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Dollar US bond yields and earnings in focus

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In Asia, futures pointed to a subdued open for Japanese stocks after the benchmark index fell more than 1 percent in the last session. Nikkei futures traded in Chicago were off by 0.21 percent at 21,880 compared to the index’s previous close. Osaka futures were lower by 0.43 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.26 percent in early trade. The heavily weighted financials and materials subindexes traded lower by 0.17 percent and 2.17 percent, respectively, dragging the benchmark lower.

Australian corporates take center stage on the earnings front on Wednesday, with Wesfarmers, Santos and Scentre Group among the companies reporting results during the day.

Markets in China will remain closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The dollar firmed as markets consider the overnight U.S. Treasury auction. The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six rivals, last traded at 89.714. Against the yen, the dollar firmed to trade at 107.28.

On the commodities front, U.S. crude futures rose 0.4 percent to settle at $61.90 per barrel. Brent crude futures settled 0.6 percent lower at $65.25 per barrel as the dollar firmed.

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Facebook requiring U.S. employees to be vaccinated to return to work

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An employee of the Internet company Facebook walks through the courtyard of the company campus in Menlo Park, California.

Christoph Dernbach | picture alliance | Getty Images

Facebook will require U.S. workers returning to its offices to be vaccinated, the company said on Wednesday.

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.”

Facebook will create processes for those who can’t be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, Goler said. The company will continue to evaluate its approach outside the U.S., Goler added.

Facebook had already told full-time employees that most of them could continue working from home beyond the pandemic if their jobs could be done remotely.

The news comes after Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees earlier the same day that Google would delay its return to office plans by one month, citing the fast-spreading delta variant. Pichai also said returning workers would have to be vaccinated.

Apple earlier delayed its return to office plans, though it has not come out publicly with a vaccine requirement for workers. The company will require customers and staff to wear masks in many of its U.S. retail stores regardless of vaccination status beginning on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC’s Josh Lipton.

Though employer-mandated vaccine requirements seemed rare just a few weeks ago, the rise of the delta variant and new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to have played a role in shifting some executives’ thinking.

On Tuesday, the CDC walked back its earlier mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying that they should again wear masks indoors in places with high Covid-19 transmission rates. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the change was due to new information on the delta variant, showing that some vaccinated people infected by the strain could continue to spread it to others.

WATCH: Employers weigh Covid vaccine mandates and incentives for employees

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Shares of Singapore banks jump after regulator lifts dividend cap

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Automated teller machines of the three Singapore-listed banks: OCBC, DBS and UOB.

Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of Singapore’s top three banks rose Thursday after the country’s financial regulator lifted a cap on dividend payouts that was implemented following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Singapore’s largest bank DBS Group Holdings climbed around 0.6% in early trade, while smaller peers Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank were up by around 1%.

The three banks make up around one-third of the benchmark Straits Times Index, which rose 0.5%.

The Southeast Asian city-state’s financial regulator and central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said Wednesday that restrictions on bank dividend payments “will not be extended.”

MAS had last year urged banks to cap their total dividends per share for 2020 to 60% of the previous year’s amount in light of economic uncertainties due in part to the pandemic.

“The global economic outlook has since improved. While some uncertainties remain, Singapore’s economy is expected to continue on its recovery path, given strengthening global demand and progress in our vaccination programme,” the regulator said in a statement.

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Before MAS’ move, the European Central Bank and U.S. Federal Reserve made similar decisions to relax restrictions on dividend payouts by banks.

Eugene Tarzimanov, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a note he expects the three large Singapore banks to increase dividend payments to pre-pandemic levels of around 50% of their net income.

He noted that Moody’s had changed its outlook on the Singapore banking system from negative to stable in March, in recognition of the improving economy, potential for bank earnings to grow and broadly stable asset quality.

DBS, OCBC and UOB are scheduled to report second-quarter earnings next week.

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China to still allow IPOs in the U.S., securities regulator CSRC says

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A vehicle from electric car maker NIO sits outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), September 12, 2018 in New York City.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

China will continue to allow Chinese companies to go public in the U.S. as long as they meet listing requirements, China’s securities regulator told brokerages late Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter.

A series of regulatory actions in the last few weeks has heightened investor concerns that Beijing is trying to block foreign capital flows into Chinese assets.

The cross-border stock listings can also occur using the variable interest entity structure, the source said, citing the regulator. It refers to a legal structure which allows international investors to access shares of Chinese companies in the U.S.

The regulator recognized the structure is a vital way for companies to attract foreign capital, but said it would have to be adjusted if there were national security concerns, said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

China Securities Regulatory Commission Vice Chairman Fang Xinghai held a virtual meeting with major investment banks on Wednesday, the source said. It followed days of sharp selling in Chinese stocks on fears of increased regulatory crackdown by Beijing.

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The policy specifically banned tutoring companies from raising money through the stock market or having foreign investors, particularly through the variable interest entity legal structure that allows international investors to access Chinese shares.

The speed and breadth of the policy surprised many. Goldman Sachs on Monday downgraded Chinese education stocks on expectations the after-school tutoring market would “shrink significantly” — to less than one-fourth its current $106 billion size.

However, the securities commission’s Fang said the policy was intended to reduce the burden on parents — not shut off foreign investment — and the education companies will have as much time as needed to restructure, according to the source.

The securities regulator did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

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