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South African rand takes hit on new Covid fears, variant

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South African rand.

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The South African rand on Friday fell sharply against the dollar after a new variant with many mutations was detected in the country.

The currency fell to as low as 16.2391 against the greenback during Asia trading hours on Friday and was last trading about 1.6% weaker at 16.2215 per dollar.

The losses came as investors scurried toward safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen, which strengthened about 0.6% against the greenback to 114.69 per dollar. The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against its peers, was at 96.712 — as compared with levels below 96.5 seen earlier this week.

World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with numerous mutations to the spike protein — the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body. The health agency is scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it may mean for vaccines and treatments.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organization’s social media channels.

Hours following the announcement, the United Kingdom announced it would temporarily suspend flights from six African countries.

— CNBC’s Hannah Miao contributed to this report.

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What are good travel gifts? Experiences travelers can book themselves

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The newest trend in holiday gifts doesn’t take up space in carry-on luggage or add weight to checked bags.

It doesn’t even need to be packed.

Rather than giving holidaymakers new gear for travel — electronics organizers, Yeti thermoses, yet another airplane pillow — some are giving travel itself.   

A survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the computer company Adobe showed that while 51% of respondents plan to purchase physical gifts this holiday season, 17% plan to give “an experience” instead.

Survey respondents cited spa treatments (25%) and concert tickets (25%) most often, while others said they planned to give plane tickets (21%) and cooking classes (16%) as gifts.

“Experience gifting” — as it is known — isn’t new. But it’s finding traction this holiday season as a push for minimalist packing converges with a pandemic that has made travel a top priority for many in 2022.    

More experiences, less ‘stuff’

Migle Rakauskaite, the chief marketing manager at travel experience website Tinggly.com, said the pandemic is prompting an increase in travel experience gift purchases.

“Gifting traditions are changing,” she said. “People seem to value quality time together and doing something meaningful. Experience gifts are so much more valuable than the regular ‘stuff.'”

They’re also easy. With a few strokes of a keyboard, buyers can give experiences that once would have required time and coordination to pull off — a street food tour in Vietnam, a hot air balloon ride outside Chicago, or a private gondola tour for two through the canals of Venice, Italy.

Tinggly.com’s travel experience “gift boxes” never expire, which played a “huge part” in the rise of purchases during the pandemic, Rakauskaite said.

Tinggly.com’s “Bucketlist” gift box ($239) lets recipients choose among more than 800 experiences, from a surfing lesson for two in Kona, Hawaii to a Northern Lights “chase” via minibus.

Piriya Photography | Moment Open | Getty Images

Perhaps most important of all, recipients — not the buyers — get to choose their own experiences at a time and date that suit their schedules.

Tinggly addresses a hang-up some have about giving intangible presents — it sends a package for recipients to open. Gift boxes can be mailed worldwide, though last-minute purchasers can also be sent via e-voucher, according to a company representative.

A weekend getaway

For people who prefer to hole up and relax on vacation, booking a weekend away may be a better option.

Ski chalets, lake houses and other homes on the rental website Vrbo can be purchased as gifts, said Alison Kwong, a company senior manager. Once the house is booked, the purchaser needs only to add other travelers’ names to the reservation.

Though Vrbo doesn’t have vouchers or gift cards, houses like this mountain retreat in Park City, Utah, can be booked for someone else, the company said.

Courtesy of Vrbo

Kwong recommends purchasers start by thinking about the type of home that suits the recipient. That could be a house with a game room or home theater for families, or a mountain cabin with ski-in, ski-out access for a group of friends.

“When you find a vacation home you know they’ll love … make sure the vacation home offers flexible cancellation in case they need to change the dates of their stay,” she said.

Onefinestay rents the”Adobe Old Town Overlook” mountain chalet in Park City, Utah for around $895 per night.

Courtesy of One Fine Stay

Onefinestay, a home rental website with houses and villas in “bucket list” destinations — such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Cayman Islands and Italy’s Amalfi Coast — lets people book homes as gifts.

Purchasers need to confirm dates, credit card information and guest details before the stay, according to a company representative.

Roadtrippers and campers

Those who prefer vacations in the great outdoors can receive travel gifts booked through Campspot.

The website is like an Airbnb for outdoorsmen, connecting travelers with campgrounds, recreational vehicle (RV) parks, ranches and rustic resorts, many of which cost less than $50 per night.

Harvest Hosts members can avoid crowded campgrounds by parking their RVs at secluded wineries and farms during their travels.

franckreporter | E+ | Getty Images

Another option for RV owners is a gift membership to Harvest Hosts. Memberships are $99 a year and grant overnight parking access, without extra fees, to more than 2,700 places across North America. Spots are unconventional and less crowded, according to the website, and include wineries, organic farms and museums.  

