Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Mar 4, 2021

News | Economy | China: China sets a Conservative Economic Growth At 6% For the Year

China Sets Conservative Economic Growth Target of Above 6%

Bloomberg News

Beijing Gears Up for the Annual National People's Congress

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China set a conservative economic growth target of above 6% for the year, well below what economists forecast, and outlined ongoing fiscal support to keep the recovery going.

The government will narrow the budget deficit to 3.2% of gross domestic product this year, Premier Li Keqiang said Friday at the opening of the National People’s Congress. While that’s lower than last year’s 3.6% of GDP, it’s above the 3% expected by many analysts, signaling Beijing still sees a need for expanded fiscal policy to support growth this year.


Xi Jinping, left, and Li Keqiang arrive for the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5.

Photographer: Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images

“In 2021, China will continue to face many development risks and challenges, but the economic fundamentals that will sustain long-term growth remain unchanged,” said Li. “A target of over 6% will enable all of us to devote full energy to promoting reform, innovation, and high-quality development.”

Rebound in China

One of the few v-shaped recoveries globally

Source: National Bureau of Statistics

China’s economy was the only major one in the world to expand last year, aided by the central bank’s injections of liquidity to support businesses, extra fiscal spending on infrastructure and the quick control of coronavirus outbreaks domestically. Economists predict the economy will expand 8.4% this year, partly due to the low base from 2020.

“The tone is very conservative,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Hong Kong. The fiscal targets suggest “2021 is a year of tapering.”

China’s CSI 300 Index of stocks fell as much as 2%, poised to enter a technical correction, before paring. Traders blamed the initial losses on a global rout overnight, rather than any negative headlines out of the NPC. China’s government bonds were little changed, while the onshore yuan weakened less than 0.1%.

NPC Targets20202021
GDP growthNoneover 6%
CPIaround 3.5%around 3%
Fiscal deficit (% of GDP)over 3.6%around 3.2%
Special local government bond quota3.75 trillion yuan3.65 trillion yuan
Anti-virus special sovereign bond quota1 trillion yuannone
New urban job creationover 9 millionover 11 million
Surveyed jobless ratearound 6%around 5.5%

The quota for local government bond sales is higher than the 3.5 trillion yuan forecast by analysts as the government continues to pursue proactive fiscal policy. On monetary policy, the government reiterated that it would be prudent, and would keep the yuan basically stable at a reasonable level.

China’s V-shaped recovery alongside a recession in the U.S. and elsewhere puts it on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2028, two years earlier than expected, according to projections by several banks including Nomura Holdings Inc.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

This is a low bar for this year. Bloomberg Economics forecasts GDP will expand 8.2% this year, reflecting continued progress in the recovery and a low base of comparison last year, when growth slumped to 2.3%.

-- Chang Shu, chief Asia economist

For the full report, click here

Alongside that recovery has been a build-up in debt and worries about asset bubbles, fueling expectations that policy makers will withdraw the monetary and fiscal stimulus unleashed during the pandemic last year.

This year’s meeting of the NPC, China’s main legislature, has added significance because of the release of a new five-year plan covering 2021-2025. Some of the key goals already outlined include strengthening consumer demand, investing in hi-tech industries, and addressing long-term challenges such as an aging population.

— With assistance by Tom Hancock, Lucille Liu, Lin Zhu, Yujing Liu, and Sofia Horta e Costa

(Updates with comment from economist and market reaction)

    News | Business I Food Inflation Expectation: Normal Levels of Food Inflation in 2021 is Expecting Kroger CEO.

    Kroger CEO says he expects normal levels of food inflation in 2021 but that prices may be volatile

    Kevin Stankiewicz

    Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen told CNBC on Thursday he does not anticipate problematic food inflation in 2021, while cautioning that month-to-month prices may be volatile.

    “For the whole year, we expect inflation to be at 1% to 2%, which is a pretty normal number,” McMullen said on “Closing Bell.”

    The grocery executive’s outlook matches food-at-home price forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. McMullen’s comments come as the topic of inflation across the broader U.S. economy is in sharp focus.

    Wall Street has for weeks been paying close attention to the rising yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury, which was around 1.547% on Thursday. The yield was below 1% at times in January, but it has been increasing on expectations of a strong economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to a potential pickup in inflationary pressures.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday he does expect to see “some upward pressure on prices,” but signaled he does not believe they will be long-lasting enough for the central bank to raise interest rates. The Fed cut the target range for its overnight funds rate to near zero last March as the pandemic intensified.

    “We expect that as the economy reopens and hopefully picks up, we will see inflation move up through base effects,” Powell said Thursday at the Wall Street Journal Jobs Summit.

    With respect to grocery store prices, McMullen said there could be variability, especially when comparing them with 2020 levels during the early parts of the pandemic.

    “If you look at the second quarter a year ago, we had huge inflation in meat,” McMullen said, which happened after the health crisis led to closures of meatpacking plants.

    “This year we would expect to have pretty large deflation, so when you look at it overall, we’re still at the 1% to 2% estimate, but it will be very bumpy along the way,” McMullen said.

