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Daily Market Report | March 2, 2022

US FINANCIAL MARKET

Oil Tops $110, Stocks Move Higher as Investors Eye Ukraine – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • U.S. stocks rose, while oil prices jumped, as investors watched for updates from Ukraine and parsed testimony on the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates.
  • The S&P 500 added 0.7% in morning trading Wednesday, a day after the benchmark index fell 1.6%.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7% and the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index ticked up 0.8%.
  • Energy markets extended their rapid advance Wednesday. Crude prices surged over $110 a barrel for the first time since 2014 as refiners refused to buy Russian oil, taking a bite out of global energy supplies.
  • Brent-crude futures, the international benchmark, rose 5.2% to $110.54 a barrel, extending their advance this year.
  • Shares of energy companies jumped, with BP PLC gaining 4% and TotalEnergies rising 6% in European trading.
  • In the opening minutes of trading in New York, Exxon Mobil, Diamondback Energy and Halliburton each added 1.2% or more.
  • Among other sectors in New York, Nordstrom shares jumped 30% after the retailer projected stronger-than-expected earnings this year. Hewlett Packard Enterprise raised its earnings forecast for the year, lifting shares 6.6%.
  • In Europe, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 edged 0.35% higher.
  • In Russia, stocks and derivatives trading was closed for a third day this week.
  • The Russian ruble fell 0.7% against the greenback to trade at 110.27 per U.S. dollar, versus 83 Friday.
  • Prices leapt in other pockets of the energy market tied to Russia. European natural-gas prices jumped 37%.
  • So far there has been minimal disruption to the pipeline system in Ukraine, through which about a third of Russian gas exports to Europe flow, according to analysts.
  • Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.796%, from 1.708% Tuesday.
  • Stocks in Asia mostly fell. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.7% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished down 1.8%.
  • South Korea’s Kopsi, in contrast, added 0.2%.

Salesforce Sales Rise as Demand for Cloud Services Continues – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Business software provider Salesforce.com logged higher revenue in the fourth quarter and raised its annual sales outlook, as the company looks to maintain its leadership role in cloud-based services that have expanded in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The San Francisco-based company said its sales rose to $7.33 billion for the three months ended Jan. 31, compared with $5.82 billion a year earlier. Analysts were expecting $7.24 billion in sales for the quarter after Salesforce issued guidance below expectations late last year.
  • Salesforce logged a loss of $28 million for the fourth quarter, down from a gain of $267 million in the year-ago period.
  • Adjusted earnings of 84 cents a share were below of analysts’ expectations of $1.
  • For fiscal 2023, the company is now expecting sales to between $32 billion and $32.1 billion, an increase from its previous range between $31.7 billion and $31.8 billion. It also raised its outlook for the current quarter.

SoFi stock soars after fintech company gives upbeat earnings outlook – MarketWatch, 3/2/2022

  • Shares of SoFi Technologies soared 18% in after-hours trading Tuesday after the financial-technology company exceeded expectations with its earnings outlook.
  • Total revenue rose to $285.6 million from $171.5 million.
  • Analysts tracked by FactSet were anticipating $279 million in revenue.
  • The company said it added a “record” of 523,000 new members during the fourth quarter.
  • It also added 906,000 new products. Mizuho analyst Dan Dolev noted that additions on both metrics were up sequentially.
  • SoFi recorded a fourth-quarter net loss of $111.0 million, or 15 cents a share, whereas it recorded a net loss of $82.6 million, or $1.85 a share, in the year-earlier quarter. The FactSet consensus was for a 16-cent loss on a per-share basis.
  • For the first quarter, SoFi anticipates $280 million to $285 million in adjusted net revenue, which is a non-GAAP metric.
  • The company also offered a range for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of breakeven to $5 million.
  • The outlook assumes a $30 million to $35 million negative revenue impact related to “the unexpected extension of the federal student loan payment moratorium to May 1, 2022.”
  • Looking to the full year, SoFi forecasts adjusted net revenue of $1.57 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $180 million.
  • The FactSet consensus was for $147 million in full-year adjusted EBITDA.

