available shot in Abu Dhabi for the general public since December, would still be available to use. 

“We call on the public, both citizens and residents above the age of 16 who did not get vaccinated, to visit the nearest vaccination center and get the vaccine” NCEMA’s Al Dhaheri said. “Delaying or refraining from taking the vaccine poses a threat to the safety of society. The vaccine is our best means to recover and return to a normal life.” 

Abu Dhabi opted for a Chinese-only strategy for its local vaccination drive. Most people in the emirate received the Sinopharm shot, despite a lack of details surrounding its efficacy results and peer-reviewed data.  

It wasn’t clear how the decision to rollout Pfizer-BioNTech alongside Sinopharm would impact Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries, also known as Julphar, which signed a contract with Abu Dhabi’s G42 to produce the vaccine locally. A new vaccine plant with an eventual production capacity of 200 million doses a year was scheduled to be operational this year. 

Julphar, G42 and The Abu Dhabi Media Office did not reply to CNBC requests for comment.

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Dalai Lama, Nobel Prize winners, pressure leaders on fossil fuels



This image, taken in 2016, shows the Dalai Lama at an event in Strasbourg, France.

Kristy Sparow | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel laureates have called on world leaders to stop the expansion of oil, gas and coal, urging them to act now in order to prevent “a climate catastrophe.”

Their open letter, published a day before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit on the climate, describes the burning of fossil fuels as “by far the major contributor to climate change.”

The document, which was coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, goes on to reference the importance of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and 2015’s Paris Agreement. The accord aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, restrict any rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Wednesday’s letter says failure to meet the 1.5 degrees target would risk “pushing the world towards catastrophic global warming.” It also adds that the Paris Agreement makes no mention of oil, gas or coal.

Citing a report from the United Nations Environment Programme, the letter highlights the huge amount of work required to ensure targets are met, stating that “120% more coal, oil, and gas will be produced by 2030 than is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

Allowing the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry “is unconscionable,” it concludes. “The fossil fuel system is global and requires a global solution — a solution the Leaders’ Climate Summit must work towards. And the first step is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

Alongside the Dalai Lama, signatories to the letter include Jody Williams, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ founding coordinator; the economist Christopher Pissarides; Shirin Ebadi, the first female judge in Iran; and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Other names include Liberian peace activist and advocate for women’s rights, Leymah Gbowee, and Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet.

The letter represents the latest intervention by high-profile figures in the debate surrounding climate change and the environment.

Earlier this month, Britain’s Prince William underscored the importance of investing in nature to tackle climate change and protect our planet.

In comments made during a discussion at the virtual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, the Duke of Cambridge spoke about what he described as the “intrinsic link between nature and climate change.”

“We must invest in nature through reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and supporting healthy oceans, because doing so is one of the most cost effective and impactful ways of tackling climate change,” he went on to add.

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