    Shares of Kroger closed higher by 2.5% on Thursday to $34.09 apiece. The company reported fourth-quarter results earlier in the day, topping analyst estimates with earnings per share of $0.81. Quarterly revenues of $30.74 billion fell short of Wall Street’s forecast of $30.86 billion.

    News | Internet: US Suppliers is slowing to Approve Export Licenses Even for Giant SMIC.

    Exclusive: U.S. suppliers to Chinese chip giant SMIC slow to get export licenses

    Karen Freifeld, Alexandra Alper

    (Reuters) - The U.S. government has been slow to approve licenses for American companies like Lam Research and Applied Materials to sell chipmaking equipment to China semiconductor giant SMIC, even as a global shortage has supercharged chip demand, several sources said.

    Licenses for U.S. suppliers to ship much of an estimated $5 billion dollars’ worth of parts and components still have not come through, industry sources said, though many companies sought them soon after the company was blacklisted in December. Certain licenses have been granted, including for small numbers of expensive equipment in recent days.

    As policy shifts under President Joe Biden, who took over from Donald Trump in January, U.S. government agencies led by new appointees still haven’t completely decided what should be sold to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, which produces chips for Qualcomm and other American companies.

    The Trump administration placed SMIC on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s entity list over concerns of SMIC aiding China’s military.

    The listing, which requires U.S. suppliers to get a license before shipping goods to SMIC, is unusual because it says most products should be granted on a case-by-case basis. However, equipment that can be used to make only the most advanced, 10 nanometer and smaller chips is likely to be denied licenses.

    The administration is supposed to make decisions on license applications within a month, but follow-up questions stop the clock.

    “Lam Research is still in the application process and has not yet received a response,” a Fremont, California, company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

    Applied Materials’ chief financial officer said in a February 18 earnings call that their forecast did not assume licenses would come through. A spokesman for the Santa Clara, California based company declined comment on the licenses this week, including whether the comment was still valid.

    SMIC did not respond to requests for comment, but the company has said it provides services solely for civilian and commercial end users and that it has no ties to the Chinese military.

    Decisions on licenses have been held up as officials ask follow-up questions about applications in part to determine whether the parts or components could be diverted for use in producing items 10 nm or smaller, sources said.

    Washington trade lawyer Giovanna Cinelli said many license applications have resulted in “a lot of back and forth, which has elongated the period of review.”

    In a statement, a Commerce Department official dismissed the possibility that curbs on SMIC could contribute to the chip shortage, noting that the shortfall was tied to older technologies while SMIC restrictions relate to leading edge technology. The statement did not address the potential impact of delays in licenses for older technology.

    SMIC, the largest foundry in mainland China, is an important player in the global semiconductor supply chain, which is under pressure as pandemic lockdowns drive up demand for electronics such as laptops and phones. Last month, it said it could not meet customer demands for certain technologies and its plants have been running “fully loaded” for several quarters.

    SMIC’s technological capabilities lag far behind cutting-edge foundries like industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, according to industry sources.

    Companies like Applied Materials and Lam Research, two key suppliers of production equipment, submitted numerous license applications to sell to the company. The bulk have not yet been acted on, industry sources said.

    A spokeswoman for Entegris, a Massachusetts company that submitted license applications to sell to SMIC, told Reuters late Wednesday that it had received its first license within the past week.

    Other companies that ship to SMIC include California’s KLA Corp and Axcelis Technologies in Massachusetts. A KLA spokeswoman declined to comment on licenses, and while Axcelis’s CEO spoke of “uncertainty” related to its licenses on Feb. 11th, a company spokeswoman declined to provide an update.

    Qualcomm, which uses the Chinese foundry to produce chips with decades-old technology, put in applications for tools SMIC needs to produce them, just in case equipment makers don’t get theirs, an industry source said. But they have not come through yet, the source added.

    In September, SEMI, a worldwide industry group, said in a draft letter seen by Reuters that SMIC accounts for as much as $5 billion in annual U.S. sales.

    Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chris Sanders & Shri Navaratnam


    News | UK Business | Unfair Practice Investigation: Apple investigated in UK over App Store unfair practices

    Apple investigated in UK over 'unfair' App Store claims

    BBC News

    Fortnite appimage copyrightEPA

    image captionFortnite and Apple have been locked in legal battle since August

    The UK's Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into whether Apple's terms for app developers are anti-competitive.

    It follows a series of complaints, including a high-profile one from Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite.

    Some developers are unhappy that they are forced to distribute apps to iPhones and iPads via the App Store, and the commission Apple takes.

    Apple said its terms were "fair and equal".

    The investigation will consider whether Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices and look at whether it imposes unfair terms on developers.

    Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA said: "Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway. So complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice - potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps - warrant careful scrutiny."

    In response, Apple said: "We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish. The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place - applied fairly and equally to all developers - to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent.

    "We look forward to working with the UK Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers."

    Epic Games has launched a legal action against Apple and Google in the US, after both removed Fortnite from their smartphone app stores.

    The row centred on the up to 30% cut both the tech giants take when people buy an app, subscription or in-app item on the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, as well as the difficulty in launching mobile app without submitting to both companies' app store rules.

    In August Epic bypassed the Apple and Google stores to let Fortnite players buy virtual currency at a lower price, directly from it, resulting in an immediate ban from both stores.