Nordstrom stock spikes 35% as retailer makes key strides in its off-price Rack business, issues strong guidance – CNBC, 3/2/2022

  • Nordstrom on Tuesday reported better-than-expected profits and sales for the holiday quarter, prompting the retailer to offer an optimistic outlook for the coming year in spite of ongoing supply chain concerns and rampant inflation.
  • Total revenue, including credit card sales, grew to $4.49 billion from $3.65 billion a year earlier.
  • That topped estimates for $4.35 billion.
  • Net sales, which don’t include credit card revenue, increased 23% year over year but decreased 1% compared with 2019 levels.
  • For its fiscal fourth quarter, Nordstrom said net sales at Rack were down 5% on a two-year basis, marking a sequential improvement from the prior quarter, when its off-price segment logged an 8% decline compared with 2019.
  • Digital sales, which saw a boost during the earlier days of the pandemic with consumers stuck at home, fell 1% compared with the same period in 2020.
  • They rose 23% on a two-year basis, however, and accounted for 44% of total revenue in the quarter.
  • Nordstrom’s net income for the three-month period ended Jan. 29 grew to $200 million, or $1.23 per share, from $33 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. That topped estimates for per-share earnings of $1.02, according to Refinitiv.
  • Shares of Nordstrom spiked more than 35% in after-hours trading immediately following the report. Nordstrom is currently among the most heavily shorted stocks, with 22% of its shares available for trading sold short.

Abercrombie warns of weak margins as holiday sales disappoint – Reuters, 3/2/2022

  • Clothes retailer Abercrombie & Fitch warned of weaker margins in 2022 after missing holiday-quarter sales and profit estimates due to product shortages and COVID-19 curbs, sending shares down more than 17% in early trading on Wednesday.
  • Abercrombie’s net sales rose to $1.16 billion in the fourth quarter from $1.12 billion a year earlier, but missed analysts’ estimates of $1.18 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
  • Sales in the Asia Pacific region fell 21% in the quarter as renewed restrictions in some parts of the world due to a surge in the Omicron coronavirus variant forced the company to cut down on operating hours at its outlets.
  • The retailer offered fewer and smaller discounts to protect its margins but they were offset by higher-than-expected freight costs in the fourth quarter, with profit per share of $1.14 falling short of estimates of $1.27.
  • Abercrombie projected net sales for fiscal 2022 to rise 2% to 4%, above estimates of a 2.7% rise at midpoint.
  • The company said it expects gross margins to decline 200 basis points this year.

Dollar Tree sees dull 2022 sales as Americans spend cautiously – Reuters, 3/2/2022

  • Dollar Tree on Wednesday missed Wall Street expectations for quarterly sales and flagged insipid annual sales, in another sign of rising inflation and declining stimulus hitting shoppers’ pockets.
  • For the fourth-quarter that ended Jan. 29, sales came in at $7.08 billion, compared with the average analyst estimate of $7.12 billion. The company’s earnings of $2.01 per share, excluding items, topped estimates of $1.77.
  • Chesapeake, Virginia-based Dollar Tree said a headline-grabbing decision to start selling most products for $1.25 was implemented in its U.S. stores two months ahead of schedule.
  • Dollar Tree forecast full-year sales between $27.22 billion and $27.85 billion, below analysts’ average estimate of $28.04 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

First Solar shares sink after revenue miss, disappointing guidance – CNBC, 3/2/2022

  • Shares of First Solar dropped more than 16% during extended trading Tuesday after the company reported missing revenue expectations during the fourth quarter and issued weak full-year guidance.
  • Revenue: $907 million vs. $918 million
  • EPS: $1.23 per share vs. $1.06 expected
  • First Solar’s full-year guidance also came up short of Wall Street’s expectations.
  • The company expects revenue between $2.4 billion and $2.6 billion, while Wall Street was calling for $2.76 billion.
  • The company expects earnings per share to be between breakeven and 60 cents for the full year, well short of the $1.92 analysts were expecting.
  • On the conference call following the company’s quarterly update, management conceded that 2022 is expected to be a challenging year from an earnings standpoint, especially due to elevated freight costs.
  • Prices for contracted volumes have risen between 200% and 300% above pre-pandemic levels, First Solar said.
  • In 2022, the company expects contracted freight rates to jump 100% year over year.

