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Singapore to expand its vaccination campaign to everyone 12 and older on July 2

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People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 in Singapore.

Maverick Asio | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore will expand its Covid vaccination program to all residents 12 and older starting early next month.

The government said Thursday that some permanent residents and long-term pass holders can begin booking appointments on July 2.

Since June 11, citizens between the ages of 12 and 39 had a priority window to book vaccinations. Singaporeans were originally given a two-week window, but the Ministry of Health said that period will be extended by one week.

Authorities approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old in mid-May.

The Southeast Asian country has one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in Asia-Pacific, but lags many countries in the West.

The health ministry said around 3 million people have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine so far, of whom 2 million have been fully vaccinated. Singapore’s population is around 5.8 million people.

Accelerating vaccinations

Singapore will be ramping up its inoculation campaign, increasing daily doses to 80,000, up from 40,000 in May, authorities said.

The country previously extended the duration between first and second doses in order to allow more people to receive their first shot. But as the country speeds up its rollout, officials said some people who have already booked appointments will be able to receive their second shots sooner.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore aims to have two-thirds of its population fully vaccinated by August 9, the country’s National Day.

Ong added that the country has signed an advanced purchase agreement with biotech firm Novavax. Last week, the company said its vaccine candidate was 90.4% effective overall in a phase three clinical trial.

“We hope the vaccine supplies can arrive before the end of the year for those who want to take something that is not mRNA,” he said. “But in the meantime, please continue to consider mRNA vaccines. They work very well.”

Restrictions could potentially be loosened for fully vaccinated people

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs Singapore’s Covid taskforce, also said authorities are discussing revising public health guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated.

“We could allow gatherings involving just vaccinated persons to have larger group sizes, and also relax the social distancing rules in such settings,” he said during a press conference, adding that this could apply to religious services, concerts and sporting events.

Wong added that the government is working on new guidelines for people in Singapore to be able to travel. For example, stay-home notices or hotel quarantines may be waived or shortened for vaccinated people, depending on the country they are returning from, he said.

“These are the, potentially, revised guidelines that will apply to vaccinated persons. We are still working through them and we will announce them when we are ready,” he said.

As of Thursday, Singapore has reported 62,493 cases of Covid-19 infections and 35 deaths.

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Australia miner BHP shares jump on news of nickel supply deal with Tesla EVs

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A Tesla car charges at a Tesla Supercharger station on April 26, 2021 in Corte Madera, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Shares of mining giant BHP Group jumped 3% in Australia on Thursday morning, after the company announced it will be supplying nickel to electric carmaker Tesla.

In a statement on Thursday, BHP said one of its mines based in Western Australia, Nickel West, will be supplying the world’s largest electric vehicle maker with nickel, a key raw material used in EV batteries.

“Demand for nickel in batteries is estimated to grow by over 500 per cent over the next decade, in large part to support the world’s rising demand for electric vehicles,” BHP Chief Commercial Officer Vandita Pant said in a statement.

BHP currently derives most of its earnings from iron ore, used predominantly to make steel. 

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

While there were no specifics on the deal amount, Tesla had said in June that it expects to spend more than $1 billion a year on raw materials for batteries from Australia, citing the country’s responsible production practices, according to Reuters.

BHP claims to be one of the most sustainable and lowest carbon emission nickel producers in the
world.

EV batteries will certainly be critical and drive interest in copper and nickel in particular.

Vivek Dhar

commodity analyst, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

The mining giant currently supplies 85% of its nickel to global battery material suppliers, according to its website. It has also almost finished building a new plant which will produce nickel sulphate, a material used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, the website said.

Outlook for nickel

Major miners are set to go bigger in the mining resources needed to decarbonize the global economy, Vivek Dhar, a commodity analyst from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, told CNBC via email.

“EV batteries will certainly be critical and drive interest in copper and nickel in particular,” he said.