    The row has attracted the attention of both regulators and politicians.

    Arizona's state House of Representatives passed a law this week which prohibits Apple and Google, and any other app store exceeding one million downloads, from demanding developers based in the state exclusively use its app stores.

    The law also covers users living in the state, but it is not yet clear how it will affect companies headquartered in other states but conducting sales in Arizona. It will now be handed to the state Senate for approval.

    More on This Story:

    News | UK New Jobs Ahead: New Jobs On a 117m pounds Investment are seen on Magor and Samlesbury by Budweiser.

    Budweiser's £117m investment sees new jobs in Magor and Samlesbury

    BBC News

    Cans of Budweiserimage copyrightGetty Images

    image captionBudweiser Brewing Group brews beers including Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Bud Light

    Budweiser is investing £117m at its breweries in Monmouthshire and Lancashire, creating 55 new jobs.

    Thirty-two new positions are being created at its Welsh site in Magor, which is receiving £72m of the cash.

    The remaining £45m will be in invested in its brewery in Samlesbury, creating 23 new jobs.

    The company employs more than 1,000 people across the two sites and said the move would increase capacity and efficiency.

    Magor breweryimage copyrightEirian Evans / Geograph

    image captionBudweiser has been brewing in Magor since 1979

    It said it would produce a total of 3.6m hL (hectolitres), the equivalent of 630 million pints a year, once all projects were complete.

    Budweiser Brewing Group said it reached its highest sales levels on record last year in the off-trade, seeing a 19.6% growth in the third quarter of the year and 23.4% in the fourth.

    Paula Lindenberg, president of Budweiser Brewing Group UK and Ireland, said: "Like many in the UK, we are focussed on a strong recovery of our economy, our communities and our country.

    "By investing in our breweries with new roles and new technology to increase capacity, we're ensuring that we can brew and deliver great beers for many years to come.

    "We know the beer industry is hugely valuable to the UK economy, and we believe our investments in our UK operations will be a catalyst for the recovery post-Covid."

    Mar 3, 2021

    News | UK Economy: News | UK Economy: Service Sector in UK Improved Since January Consecutively

    UK service sector optimism grows to highest level since 2006

    Phillip Inman

    Optimism across the services sector improved for the fourth consecutive month in February to its highest level since 2006, reflecting hopes that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout will lead to a strong economic rebound.

    The IHS Markit survey found that business leaders were planning to expand their activities over the next 12 months despite several months of falling orders during the UK’s third lockdown and port delays after the Brexit trade deal was reached with the EU in December.

    International travel restrictions were the most commonly cited reason for lower exports along with increased paperwork at UK ports since January, which also stifled business activity by limiting essential imports, businesses said.

    Most firms looked beyond their current difficulties to focus on the prospect of looser restrictions on trade resulting from a successful vaccine rollout programme.

    The IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers index (PMI) covering the service sector stabilised at 49.5 in February, up sharply from an eight-month low of 39.5 in January. A figure of 50 separates contraction from expansion.

    Tim Moore, the economics director at IHS Markit, said: “While customer-facing businesses continued to report severe constraints on activity due to the pandemic, there were signs of growth in technology and some business services after a disappointing start to 2021.

    “Survey respondents cited regulatory issues and supply disruption as factors holding back new business wins from EU customers which more than offset the positive impact on overseas demand from the economic recovery in the US and Asia-Pacific.”

    There was a warning from survey respondents about rising prices, which they said were passed on during February partly in response to Covid-related shortages of shipping on the main international routes and Brexit-related delays.

    Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the outlook remained uncertain despite several forecasts that showed consumers who had accumulated high levels of savings were poised to spend them in the second half of the year.

    “Consumers are well-placed to play a key role given the recent high savings ratios, although much will depend on how much unemployment ultimately rises. After an extended period of weakness, business investment is expected to gain momentum over the course of the year as companies grow more confident in the economy.”

    Increased optimism also helped to stabilise employment, with only a small fall across services firms, which represent around three-quarters of the UK’s economic activity.

    News | Southeast Asia: Myanmar Coup: Dozens Killed in Worst Day of Violence.

    Dozens killed in Myanmar's worst day of violence since coup

    Rebecca Ratcliffe

    At least 33 people have been killed after Myanmar’s security forces opened fire on peaceful anti-coup protesters in multiple towns and cities, in the worst day of violence since the military coup last month.

    Police and military have increasingly used lethal violence in an attempt to crush demonstrations, killing at least 40 people since the coup on 1 February.

    Crowds have continued to take to the streets daily in defiance of the military junta, with just goggles, hard hats and homemade shields for protection. Protesters are demanding that the military restore democracy and for their elected leaders to be released.

    Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a human rights activist based in Yangon, described the military’s use of force against protesters as a “daily slaughter”.

    Among those who died on Wednesday was a 19-year-old woman shot in Mandalay. Images shared on social media showed her wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”. A teenage boy was also killed. Local media reported that he was 14.

    Security forces used deadly force in several cities including Monywa, where six people were killed and at least 30 injured, a witness told the Guardian. Hundreds of people had turned out to protest when police opened fire around 11am.