AMC Earnings Climb Thanks to ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home,’ CEO Calls Skeptics’ Predictions ‘Load of Cow Dung’ – Variety, 3/2/2022

  • AMC Entertainment, the exhibition giant that became an improbable meme stock, posted revenues $1.2 billion during the holiday quarter as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” galvanized ticket sales at the company.
  • Wall Street forecast earnings per share (EPS) of 26 cents on $1.2 billion in revenue, according to analyst consensus data provided by Refinitiv.
  • AMC actually reported $1.17 billion in revenue and an adjusted diluted earnings loss of 11 cents per share.
  • That earnings loss has decreased from AMC’s year-ago Q4, when it reported a loss of $3.15 per share.
  • The company had 60 million guests visit theater locations globally in Q4, AMC chairman and CEO Adam Aron said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday. Aron shot down industry speculation that the theatrical business would be unable to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic: “What a load of cow dung.”
  • Per AMC, at the end of 2021, the company had opened and was operating 593 domestic theaters and 337 international theaters, representing 100% and 95% of its domestic theaters and international theaters respectively. Substantially all AMC’s theaters were open for all of Q4.
  • Aron said that, as of Q4, 90% of AMC’s investors were retail shareholders

Citigroup Says Profitability to Fall Amid Spending on Strategy Shift – Bloomberg, 3/2/2022

  • Citigroup said profitability will fall as the bank pursues a strategy shift that will raise expenses in the near term.
  • Return on tangible common equity over the next three to five years will be about 11% to 12%, the company said Wednesday in an investor presentation. The gauge stood at 13.4% last year, compared with the 23% posted by rival JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • “This isn’t a quick fix,” Fraser said in her opening presentation at the firm’s investor day, which switched to a virtual format after two executives tested positive for Covid-19. “This is a multiyear journey.”
  • Fraser said the firm’s banking division would pursue a “high-returning, capital-light investment-banking business.” It will seek to boost growth by targeting “new-economy companies,” and expansion in the commercial bank.
  • Her presentation emphasized the shift occurring across Citigroup to focus on higher-returning businesses such as wealth management, services and its commercial bank, which serves midsize companies.

Ford Creates Electric-Vehicle, Gas-Engine Divisions in Company Reshape – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Ford Motor is planning a major reorganization of its operations to create two separate divisions—one for its conventional gas-engine business and another to focus on developing electric vehicles and software, the auto maker said.
  • Ford plans to keep both operations in-house but give them separate names and their own leadership structures and profit-and-loss statements, it said Wednesday. The move is scheduled to be outlined later Wednesday during a press conference.
  • The company also raised its projection of EV production and profitability. It expects half of global sales to be electric by 2030, compared with a previous target of 40%, and it lifted its forecast for operating-profit margin to 10% by 2026, from a prior goal of 8%.
  • Ford said the part of the business that will focus on electric vehicles and digital innovations will be named Ford Model e.
  • The other side, Ford Blue, will work to improve profitability of its internal-combustion-engine vehicles.
  • Ford is adding to its EV offerings in coming weeks, including the introduction of an electric version of its Transit cargo van. This spring it is scheduled to begin selling the F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the nation’s top-selling pickup truck.
  • Ford has said it would spend $50 billion on electric vehicles through 2026, up from a previous $30 billion.

Commodities Hit New Highs as Traders Shun Russian Purchases – Bloomberg, 3/2/2022

  • Global commodity markets surged to multiyear highs on Wednesday after traders backed away from Russia, sparking anxiety that supply will fall short in everything from wheat to natural gas.
  • Oil passed $110 a barrel, aluminum hit a fresh record and wheat rose to the highest since 2008.
  • In Europe, natural gas prices and coal set all-time highs, deepening the region’s energy crisis.
  • China’s government told officials to prioritize commodities supply security, a sign of increasing anxiety among policy makers about the repercussions of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
  • In oil, a large number of tanker owners are refusing to load Russian cargoes until the impact of financial sanctions becomes clearer. The number of ships booked to load cargoes in March is less than a quarter of the number at the same time last month. Energy Aspects, a consultant, estimates as much as 70% of Russian exports isn’t currently being traded.

