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China’s retail sales miss expectations again

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Shoppers and pedestrians walk along Nanjing Road in Shanghai, China, on Sunday, June 6, 2021.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — China said Wednesday that retail sales rose 12.4% in May, missing expectations despite government efforts to boost spending and a major holiday during the month.

Analysts had expected retail sales to rise 13.6% in May from a year ago.

Consumer spending has lagged China’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. In April, retail sales climbed a less-than-expected 17.7% from a year ago.

Industrial production rose 8.8% from a year ago in May, less than the 9% growth forecast by analysts.

The overall unemployment rate for cities fell to 5%, but that for people aged 16 to 24 was 13.8%.

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Warren Buffett’s advice from 1999 on how he’d invest $10,000

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If you want to be as rich as Warren Buffett, don’t wait to get started. That’s the advice that the investing titan shared in 1999 at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting when asked how to make $30 billion, which was roughly his net worth at the time.

The then-68-year-old Buffett — whose fortune has since grown to more than $100 billion — said that compound interest is an investor’s best friend and compared building wealth through interest to rolling a snowball down a hill.

“Start early,” Buffett said. “I started building this little snowball at the top of a very long hill. The trick to have a very long hill is either starting very young or living to be very old.”

The Oracle of Omaha said that if he were graduating from college in 1999 and had $10,000 to invest, he would be strategic about choosing where to put his money. “I probably would focus on smaller companies because I would be working with smaller sums and there’s more chance that something is overlooked in that arena,” Buffett explained, saying he would start examining companies alphabetically and work his way from there.

Investors, Buffett explained, need to fend for themselves and rely on their own knowledge and intuition when searching for promising businesses to invest in. He added that savvy investors would do best to “learn what you know and what you don’t” and act “very vigorously” when they see something they consider to be a good opportunity.

“You can’t look around for people to agree with you,” Buffett said of putting money into an investment. “You can’t look around for people to even know what you’re talking about.”

That said, Buffett is also a staunch supporter of index funds, which hold every stock in an index, making them automatically diversified. To build wealth, investors should “consistently buy an S&P 500 low-cost index fund,” Buffett said in 2017. “Keep buying it through thick and thin, and especially through thin.”

Still, Buffett said that aspiring to make $30 billion is unnecessary, and recently said that the size of his fortune is “incomprehensible.”

“The money makes very little difference after a moderate level,” he said.

He continued: “If you asked me to trade away a very significant percentage of my net worth either for some extra years on my life or being able to do during those years what I want to do, I’d do it in a second.”

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Don’t miss: Here’s why Warren Buffett isn’t leaving his $100 billion fortune to his kids

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Antitrust regulator orders Tencent Music to give up music label rights

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Photo illustration of Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) logo, a Chinese company that develops music streaming services.

Pavlo Gonchar | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

China’s antitrust regulator ordered Tencent to give up its exclusive music licensing rights with international record labels and slapped a fine on the company, as Beijing continues to crack down on its internet giants at home.

The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) on Saturday imposed a fine of 500,000 yuan ($77,141) on the company saying it violated regulations in its acquisition of China Music in 2016.

In response, Tencent said it will abide by the regulator’s decision and “comply with all the regulatory requirements, fulfill our social responsibilities and contribute to healthy competition in the market.”

It comes as Beijing continues to clamp down on its domestic technology firms that have grown into some of the world’s most valuable companies. The crackdown in the last few months have ranged from the suspension of Ant Group’s $34.5 billion IPO last year, to Alibaba’s $2.8 billion antitrust fine.

In April, the SAMR summoned 34 companies including Tencent and ByteDance, and ordered them to conduct self-inspections so as to comply with anti-monopoly rules.

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Pfizer Covid vaccine 39% effective in Israel, prevents severe illness

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People receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine inside a Covid-19 mass vaccination center at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Jan. 4, 2020.

Kobi Wolf | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech‘s Covid-19 vaccine is just 39% effective in Israel where the delta variant is the dominant strain, but still provides strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization, according to a new report from the country’s Health Ministry.

The efficacy figure, which is based on an unspecified number of people between June 20 and July 17, is down from an earlier estimate of 64% two weeks ago and conflicts with data out of the U.K. that found the shot was 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the variant.

However, the two-dose vaccine still works very well in preventing people from getting seriously sick, demonstrating 88% effectiveness against hospitalization and 91% effectiveness against severe illness, according to the Israeli data published Thursday.

“We have to be mindful that, with time, the effectiveness of these vaccines may wane,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease professor at the University of Toronto.

He stressed that the shots are still highly effective in preventing severe infection, helping hospital systems not get too overwhelmed heading into the colder months. That being said, “we’re still in the Covid era and anything can happen,” he said.

“We have to be prepared and we have to be nimble that people may need a booster at some point,” he added. “This close surveillance that’s happening in countries like Israel, the U.K. and other parts of the world is going to be very helpful in driving policy if and when we do need boosters.”

The delta variant, already in more than 104 countries, is concerning health officials in the U.S. as they see more breakthrough infections, which occur in fully vaccinated people, even though they are more mild.

White House chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci said fully vaccinated people might want to consider wearing masks indoors as a precaution against the rapidly spreading variant in the U.S.

Health experts are concerned about the fall season, when delta is expected to hit states with the lowest vaccination rates the hardest — unless those states and businesses reintroduce mask rules, capacity limits and other public health measures that they’ve largely rolled back.

“That’s something we obviously don’t want to see,” Fauci said Wednesday, noting the so-called breakthrough infections. “This virus is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”

Dr. Paul Offit, who advises the FDA on Covid vaccines, said while the vaccines still provide excellent protection against severe disease and death, they may not work as well against mild cases or spreading the disease to others.

He urged more Americans to get vaccinated, saying delta is a highly contagious virus and the shots will help people from getting seriously sick. Currently, less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the CDC.

“That is a rich and fertile ground for the virus to continue to reproduce itself and continue to create variants that possibly become more and more resistant to vaccines or natural infection,” he said.

WHO officials said Monday that the longer that people around the world remain unvaccinated and social mixing continues, the higher the risk of a more dangerous variant to emerge.

The report out of Israel, which began vaccinating its population ahead of many other countries, is likely to bolster arguments from drugmakers that people will eventually need to get booster shots to protect against emerging variants.

Pfizer said earlier this month it is starting to see waning immunity from its two-dose vaccine, and now plans to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for a booster dose. However, federal officials say fully vaccinated Americans do not need additional shots at this time.

In a statement to CNBC, Pfizer said it remains confident its two-dose regimen is protective against the coronavirus and its variants.

Still, it said a third dose may be helpful after analysis from its phase three study showed a decline in efficacy against symptomatic infection after four to six months.

“Initial data of a third dose of the current vaccine demonstrates that a booster dose given at least 6 months after the second dose elicits high neutralization titers against the wild type and the Beta, which are 5 to 10 times higher than after two primary doses,” the company said.

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