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Netflix games are coming — and the reasons are very Netflixian

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In this photo illustration the Netflix logo in the App Store seen displayed on a smartphone screen.

Rafael Henrique | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

For the first time, Netflix executives spoke at length about the company’s video gaming aspirations. Their rationale for expanding the company’s product offerings was very … Netflixian.

Superficially, Netflix will start offering mobile games to subscribers for no additional charge to add value to the service. Subscribers in the U.S. and Canada declined by 400,000 in the second quarter, a sign the business may be reaching a near-term saturation point. Adding video games may entice new customers while reducing churn.

“The success of this initiative is about great games, fundamentally,” Netflix chief operating officer and chief product officer Greg Peters said during his company’s second-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday. “We think we can deliver more entertainment value through [games].”

But pull back the curtain, and it’s clear Netflix chose video games as one of the company’s first significant nonvideo-related business ventures because of two themes: data and intellectual property.

Those two concepts are core to Netflix’s success as a video streaming service. Netflix has revolutionized streaming video by using streaming video data to recommend what a person should watch and to guide original content production. The value of the owned intellectual property has led to a global shift in media distribution, as companies increasingly hold on to their own creations and distribute content themselves via streaming rather than widely selling programming to others.

The results have led to Netflix dominating the entertainment world with 209 million global subscribers and a trail of copycat subscription streaming services from every media company. They’ve also led to a creative product that some find gauche and not in the spirit of making art.

“These streaming services have been making something that they call ‘movies,’ ” Barry Diller, who once ran Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, said earlier this month. “They ain’t movies. They are some weird algorithmic process that has created things that last 100 minutes or so.”

Netflix’s gaming strategy

Peters acknowledged the company will “learn and grow and refocus our investment based on what we see is working” with games. He noted that gaming provides “intentionality,” allowing users to dictate the characters they want to spend time with in different parts of a gaming world.

That user-based decision-making won’t be ignored by Netflix. Rather, it will guide Netflix — not only in making better games but also in creative decisions. If a Netflix-owned series has a character that’s used heavily in gaming, one could easily imagine that character being more prominently featured in an upcoming season of the show.

“Maybe someday we’ll see a game that spawns a film or a series,” Peters said. “That would be an amazing place to get to, to really see the rich interplay between these different forms of entertainment.”

While Peters noted that Netflix will license some games — just as Netflix built its video service on the back of licensing TV shows and movies — he said Netflix’s intellectual property is a key differentiating factor against other rivals in the space.

“The first of those [differentiating factors] is about the IP we create,” Peters said. “We know the fans of our stories want to go deep and engage further. What’s great about interactive is you can provide universes that provide a significant amount of time where people can engage and explore.”

That “significant amount of time” is yet another key Netflix tenet — keeping users within the company’s ecosystem. That’s why Netflix founder and co-chief executive officer Reed Hastings once said that even sleep should be considered Netflix competition.

Gaming won’t become an independent driver of revenue any time soon. Hastings referred to Netflix as “a one-product company with a bunch of supporting elements.” But for anyone who was confused why Netflix would budge from its famous focus on streaming, the rationale is clearer today: Hastings hopes what worked for video will work again for gaming.

WATCH: Netflix drops on earnings in new report

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The bond market is torn over the potential for higher inflation and lower growth

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A man wearing a protective face mask walks by 14 Wall Street in the financial district of New York, November 19, 2020.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

A volatile environment for government bonds is reflecting a highly uncertain future for the U.S. economy, pointing to both slower growth and stubborn inflation.

After a burst higher earlier this year that scared markets, Treasury yields have fallen back sharply as investors have switched their focus from worries about price increases to the potential that the rapid burst in post-pandemic activity could start to slow down.

In the 1970s, the mix of higher prices and lower growth was called “stagflation,” a pejorative that has garnered little attention since then as inflation has remained tame over the past few decades.

However, the word is coming up more and more these days as the growth picture gets cloudier.

