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UK to use medieval church spires to boost digital connectivity

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The U.K. government has signed an agreement with the Church of England that will see church spires across the country used to improve digital connectivity in rural areas.

The accord was signed by the National Church Institutions of the Church of England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It encourages the Church of England to uses its buildings and properties to boost mobile, WiFi and broadband connectivity for communities. The British government said that 65 percent of Anglican churches were in rural areas and that their locations, often in the center of communities, meant they were “well placed” to help solve problems surrounding connectivity and coverage.

“Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country,” Matt Hancock, secretary of state for DCMS, said in a statement Sunday. “This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”

Two dioceses, Chelmsford and Norwich, are already backing programs that make use of church buildings to boost rural connectivity. The government said it was hoped that the new accord would encourage other parishes and dioceses to “positively consider” how they could follow suit.

Downing Street said that guidance from both the Church and heritage body Historic England would mean that any new telecoms infrastructure would not impact on the character or architectural and historic significance of churches.

The Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, welcomed the agreement. “It builds on what we have been seeking to do in the Diocese of Norwich since 2011 with the creation of WiSpire, a company seeking to use church towers and spires to enable Wi-Fi connectivity in communities, especially in rural locations,” he said.

The bishop added that parish churches were a truly national network. “To use them creatively to create new forms of connectivity enhances their value for the communities they serve.”

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Grenke shares tank after short seller accuses it of fraud

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LONDON – Grenke, a German financial services provider, is under investigation after a report by a short-selling investor research company alleged it of market manipulation, money laundering and fraud.

The 64-page report, which Grenke strongly rejects, was published by Fraser Perring of Viceroy Research. Shares of Grenke, which is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, were down 29% at one point on Tuesday and saw heavy falls again on Wednesday.

Grenke argues that one of the main accusations in the report is false.

“A central accusation is that a substantial portion of the 1,078 million euros in cash and cash equivalents reported in the 2020 half-year financial report does not exist,” Grenke said in a statement. “This is demonstrably false.” 

The company said 849 million euros was held in Deutsche Bundesbank accounts on June 30. “As of today, the credit balance at the Bundesbank amounts to 761 million euros,” Grenke said. A spokesperson for the German central bank declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Grenke said it is currently preparing a detailed reply to the accusations and that it reserves the right to take legal action. 

BaFin, the German financial regulator, told CNBC it was looking into the allegations of market abuse. The regulator said its probe will look to establish whether Grenke tried to manipulate markets by, for example, giving false information regarding financial statements.

It will also look to determine whether there was potential market manipulation by third parties who may have initiated a short attack.

BaFin said it was also reviewing possible insider trading at Grenke before Viceroy’s report was published online.

Founded by Wolfgang Grenke in 1978, Grenke employs 1,700 employees across 32 locations worldwide. The company, headquartered in the spa town of Baden-Baden in southwestern Germany’s Black Forest, mainly provides banking services to small and medium-sized firms.

Viceroy Research raised the alarm on German electronic-transfer company Wirecard in 2016 with the now famous “Zatarra Report.”

Founded in 2016, Viceroy Research rose to fame in 2017 after it published a report on accounting irregularities at South African retail giant Steinhoff that led to a share collapse. 

In November 2018, South Africa’s central bank governor claimed that Viceroy Research had profited “unethically” from its reports, according to Bloomberg. The company’s “About” section on its website doesn’t give much away, describing the firm as “a group of individuals that see the world differently.”

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Fed decision September 2020: Interest rates unchanged

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The Federal Reserve kept its pledge to keep interest rates anchored near zero and pledged to keep rates there until inflation rises consistently.

As the central bank concluded its two-day policy meeting Wednesday, it said short-term rates would remain targeted at 0%-0.25%. Officials also changed their economic forecasts to reflect a smaller decline in GDP and a lower unemployment rate in 2020.

Projections from individual members  also indicated that rates could stay anchored near zero through 2023. All but four members indicated they see zero rates through then. This was the first time the committee forecast its outlook for 2023.

In addition, the committee addressed a new policy regime in which the Fed will allow inflation to run somewhat above the 2% target rate before hiking rates to control inflation.

The Federal Open Market Committee adopted specific language to emphasize the inflation goal.

“With inflation running persistently below this longer run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved,” the post-meeting statement said.

The committee added that “it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time.”

Stocks added to gains following the Fed release, though government bond yields were little changed.

“The guidance was a little more explicit than perhaps I would have thought, but the outcome is the same,” said Kathy Jones, head of fixed income for Charles Schwab. “We’re still looking at the probability of zero interest rates at least through 2022 and median estimates for 2023, although there were a few who think that liftoff happens in 2023.”

In addition to the rates decision, the committee altered its outlook for GDP, unemployment and inflation for the coming years.

The committee now sees a full-year GDP decline of 3.7%, considerably better than the 6.5% drop forecast in June. However, it lowered its 2021 outlook to 4% from 5% and 2022 to 3% from 3.5%. The committee expects 2.5% GDP growth in 2023.

The unemployment rate projection also was brought down, to 7.6% from 9.3%, which was already above the 8.4% jobless rate for August. The committee also marked up its inflation projection for 2020 to 1.2% from 0.8% in June, though it still does not see it hitting the 2% goal until 2023.

The moves come amid stronger economic data during the third quarter. Most economists see a sharp rebound for the U.S. after it plunged into recession in February, a month before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

Since then, the Fed has unloaded an unprecedented array of policy tools aimed at keeping markets functioning and the economy afloat. It initiated about a dozen lending and liquidity programs that have coincided with a massive rise in stocks and a steadying and in some cases major rise in economic indicators.

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates.

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(SNOW) starts trading on the NYSE

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