U.S. crude, fuel stocks decline – EIA – Reuters, 3/2/2022

  • U.S. crude stocks, gasoline and distillate inventories fell last week, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
  • Crude inventories fell by 2.6 million barrels in the week to February 25 to 413.4 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.7 million-barrel rise.
  • Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 972,000 barrels in the last week, EIA said.
  • Refinery crude runs rose by 152,000 barrels per day in the last week, EIA said.
  • U.S. gasoline stocks fell by 468,000 barrels in the week to 246 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.4 million-barrel drop.​
  • Net U.S. crude imports fell by 2.2 million barrels per day, EIA said.

OPEC Output Rose Last Month Amid Recovery in Embattled Libya – Bloomberg, 3/2/2022

  • OPEC’s oil production increased last month by the most since July as conflict-torn Libya restored disrupted exports, and others delivered scheduled increases.
  • The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries bolstered supplies by 380,000 barrels a day in February, with just under half the addition provided by the North African nation, according to a Bloomberg survey.
  • The country’s output had been slashed by militias and bad weather during the previous month.
  • Still, the output boost after months of under-performance by OPEC and its partners — who meet on Wednesday — looks like too little, too late.
  • Despite the turmoil, OPEC and its allies have signaled they’ll agree another modest supply increase at Wednesday’s gathering, ratifying a scheduled 400,000 barrel-a-day increment for April.
  • It would be difficult for the alliance to do any more: most members have been struggling to restore supplies as promised, let alone increase more. Group leader Saudi Arabia, which still has plentiful spare capacity, has signaled its reluctant to compensate for lagging counterparts, especially as the Ukraine crisis hasn’t so far curtailed oil supplies.
  • Production from OPEC’s 13 members averaged 28.55 million barrels a day.
  • The 10 countries involved in the accord to regulate supplies — which excludes Libya — increased by 230,000 barrels a day, close to the full amount pledged. However, owing to chronic under-performance in members like Nigeria and Angola, they’re still considerably below their full target.

Apple Says It Has Stopped All Product Sales in Russia – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Apple has stopped selling iPhones and other products in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • The Cupertino, Calif., tech giant on Tuesday said the sales halt came along with blocking the download of the state-sponsored news outlets through its App Store outside of Russia.
  • The App Store remained operational in Russia.
  • During the third quarter of last year, Apple held 15% of the smartphone market in Russia behind Samsung and Xiaomi, according to researcher IDC.

Fitbit Recalls Roughly One Million Smartwatches in U.S. Over Burn Hazard – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Fitbit LLC is voluntarily recalling roughly one million Ionic smartwatches that it sold in the U.S. following reports of burn injuries caused by an overheating battery, according to a federal regulator.
  • Fitbit, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, has received at least 115 reports in the U.S., and 59 reports internationally, of the battery in the Ionic model of its watches overheating, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.
  • There have been 78 reports of burn injuries in the U.S., including two reports of third-degree burns and four reports of second-degree burns, the regulator added.
  • Upon receipt of the device, consumers will be refunded $299, the CPSC said. Fitbit will also provide customers with a discount code for 40% off select Fitbit devices, according to the regulator.

US ECONOMY & POLITICS

Powell Says Fed Is on Track to Raise Rates in Two Weeks – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said it would be appropriate for the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate at its meeting in two weeks amid high inflation, strong economic demand and a tight labor market.
  • Mr. Powell said it was too soon to tell how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the strict economic curbs imposed by the West against Moscow would influence the U.S. economy. But his overall remarks suggested growing urgency to tighten policy.
  • “Making appropriate monetary policy in this environment requires a recognition that the economy evolves in unexpected ways. We will need to be nimble in responding to incoming data and the evolving outlook,” Mr. Powell said Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee. He was set to take questions from lawmakers later Wednesday morning and will appear before a Senate panel on Thursday.
  • Mr. Powell characterized the labor market as “extremely tight” and said the types of broad-based employment gains the Fed sought last year as it maintained aggressive stimulus policies are “only possible in an environment of price stability.”