“The market is trading on the stagflation theme,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies. “There’s the idea that these price increases are going to cause demand destruction, cause a policy mistake and ultimately that slows growth.”

For her part, Markowska thinks the trade that sent 10-year Treasury yields tumbling from a peak of around 1.75% in late March to about 1.18% earlier this week was a mistake. Yields trade opposite price, so a slump there means that investors are buying up bonds and pushing prices higher.

She sees a strong consumer and a coming eruption in supply, reversing the current bottleneck that has pushed prices to their highest levels since before the 2008 financial crisis, as generating plenty of momentum to keep growth cooking without generating runaway inflation. Markowska sees the Federal Reserve staying on the sidelines until at least 2023, despite recent market pricing that the central bank will begin raising rates in late 2022.

“Consensus is projecting 3% growth. I think we could grow 4% to 5% next year,” Markowska said. “Not only is the consumer still very healthy, but you’re going to have massive inventory restocking at some point. Even if demand comes down, supply has so much catching up to do. You’re going to see the mother of all restocking cycles.”

The bond market, which is generally seen as the more sober component of financial markets as opposed to the go-go stock market, doesn’t seem as convinced.

Low-growth world coming back

The 10-year Treasury is seen as the fixed income bellwether and generally a barometer for where the economy is headed as well as interest rates. Even with Wednesday’s rally in yields, a 1.29% Treasury is not expressing a lot of confidence in the future growth trajectory.

“Our view is growth and inflation moderate,” said Michael Collins, senior portfolio manager at PGIM Fixed Income. “I don’t care what growth and inflation looks like this year, what matters to our forecast of the 10-year Treasury is what it’s going to be like over 10 years. And I think it’s going to go back down. That’s the world we live in.”

The reference is to a below-trend growth environment with interest rates well below standard.

As the economy has grown out of the government-imposed pandemic shutdown, GDP has been well above the 2% or so trend that had been prevalent since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The Covid recession was the shortest on record, and the economy has been a rocket since mid-2020.

But Collins expects the modest-growth world to return, and for investors to keep yields well within that a subdued range.

“The U.S. is going to continue to be a leader in global growth and economic dynamism,” he said. “But 1.5% to 2% is our speed limit on growth unless we have some productivity miracle.”

Measuring inflation’s impact

The looming question, then, is inflation.

Consumer prices rose a lofty 5.4% in June while the prices producers receive spiked 7.3%. Both numbers indicate continued price pressures that even Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged have been more aggressive and persistent than he and his central bank colleagues had expected.

While the slide in yields indicates that least some of the worry has come out of the market, any further signs that inflation will stick around longer than policymakers expect could change investors’ minds in a hurry.

That’s because of the swirling dynamics that threaten to raise that stagflation specter. The biggest growth concern right now centers on the threat that Covid-19 and its delta variant pose. Slowing growth and rising inflation could be lethal for the current investing landscape.

“If the virus begins to spread rapidly again, that would curtail economic growth and prolong the inflationary supply chain disruptions that have affected so many industries including semiconductors and housing,” said Nancy Davis, founder of Quadratic Capital Management and portfolio manager of the Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility and Inflation Hedge Exchange-Traded Fund.

“Stagflation is an even bigger risk for investors than inflation,” Davis added.

Collins, though, said he sees the current 10-year yield as trading around fair value considering the circumstances.

The Treasury market is often far more deliberate than its equity-focused counterpart, which can swing wildly on headlines both good and bad. At its current level, the bond market is taking a cautious view on what’s ahead.

With the stock market’s sensitivity lately to what’s been happening in bonds, that could mean some volatility on the equity side.

“Given what’s happened over the last 18 months and the problems much of the world faces over the next 2-3 years, a 1.2% 10-year is understandable,” wrote Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research. “It doesn’t mean equities are fated to have a tough remainder of 2021, or that a crash is imminent. It does mean that Treasuries have a healthy respect for history, especially the last decade’s worth of subpar U.S. inflation.”

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