    At least eight people were killed in a neighbourhood in Yangon after security forces opened sustained fire with automatic weapons in the early evening, according to Reuters.

    A protester who witnessed the crackdown in North Okkalapa township told the Guardian that the firing was continuous. “I’m still going to go to the frontlines. If I get shot and die then so be it. I can’t stand it any more,” he said.

    Protesters run away from security forces in Yangon
    Protesters run away from security forces in Yangon. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

    Demonstrators in the area had been blocking off roads so that prison transport vehicles carrying young female detainees could not pass, the protester said. The demonstrators had heard reports of women were being sexually assaulted in prisons and feared for the safety of those onboard.

    Police used slingshots and fired teargas to clear the way, he said. At around 5pm, officers fired with rubber bullets on the roughly 100 protesters who remained, and then soldiers fired with live bullets. The protester said a man next to him was shot and survived, but they were only able to take him to hospital after the police had left.

    “I have no words to describe what I feel. There were so many people dying on the road. They fired at any person on the road,” another protester, who also asked to remain anonymous, said. “We are not terrorists, we are civilians, we are trying to get our democracy back. We protest peacefully but they terrorise us.” Whether the coup succeeds, he said, is 50-50. He does not believe south-east Asian countries, or China would help support the people, but added: “I hope for the UN and US to help. I hope a UN peacekeeping force will come to my country, arrest the general and take him to the ICJ and ICC as soon as possible.”

    Ko Bo Kyi, a joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group, said at least 18 people were killed by security forces on Wednesday. Fatalities were reported in the northern town of Hpakant and the central town of Myingyan.

    The Associated Press later reported that 33 people had been killed.

    Hundreds of people were detained in Yangon alone, Myanmar Now, an independent outlet, reported. Video posted on social media showed lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks.

    Separately, CCTV footage published by Radio Free Asia showed police stopping an ambulance and detaining three medics. The police assaulted them, kicking and beating them with gun butts.

    Almost 1,300 people have been detained since the military seized power, including the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces four charges, and the president, Win Myint. Two new charges were announced against Win Myint on Wednesday, including one for an alleged breach of the constitution, punishable by up to three years in prison.

    The UN security council is expected to hold a closed session on the situation on Friday after the UK requested a meeting. However, it is unlikely that any coordinated measures will be agreed, as China and Russia have previously blocked attempts to pressure Myanmar’s military.

    Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, met on Tuesday, but the group did not come up with any significant action. A statement released on Tuesday called for an end to violence. However, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore – called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees.

    Pope Francis, who visited Myanmar in 2017, called for dialogue, writing on Twitter that he urged “the international community to ensure that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled”.

    News | Politics | Chile: New Constitutional rewrite will make room stability decades ahead, Chile Finance Chief says.

    Chile Finance Chief Sees Years of Stability With New Charter

    Shery Ahn, Matthew Malinowski

    Chile’s constitutional rewrite will make room for several more decades of steady rules, ensuring social peace and investor interest in what has historically been one of Latin America’s most stable economies, according to the nation’s finance minister.

    Rodrigo Cerda said the new charter will be a positive development for the country after civil unrest erupted in 2019 due to growing discontent over laws implemented under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

    “We are going to have stable rules for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “That’s a very good thing for our country but also for investment in Chile, that’s going to be stable too.”

    The University of Chicago-trained economist is steering Chile out of its worst downturn in four decades amid an ongoing pandemic. Political tension remains high, with presidential elections in November on top of the new constitution that should be complete by 2022. Lawmakers are expected to debate hot-button topics such as private property, natural resources and public services.

    Read more: Moderates Poised to Hold Sway Over Chile’s New Constitution

    Above 5%

    Cerda, who previously served as director of state-controlled copper company Codelco and the head of the government’s budget office, assumed his position in late January, saying his priorities included bringing back jobs and driving economic growth.

    Yet Chile’s economic recovery slowed in the beginning of the year, according to central bank data released on Monday, as the government imposed tighter restrictions aimed at halting the coronavirus spread. While officials loosened social distancing rules in some regions in February, central parts of Santiago, the nation’s capital, were again put on strict weekend quarantines in early March.

    Chile's economic activity fell in January amid new Covid-19 lockdowns

    Read more: Chile Economy Hits ‘Soft Patch’ Amid Tighter Covid-19 Limits

    Chile will start to post “more interesting” economic growth figures in March, Cerda said. The finance ministry currently expects gross domestic product to increase by 5% this year, though growth may come in higher than that due to factors including an improved external backdrop.

    “At least in the short-term, China is doing quite well,” he said, referring to Chile’s top trading partner. “That will give more reasons why Chile will start growing faster in the next few months, and that’s one of the reasons why we will be growing at 5% or more this year.”


    Since the start of the pandemic, President Sebastian Pinera’s administration has spent billions of dollars on stimulus including grants, low-interest loans and job protection programs. Last week, the government said it will extend economic aid through April to help poor families confront the pandemic.

    Cerda said the extra spending is largely temporary, and that any decision to cut back on stimulus would hinge on how the local virus outbreak evolves.

    Boosting Chile’s outlook is its Covid-19 vaccination program, the fastest in Latin America, and surging prices of copper, whose exports are likely to increase fiscal revenue, according to Cerda.