U.S. private payrolls increase in February; January revised sharply higher – Reuters, 3/2/2022

  • U.S. private employers hired more workers than expected in February and data for the prior month was revised sharply higher to show strong job gains instead of losses, aligning with other reports that have painted an upbeat picture of the labor market.
  • Private payrolls increased by 475,000 jobs last month, the ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday.
  • Employers added 509,000 jobs in January rather than laying off 301,000 workers as was initially reported.
  • “Huge revisions undermine ADP’s credibility,” said Michael Pearce, a senior economist at Capital Economics in New York. “Quite frankly, with January’s 301,000 reported drop revised into a 509,000 gain, the ADP figures are as much noise than signal.”

U.S. Moving to Confront China on Trade, Industrial Policy – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • The Biden administration is preparing to confront China on its industrial subsidies and seek ways to protect America’s edge in new technologies, hardening U.S. economic policy toward the nation’s chief global rival.
  • U.S. efforts to be rolled out in coming months could include a new investigation into Beijing’s support for sectors it considers strategic, using Section 301 of the Trade Act, according to people familiar with policy discussions.
  • The White House is also weighing heightened scrutiny of U.S. companies’ investments in China, tighter export controls on sensitive technologies and greater cooperation with European and Asian allies and partners on subsidies and other issues, these people said.
  • The approach is motivated by growing convictions within the Biden administration that former President Donald Trump’s tariff campaign against Chinese imports failed to persuade Beijing to compete fairly in international trade.
  • The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in its annual policy agenda on Tuesday that it is realigning its China policy to confront Beijing’s nonmarket practices but didn’t provide new details on specific measures.
  • “It is apparent that existing trade tools need to be strengthened, and new trade tools need to be forged,” the USTR said in a Feb. 16 report to Congress
  • The changes will allow President Biden, a Democrat, to distance himself from his Republican predecessor’s trade policy, which resulted in a “phase one” trade deal with China in 2020 and remains largely intact more than a year after Mr. Trump left office.

Biden’s State of the Union Address Pushes Unity Against Russia, Battle Against Inflation – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • President Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is more isolated from the rest of the world than ever after invading Ukraine, using Tuesday’s State of the Union address to highlight the coordinated response of the U.S. and allies and rally Americans behind defending democracy.
  • Most attendees, including Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, went maskless after the Capitol physician loosened Covid-19 requirements amid a decline in cases. Some lawmakers donned blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine’s flag, to convey their support for that country.
  • Mr. Biden said higher prices had left many families struggling to pay bills. He argued that the best way to counter higher prices is to boost domestic production of automobiles and semiconductors and rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges, prompting chants of “U.S.A.” in the chamber.
  • The president’s job approval rating stood at 41.1% Tuesday, according to FiveThirtyEight’s aggregation of public polls, down from 53% in January 2021.

Abbott, O’Rourke Coast to Victories in Primaries for Texas Governor – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • Gov. Greg Abbott and former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke easily won their respective primaries Tuesday, setting up a high-profile race for Texas governor, according to the Associated Press.
  • The second-term governor fended off two primary opponents, former state Sen. Don Huffines and ex-Texas GOP chairman Allen West, who attempted to run to his right on several issues.
  • Beyond the governor’s race, the AP showed a tight race will force a runoff in the Democratic primary in Texas’ 28th Congressional District between lawyer Jessica Cisneros and nine-term Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the party’s most conservative members.
  • Ms. Cisneros, who has attracted the support of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other figures in the party’s progressive wing, lost by fewer than 3,000 votes to Mr. Cuellar in the 2020 primary.
  • On the Republican side, the AP said North Texas Congressman Van Taylor will also be forced into a runoff in a bid to keep his seat against Keith Self, a former county executive.
  • Mr. Taylor was challenged in the primary after voting in favor of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