For $40 more, RV owners can also park their vehicles at hundreds of golf courses on the continent too, according to a company representative.

Splurge gifts

To go big this holiday, companies that combine home rentals and concierge services are an option.

The Nightfall Group can arrange exotic car rentals, like a Ferrari 488 Spider, during vacations.

Agoes Rudianto | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Nightfall Group rents houses from Beverly Hills, California, to the French Riviera.

Travelers can tack on services from airport transfers and stocked groceries to jet and yacht charters. Chauffeurs, chefs, nannies and butlers can also be booked through the Los Angeles-based company.

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China’s Didi asked to delist from U.S., SoftBank shares fall: Report

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A navigation map on the app of Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is seen on a mobile phone in front of the app logo displayed in this illustration picture taken July 1, 2021.

Florence Lo | Reuters

GUANGZHOU, China — Shares of SoftBank extended their losses on Friday after Bloomberg reported that Chinese regulators have asked Didi’s executives to formulate a plan to delist from the U.S.

SoftBank shares in Japan were down 4.77% at the lunch break. SoftBank’s Vision Fund owned more than 20% of Didi following its U.S. listing.

Bloomberg’s report said regulators want Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi to delist from the New York Stock Exchange because of concerns about leakage of sensitive data. The news agency cited people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Cyberspace Administration of China has asked Didi to work out the details for a delisting which will be subject to government approval, the report said.

Didi could either go for a privatization or a listing in Hong Kong after delisting in the U.S, the report said.

A privatization would be at the $14 per share IPO price when the company listed, while a Hong Kong float would likely be at a discount to what Didi’s shares were trading at in the U.S., according to Bloomberg.

Didi declined to comment on the report.

A state-directed delisting would be an unprecedented move but highlights Beijing’s continued push to reign in technology giants and put them under tighter regulation. Didi in particular is a special case. Shortly after its IPO in the U.S. in June, regulators opened a cybersecurity review into the company.

Didi reportedly drew the ire of regulators by pushing ahead with an IPO without resolving outstanding cybersecurity issues that the authorities wanted solved. Didi is China’s largest ride-hailing app and holds lots of data on travel routes and users.

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Stock futures fall amid fears of new Covid variant found in South Africa

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A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) November 8, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

U.S. stock futures dropped in overnight trading on Thursday as investors geared up for a shortened trading day amid renewed Covid fears over a new variant found in South Africa.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 400 points, while those for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 were both in negative territory.

The downward move in futures came after WHO officials on Thursday warned of a new Covid-19 variant that’s been detected in South Africa. The United Kingdom temporarily suspended flights from six African countries due to the variant.

Markets were closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving, so stocks are coming off of slight gains on Wednesday that staunched the week’s losses for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.

Treasury yields have climbed this week, putting pressure on high-growth stocks. The Nasdaq is down 1.3% for the week, while the S&P 500 is up less than 0.1% and the Dow has gained roughly 0.6%.

The final weeks of the year are typically a strong period for the market, with the so-called Santa Claus rally usually creating a happy holidays for Wall Street. The S&P 500 is up 25% year to date.

“I think we’re probably in a market that is in its lane for the next few weeks until we get to the next [Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee] meeting,” said Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management. “I think the spending’s going to be strong at the consumer level … I think when we see the November jobs report come out in the middle of December, I think that will be favorable.”

“I think the potential for recalibration, reconsideration or a market reassesment is most likely to come when the FOMC makes its announcements on [Dec. 15]. Until then, we’ll have a lot more of what we already know,” Ma added.

Friday also marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, as investors will be looking for insight from Black Friday to determine the mood of the U.S. consumer.

Retail stocks have seen dramatic moves in both directions during this earnings season. On Wednesday, shares of Gap and Nordstrom tanked more than 20%, but Kohl’s jumped more than 10% a week ago after reporting strong sales growth.

Retail executives spoke during the quarter about how they are managing supply chain issues and inflation. It also remains to be seen if discussion around supply chain issues caused consumers to start their holiday shopping early, potentially denting fourth-quarter sales.

“I would not be surprised if that was a dynamic around the holiday season,” said Sarah Henry, a portfolio manager at Logan Capital Management. She added that her firm was looking for companies with long-term strategic advantages than trying to bet on the best holiday sales results.

Wednesday also saw several strong economic reports, with personal incomes and consumer spending for October coming in higher than expected and initial jobless claims hitting their lowest level since 1969. However, Core PCE, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, remained elevated at 4.1%.

There are no major economic releases scheduled for Friday. The stock market will close at 1 p.m. ET on Friday due to the holiday weekend.

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