    “We know that copper prices and commodity prices are very volatile,” he said. “We need to wait a little bit and be cautious.”

    (Updates with chart and details in final section)

      News | Middle East: Iraq Rocket Attack Blames Iran-Backed Militias by US.

      Iraq rocket attack: Air base hosting US-led coalition forces targeted

      BBC News

      File photo showing US military drone at Al Asad air base in western Iraq (13 January 2020)image copyrightAFP

      image captionUS-led coalition forces are stationed at Al Asad air base to combat the Islamic State group

      Ten rockets have hit a base hosting US-led coalition forces in western Iraq.

      Iraq's military said the rockets caused no significant losses at Al Asad air base, but security sources told AFP news agency that a civilian contractor died after suffering a heart attack.

      Last month, a rocket attack in northern Iraq killed a Filipino contractor and injured a US service member.

      The US blamed Iran-backed Shia militias and carried out retaliatory air strikes on one of their facilities in Syria.

      President Joe Biden said the strikes - the first known use of military force by his administration - were meant as a warning to Iran and its proxies.

      But Iraq's paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force, which is dominated by Shia militias, said the "sinful attack" portended "dangerous future developments".

      Wednesday's rocket attack on Al Asad, where coalition troops are stationed to assist Iraqi security forces combat the Islamic State group, comes two days before Pope Francis begins a historic visit to Iraq.

      The pope has insisted he will not postpone the trip despite his predecessor Benedict XVI and others warning of the risks posed by militant groups and a second wave of the country's Covid-19 epidemic.

      "The people cannot be let down for a second time," the 84-year-old said in an address on Wednesday, referring to a cancelled visit by John Paul II in 2000.

      News | Tech: Digital Art Auctions Driven by NFT Blockchain.

      NFT blockchain drives surge in digital art auctions

      BBC News

      Grimesimage copyrightGetty Images

      Musician Grimes has sold several pieces of digital artwork at auction, raising a total of $6m - and their new "owners" do not own the work itself, meaning it can still be seen and shared online.

      Grimes is one of several artists using NFT (non-fungible token) technology to sell art.

      But the art in question does not have a physical presence the same way a painting or sculpture does.

      Instead, the token represents ownership - but not the work itself.

      The token is recorded on a digital ledger, and can be re-sold. The artwork can go up or down in value, but the owner of the token never possesses the original digital file.


      The NFT is perhaps best described as a sort of digital certificate of authenticity, and for some it's become a desirable collectible.

      Last month an NFT of the 10-year-old meme Nyan Cat sold for $580,000, and a video clip of basketball player Lebron Jones went for $100,000.

      NFTs exists on the blockchain - the same technology that underpins cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin - and that is how transactions are logged.

      Last month the 254-year-old auction house Christie's opened its first auction of purely digital work by the artist Mike Winkelmann - also known as Beeple.

      It is a collection of digital art created every single day over a 13.5-year period and is offered as a single lot.

      "Acquiring Beeple's work is a unique opportunity to own an entry in the blockchain itself created by one of the world's leading digital artists," said Noah Davis, specialist in post-war and contemporary art.

      Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said people wanting to invest in NFT art should consider whether there would be long-term benefits.

      "If you want to buy an asset as an investment, ideally you should do it because you have done your homework and you believe that over the longer term that investment will rise," she said.

      "At the moment some people are buying these types of assets for short-term speculative gain, with the expectation that they will be able to ride the wave of higher prices.

      "There may well be a frenzy, but then the craze is likely to move onto the next big thing and the asset could end up being worth nothing."

      More on this story: 

      Bitcoin not for me, says Microsoft  ex Chief:

      News | UK | Budget 2021 Recovery Plans: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak Will set on Budget 2021 Plan For Recovery.

      Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak to set out plans for recovery

      BBC News

      Rishi Sunakimage copyrightPA Media

      Chancellor Rishi Sunak will shortly set out plans to save jobs and prevent businesses collapsing as the UK emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

      In his Budget statement, from about 12:30 GMT, the chancellor is set to extend furlough to September, paying up to 80% of people's wages.

      He will give an update on the state of the UK's finances, amid the biggest national debt in more than 50 years.

      There are reports Mr Sunak is planning to increase some taxes.

      But the main focus of his Budget is likely to to be on boosting economic recovery and supporting the millions of people on furlough or potentially facing long-term unemployment.

      A government source has also told the BBC the chancellor is set to extend the £20-a-week top-up to universal credit for six months to help struggling households.

      Meanwhile, 600,000 more self-employed people, many of whom lost their jobs due to the pandemic downturn, will become eligible for government help, as access to grants is widened.

      Before he set off for the Commons to deliver his speech, Mr Sunak told the Cabinet the coronavirus crisis had "hit our economy hard" and "we must be honest" about what that meant.

      But, he added, "we can be optimistic about the recovery", Downing Street said.

      He has already announced:

      He will also set out the government's plans for duties on alcohol, tobacco and fuel.

      It has been reported that the rate of corporation tax - paid by businesses on their profits - will rise from 19% to 23%.

      media captionBudget 2021: Who is Rishi Sunak and what does he believe?