EUROPE & WORLD

Eurozone Inflation Climbs to Fresh High as Russian Invasion Confronts ECB With Dilemma – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • The eurozone’s inflation rate jumped to a new high in February, presenting the European Central Bank with a difficult choice between supporting flagging growth and clamping down on accelerating prices driven by the threat to energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia accounts for around 40% of the European Union’s imports of natural gas, a key source of energy for the bloc. It also supplies around a quarter of the bloc’s oil imports. While supplies of oil and gas have continued to flow from Russia into Europe, market prices have jumped to reflect worries about future availability.
  • The European Union’s statistics agency Wednesday said consumer prices were 5.8% higher in February than a year earlier, an acceleration from the 5.1% rate of inflation recorded in January. It was the fourth straight month in which the inflation rate hit a record high, and probably not the last.
  • Much of the pickup in inflation has been driven by energy prices, which were 31.7% higher than a year earlier, having been 28% higher in January. That was also the fastest annual increase in a series that goes back to 1997.
  • Economists at Capital Economics now expect the annual rate of inflation to peak at more than 6% this month, and remain above 5% until the final three months of the year.
  • Economists at JPMorgan said they now expect the average rate of inflation in 2022 to be 1 percentage point higher than they did before the invasion at 5%.
  • By contrast, the ECB’s December forecast for inflation this year was 3.2%, well above its 2% target.

Bank of Canada Raises Policy Rate to 0.5%, Sees More Hikes Ahead – Bloomberg, 3/2/2022

  • The Bank of Canada lifted interest rates by a quarter percentage point and signaled more hikes are coming as it starts to wrestle inflation down from a three-decade high.
  • Policymakers led by Governor Tiff Macklem increased the benchmark overnight rate to 0.5% at a decision Wednesday in Ottawa, in a widely expected move. Officials also said they expect to raise borrowing costs by more because of elevated inflation pressures, but refrained from starting a run off of the banks holdings of government bonds.
  • The rate move is the first increase in borrowing costs since 2018, and the start of what some are anticipating will be one of the fastest hiking cycles since the central bank adopted an inflation target three decades ago.
  • Markets are betting the Bank of Canada’s overnight policy rate will hit as high as 1% by June, and 1.75% by this time next year.

Hong Kong Braces for Lockdown as Daily Cases Breach 55,000 – Bloomberg, 3/2/2022

  • Hong Kong reported a record of more than 55,000 daily new infections on Wednesday as the city’s spiraling outbreak sees thousands of residents flee while those remaining strip shelves of food and medicine.
  • The figure is up from 32,597 a day earlier. Health authorities also announced 117 deaths, mostly people from care facilities, and said there are 64 patients in critical condition in hospital.
  • The continued spike in cases comes amid growing chaos and confusion around the city’s plan to test the whole population of 7.4 million three times in March, with dueling local media reports about the length and strictness of the lockdown to occur while testing is conducted.
  • Local media reports have differed on the details of the upcoming lockdown, sowing confusion. HK01 reported Wednesday that there would be a four-day limited lockdown at the end of March, and Cable TV said the city will set a time limit for residents to buy groceries.
  • Stories from Sing Tao Daily and the South China Morning Post a day earlier triggered panic-buying with details of a strict nine-day lockdown planned for the middle of March.

China Weighs Methods for Relaxing Zero-Covid-19 Grip: Bubbles, Drugs and New Messaging – Wall Street Journal, 3/2/2022

  • China, the last major country to stick with a zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, is now actively exploring ways to loosen controls.
  • In preparation for a potential opening, Chinese officials are looking into the use of travel bubbles modeled on measures taken during the Winter Olympics, collecting data on new antiviral drugs and scouting sites abroad for future production of homegrown Chinese mRNA vaccines, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • Covid-19 controls likely won’t be eased before next spring, according to two of the people, but experimental opening measures could arrive in select cities as early as this summer.
  • The approach and timeline for a relaxation of Covid-19 controls aren’t fixed and could change depending on future developments, such as the emergence of a new variant of the virus, the people say.

Factmonster – TODAY in HISTORY

  • Texas declared its independence from Mexico. (1836)
  • Rutherford B. Hayes was declared president by a U.S. electoral commission since the original result was too close to call. He was the only president elected this way. (1877)
  • King Kong, starring Fay Wray, premiered in New York City. (1933)
  • The Taliban began the destruction of ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan. (2001)
  • Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin who has never held elected office, won the Russian presidential election in a landslide. Putin remained in a position of power, serving as Medvedev’s prime minister. (2008)

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