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Russian Olympics team in shock over Games doping scandal

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A Russian Olympic medallist has left the Pyeongchang Winter Games on suspicion of doping, a team official said on Monday, in a scandal that has shocked his teammates and could imperil Russia’s efforts to regain full Olympic status.

Alexander Krushelnitsky, who competes in curling, one of the Games’ least physically taxing sports, is suspected of testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and improves exercise capacity.

Asked for an update on the case, Russian delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov told Reuters the athlete had surrendered his Games accreditation and left the Olympic village while awaiting the result of a second sample later on Monday.

He later denied having referred to any individual by name. But Russian women’s curling coach Sergei Belanov replied to reporters’ questions about Krushelnitsky, dismissing the idea that a “young, clever man” would use drugs in a sport where they would produce “no benefits”.

“It’s stupid, but Alexander is not stupid, so I don’t believe it,” Belanov said.

Krushelnitsky won bronze with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in mixed-doubles curling in Pyeongchang. He has not responded to a request for comment.

Suspicions of a doping violation have rocked the Russian team, which have been trying to draw a line under years of drug-cheating scandals, and shocked the sport of curling, where steady hands and sharp eyes outweigh physical fitness.

“We were all shocked when we found out yesterday. Of course we very much hope it was some kind of mistake,” Russian curler Viktoria Moiseeva told reporters, adding that the team believed Krushelnitsky was innocent.

“With us it’s not faster, higher, stronger; it’s about being more accurate. I can’t imagine what kind of drugs you could use in curling … so it’s very hard to believe.”

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Dow futures up 200 points following a 4-week losing streak

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Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Stock futures climbed in early morning trading on Monday following a four-week losing streak on Wall Street.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 213 points. S&P 500 futures and the Nasdaq 100 futures also traded in positive territory as well.

The S&P 500 and the 30-stock Dow were coming off their fourth straight negative week, shedding 0.6% and 1.8%, respectively. It marked the first time since August 2019 that the two benchmarks suffered a four-week losing streak.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq eked out a 1% gain last week, posting its first positive week in four as the technology sector rebounded slightly from the recent deep rout. 

Signs of a worsening pandemic continue to keep investors on edge. New daily coronavirus cases topped 1,000 in New York state on Saturday, marking the first time the state’s new infections have broken the 1,000 threshold since early June.

Major averages are on track to post steep losses for September, a historically weak month for stocks. The Dow and the S&P 500 have fallen 4.4% and 5.8%, respectively, while the Nasdaq has dropped 7.3%. The declines followed a massive comeback from the coronavirus sell-off that saw the S&P 500 climb more than 50% from its March bottom.

“When markets get to the kinds of extremes we saw a month ago, it tends to take a very deep correction before the worst is behind us,” Matthew Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak, said in a note on Sunday. “It also usually sees several ‘waves’ of a decline.” 

Investors continue to monitor the developments on further fiscal stimulus after negotiations between House Democrats and the Trump administration fell apart in early August.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday a last-minute coronavirus aid deal remains on the table as House Democrats try to forge ahead on a smaller aid package costing about $2.4 trillion. The chamber could vote on the bill as soon as next week.

Meanwhile on Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

The move sets up a confirmation fight just weeks before Election Day. Hearings to consider Trump’s nominee are set to begin Oct. 12, Senator Lindsey Graham said late Saturday.

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K-pop sensation BTS’ label prices IPO at top end of range

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South Korean boy band BTS backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

John Shearer | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of Big Hit Entertainment, the music label behind global K-pop phenomenon BTS, were priced on Monday at the top end of the range ahead of their highly anticipated market debut.

Big Hit Entertainment’s stock price was set at 135,000 South Korean won (approx. $115) per piece, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. That was at the top end of the 105,000-135,000 won per share range which was earlier announced. Big Hit is expected to make its market debut in October.

According to the regulatory filing, Big Hit will also raise 962.55 billion Korean won (approx. $820 million) through the offering. The stock was 1,117 times oversubscribed by institutional investors, the filing showed.

Entertainment stocks in South Korea popped on the back of the IPO pricing announcement by Big Hit. Shares of YG Entertainment were up nearly 10%, JYP Entertainment were higher by 8.36% and SM Entertainment jumped more than 6%.

A recent Reuters report indicated that retail investor interest for Big Hit’s IPO is expected to be strong, with fans of BTS reportedly looking to secure shares of the label.

Reuters also said demand among South Korean retail investors for new share listings has been strong as markets are filled with cash after government stimulus efforts to prop the coronavirus-hit economy.

Earlier in September, South Korean video game publisher Kakao Games saw a blockbuster market debut, and shares surged by the daily permissible limit of 30% on their first trading day.

— CNBC’s Chery Kang contributed to this report.

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Asia-Pacific markets edge higher; China’s industrial profits rise in August

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Stocks in Asia-Pacific traded higher on Monday morning, as investors react to Chinese economic data released over the weekend.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 added 0.74% in early trade while the Topix index gained 0.76%. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.98%.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was above the flatline.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.1% higher.

Shares of Chinese chipmaker SMIC will be watched by investors following reports that the U.S. has imposed restrictions on exports to the firm, citing risks of military use, according to Reuters.

China’s industrial profits rose 19.1% in August, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics announced over the weekend. Chinese economic data has been watched by investors for signs of the country’s continued recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the situation surrounding the pandemic elsewhere could also weigh on investor sentiment. Europe is now facing the prospect of a double-dip recession as it grapples with a coronavirus second wave. Over in the U.S., new daily coronavirus cases topped 1,000 in New York state on Saturday — the first time new infections in the state passed the 1,000 mark since early June.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 94.54 after rising from levels below 93.0 last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.56 per dollar following a weakening last week from levels below 105 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7036 after sliding from levels above $0.72 last week.

Oil prices were lower in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 0.26% to $41.81 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also shed 0.42% to $40.08 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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