      The Budget comes at a time when businesses are suffering, while public finances have been damaged by months of Covid restrictions and lockdowns.

      Official figures show the UK economy contracted by 9.9% last year and unemployment rose to 5.1% in the three months to December - the worst rate since 2015.

      With its tax takings down and its spending up, the government is expected to borrow £394bn during the current financial year - the highest figure seen in peacetime.

      2px presentational grey line

      What happens today?

      • Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out his Budget at 12:30 GMT in the Commons
      • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will respond straight after
      • Boris Johnson will answer questions in the Commons at 12:00 for his regular PMQs session

      2px presentational grey line

      But the chancellor will be keen to praise the rollout of vaccines - with more than 20 million people having been given doses across the UK.

      He is also expected to reiterate his commitment to reopening the economy, following the "roadmap" set out last week by the prime minister, which would allow Covid restrictions on businesses and individuals to end by 21 June, at the earliest.

      However, Mr Sunak will also warn of "challenging times ahead", with unemployment likely to keep rising for the next few months.

      For Labour, shadow Treasury minister Bridget Phillipson said: "We need a Budget that secures Britain's recovery and rebuilds the economic foundations the Conservatives weakened before the crisis.

      "That means a plan to support jobs and businesses, protect family finances and set Britain on the path to a better, more secure future."

      The SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said furlough must be in place "as long as businesses and devolved governments need it".

      He said he was "concerned companies are going to have to step in and pay greater contributions".

      This is the second Budget delivered by Mr Sunak and, as is tradition, the opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, will respond.

      The previous Budget took place on 11 March last year - the same date as the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus to be a global pandemic.

      News | US Vaccines: Biden Promises all US Adults will have a vaccine by the end of May.

      Covid: Joe Biden promises vaccines for all US adults by end of May

      BBC News

      A queue for vaccinations in New Yorkimage copyrightEPA

      image captionA queue for vaccinations in New York. A key task for President Biden is getting the supplies into arms

      The US will have enough coronavirus vaccines for every adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden has said.

      This will be two months earlier than previously expected, but Mr Biden said the vaccination drive must be extended, too, and people convinced to take it.

      And he warned people to "stay vigilant" because "this fight is far from over", with new variants a major concern.

      His caution is at odds with some states, which are relaxing restrictions in order to boost their economies.

      Although there has been a sharp fall in confirmed cases since the start of the year - the figure of 68,000 a day now is well down on the 8 January peak of 300,000 - that drop has levelled off over the past week, fuelling fears of another wave.

      More than 76 million vaccination doses have been administered - covering 15.3% of the population and the US remains on track to meet Mr Biden's pledge of delivering 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office.

      Some 1.74 million doses are being administered every day.

      What was in Mr Biden's latest announcement?

      The president said that drug manufacturer Merck - which this year discontinued work on its own vaccine - would now be helping Johnson & Johnson to produce its newly approved one-shot drug.

      "We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," he said, adding it was "the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War Two".

      But the president acknowledged that supply was only one issue, with the nation needing to extend its vaccination drive and convince people to take the shots.

      "We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people's arms, millions of Americans' arms," he said.

      "Great news, but stay vigilant," Mr Biden said. "It's not over yet."

      Graphic showing how cases have been falling in t he US


      Another key announcement was the pledge to give every teacher at least one shot by the end of March, and speed up the reopening of schools.

      But on a general reopening, President Biden was more cautious, saying he was unsure when a return to normal would be possible, although he did then say before "this time next year".

      What are the states doing on reopenings?

      Some are now relaxing rules, despite a warning from top federal health officials last week not to ease up.

      Mr Biden repeated that, saying: "We cannot let our guard down now or assure that victory is inevitable. We can't assume that."

      Individual states are in charge of public health policy in the US. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, most introduced restrictions on businesses and travel.

      About 35 required face coverings to be worn in public places, although enforcement of these mask mandates has been patchy.

      Drive-through vaccination in Texasimage copyrightReuters

      image captionDrive-through vaccination in Texas. The governor says it is time to open the state "100%"

      The governor of Texas on Tuesday issued an executive order, effective from 10 March, that rescinds most of the coronavirus measures he imposed.

      Greg Abbott lifted the regulation ordering people to wear masks and said that businesses would be allowed to resume full capacity next week.

      "It is now time to open Texas 100%," the Republican said. "Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end."

      He said that with increased vaccinations and improved treatment for Covid-19, the state was "in a far better position now".

      The Democratic party in the state said the "crazy" move would throw away all of the gains.

      Mississippi has followed Texas in removing the order on mask wearing, but it will come into effect even earlier - from Wednesday.

      Other states have also announced a relaxation of some rules.

      Michigan, which has a Democratic governor, is to ease capacity limits on restaurants, and on public and residential gatherings.

      South Carolina has removed limits on large gatherings, while capacity limits on restaurants in Massachusetts were removed.

      Some cities have also acted. Chicago has reopened public schools and San Francisco announced the easing of rules on museums, cinemas, gyms and indoor dining.

      media captionThe 'colourful' lives lost to Covid - how obituaries are helping us all mourn

      Health officials have warned that the pandemic is far from over and cases could pick up if curbs are lifted too soon.

      On Monday the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of a "potential fourth surge of cases" if the country lapsed into complacency.

      Covid-19 data shows that, while infections and deaths have declined in recent weeks, they are still at high levels relative to other countries.

      The emergence of new variants could also require booster shots for those already vaccinated.

      Chart showing vaccine doses per 100 people in countries with the highest total vaccinations

      What are the latest Covid statistics in the US?

      • Patients in hospital with Covid continue to fall, from a peak of 131,000 on 12 January to 46,000 in the first week of March. Deaths per day over the same period have fallen from 4,400 to 1,300
      • The US has recorded 28.7 million infections and 516,000 deaths related to Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University research.
      • The confirmed infections figure is nearly double that of second-highest India (11 million) and Brazil (10.5 million)
      • But the US ranks ninth in terms of deaths per 100,000 population, behind countries such as the UK and Italy
      • At least 90,000 more Americans are expected to have died with the virus by 1 June, an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projection says. By late May, the virus will kill around 500 Americans per day - down from approximately 2,000 now

      How the number of deaths has been falling in the US

      Mar 2, 2021

      News | US World Politics: US Imposesed Sanctions on Senior Russian Officials over the Poisoning of Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny.

      Alexei Navalny: US imposes sanctions on Russians

      BBC News

      Alexei Navalny attends a hearing in Moscow, 20 February 2021image copyrightReuters

      image captionAlexei Navalny says he was put in the dock on politically motivated charges

      The US has imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

      The measures, which target the Russia's top spy and six others, are being co-ordinated with similar moves by the European Union.

      US officials said intelligence had concluded that the Moscow government was behind the near-fatal nerve agent attack on Navalny last year.

      He is the most high-profile critic of President Vladimir Putin.

      Moscow denies involvement in his poisoning and disputes the conclusion, by Western weapons experts, that Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok during a flight in Siberia.

      What measures has the US taken?

      Sanctions are being imposed on seven senior Russian officials and 14 entities involved in chemical and biological production, administration officials said.

      "Russia's attempt to kill Mr Navalny follows an alarming pattern of chemical weapons use by Russia," one official said.

      The names of some of those targeted were later released. They include Alexander Bortnikov, who heads the FSB, Russia's main intelligence agency, as well as deputy Defence Ministers Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov.

      The sanctions are the first imposed on Russia by the administration of President Joe Biden. He has taken a tougher stance than his predecessor Donald Trump towards President Putin.

      After phoning his Russian counterpart last month, Mr Biden said he had made it clear the days of the US "rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning citizens are over".

      What about the European Union?

      In a co-ordinated move, the EU announced on Tuesday that it had targeted four Russian government officials.

      They are Alexandr Kalashnikov, the head of the Russian prison system, Alexandr Bastrykin, chairman of the Investigative Committee, Chief Prosecutor Igor Krasnov, and Viktor Zolotov, who heads of the National Guard.

      The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes.

      Penal Colony No 2, where Alexei Navalny is serving his jail term, in Pokrov, Russiaimage copyrightReuters

      image captionNavalny is seving his sentence at a Soviet-era penal colony

      The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Brussels says they are a compromise between the Baltic states, which see Russia as a dangerous neighbour, and countries - notably Germany - which rely on Russian gas imports.

      The move follows an earlier series of EU sanctions. In October the bloc imposed travel bans and asset freezes on six Russian officials, including Mr Bortnikov, accused of involvement in the poisoning.

      A chemical weapons research centre was also targeted. Russia responded with tit-for-tat sanctions.

      Presentational grey line

      All change

      Analysis box by Barbara Plett-Usher, State Department correspondent

      This is the first step by the Biden administration to respond to what it calls Russia's "malign" activity. It is a sharp turn away from the approach of the former president, Donald Trump, who was reluctant to confront the Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

      US officials said they were seeking neither an escalation nor a reset with Russia. The goal is to have a "predictable and stable" relationship that leaves space for co-operation on areas such as nuclear proliferation - but also to be clear that there are costs for behaviour that crosses boundaries "respected by responsible nations".

      The US is also seeking to work with European allies. The officials said the US was catching up with measures the EU had taken earlier and mirroring others it was taking now.

      Further sanctions could be levied in three other areas under review. These include allegations that Russia interfered in the 2020 presidential election, carried out a cyber-hack of US government networks, and paid bounties to Taliban linked militants for killing US soldiers in Afghanistan.

      Presentational grey line

      How has Moscow reacted?

      The Russian government responded even before the US and EU moves were confirmed.

      Early on Tuesday Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated his claim that the West was "hiding the facts that could help to understand what had happened" to Navalny and was unfairly punishing Russia.

      "We have repeatedly expressed our position in regards to illegitimate unilateral sanctions that... are used by the colleagues from the United States and those who take an example from them, the European Union," he said.

      His government would respond in kind to any sanctions, he added.

      Who is Alexei Navalny?

      An anti-corruption campaigner, he has long been the most prominent face of Russian opposition to Mr Putin's rule.

      The 44-year-old blogger has millions of followers on social media. He managed to get some of his supporters elected to councils in Siberia in 2020.

      Navalny was poisoned and fell into a coma during a flight to Siberia last August. He was airlifted to Germany, where he recovered. In January he decided to return to Russia and was arrested on arrival.

      A court last month found that Navalny had violated the terms of an earlier sentence for embezzlement by not turning up to the probation office while he was being treated in Germany.

      His suspended sentence was turned into an actual prison term of two-and-a-half years. Last week he was sent from detention in Moscow to a penal colony to serve out the sentence.

      Navalny and his supporters say all charges against him are politically motivated. President Biden and EU leaders have called for his immediate release.

      More On this story:

      News | Business | UK Budget 2021: 5 Things to Look After.

      Budget 2021: Five things to look out for from Rishi Sunak

      By Daniel Thomas

      Chancellor Rishi Sunakimage copyrightGetty Images

      Chancellors typically view Budgets as political theatre - a moment to set the tone as they show off their wisdom, generosity and vision for the future.

      But when Rishi Sunak sets out the government's tax and spending plans this Wednesday, it will not be him taking centre stage but the ongoing crisis engulfing the nation's health and finances.

      The government has borrowed a record £270bn so far fighting the pandemic and has to come up with a way of paying it back. But it also needs to continue supporting the millions still out of work or on furlough due to the downturn.

      But he's warned of tough economic times ahead and there are reports that he plans to raise some taxes.

      Here are five things to look out for in Wednesday's speech:

      Pizzeria waitress with mask onimage copyrightGetty Images

      1. More support for jobs and workers

      The chancellor has already said he "is preparing a Budget that provides support for people" as unemployment hovers at a five-year high and four million workers are on furlough.

      Mr Sunak is likely to extend the job support scheme - which pays up to 80% of wages - until 30 June. That's just over a week after the final lockdown restrictions could be lifted at the earliest.

      He is also tipped to extend a £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit for six months, after intense pressure from MPs and charities to do more to help the poor get through the pandemic.

      Some want him to go further and make the uplift permanent - but the chancellor may resist as he struggles to get government borrowing under control.

      2. Will he cut business rates?

      Mr Sunak may have promised grants of up to £18,000 to get businesses going again, but the bigger question is what he will do about business rates.

      MPs across the board say the tax, which is calculated using the value of a company's premises, is unfair and outdated. The boss of Next, Lord Simon Wolfson, recently told the BBC rates could kill off the High Street and countless jobs if they aren't reformed.

      The chancellor is likely to leave the thorny question of what to do about the tax - including levying a so called "Amazon tax" on online retailers - until the autumn.

      However, reports suggest he will extend the business rates holiday - brought in last year to support shops - beyond its current end date of 31 March and into the summer.

      Pound coin and notesimage copyrightGetty Images

      3. Will he raise taxes?

      Despite the anticipated generosity, the chancellor has said he will use the Budget to "level" with the public about the challenges facing the economy and the need to repay the vast sums of public money spent during the crisis.

      According to reports, Mr Sunak is likely to announce some tax increases - although whatever he does will have to fit around with the Conservative party manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT.

      Some think he will instead raise corporation tax from its current level of 19% to 23%, which is still below the G7 average. It would be staggered over the course of the parliament, reportedly bringing in £12bn.

      There are also rumours he will freeze the personal income tax allowance, which usually rises in line with inflation, pushing many taxpayers into higher bands and netting HMRC about £6bn.

      Tory backbenchers are strongly opposed to tax rises, while the Labour leader Kier Starmer has warned they risk "choking off" a rapid economic recovery.

      But ex-Conservative leader Lord Hague has said "personal and business" taxes must rise to help government finances.

      Southampton Portimage copyrightPA Media

      image captionSouthampton is teaming up with Portsmouth as part of a south coast freeport bid

      4. Help for levelling up?

      The chancellor is likely to set out his vision for a post-Covid (and -Brexit) economy, which could mean more money for "levelling up" different parts of the UK.

      According to the Financial Times, he is preparing to announce the locations of freeports - special economic zones with low taxes that would help stimulate regional growth.

      He's also expected to announce more funding to help the UK meet its decarbonisation goals.

      There are likely to be measures to promote more environmentally friendly homes and renewable energy - but he is not expected to raise fuel duty.

      homesimage copyrightGetty Images

      5. Stamp duty holiday extension

      The stamp duty holiday introduced last year not only propped up the housing market at the start of the crisis, it also drove up the average value of a home by 8.5% in 2020.

      That tax break is up at the end of March, and many buyers have found themselves facing big bills if they don't complete their transactions on time. However, Mr Sunak will extend stamp duty holiday to prevent this cliff edge, reports suggest.

      The government mortgage guarantee scheme will offer 95% mortgages for houses worth up to £600,000.

      It is based on the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme, which closed to new loans at the end of 2016, a policy the Treasury said "reinvigorated the market for high loan-to-value lending after the 2008 financial crisis".

      But housing charity Shelter said that scheme increased house prices by 1.4%, making housing less affordable for many.

      Budget banner top

      Budget banner bottom

      Latest Post Published

      US Futures Indicator: Futures Fell on Monday Waiting Toward Final Stimulus Package this week According To Jesse Pound Stock futures slip even after Senate passes $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill as bond yields jump Jesse...