Business Sales

S&P 500 Reaches 4000 Points For First Time Ever

Gains in Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet helped the S&P 500 jump past the 4,000 point mark for the first time ever on Thursday as optimism about a recovering US economy persists.

Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Nvidia increased by 1% or more, with a large number of growth stocks showing signs of awakening once again after falling in recent weeks behind so-called value stocks expected to outperform as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite surprising news last week of the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increasing, some measures of manufacturing activity soared to their highest levels in more than 37 years in March, with employment at factories the highest since February 2018.

In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5% at 33,145.88 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.95% to 4,010.77.

The Nasdaq Composite increased by 1.48% to 13,442.31.

After breaking the 4000-point barrier for the first time, the S&P 500 was up about 7% in 2021 and has gained about 80% from its low in March 2020.

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“We’re still bullish for this year, and we think that with stimulus, with the Fed committed to being dovish, with the economy reopening due to more of the U.S. getting vaccinated, overall you’re going to see corporate earnings do pretty well,” said King Lip, chief investment strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.

The Nasdaq remained about 5% below its February record high close, still smarting as higher U.S. bond yields hurt technology stocks.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with technology, communication services and energy gaining more than 1%.

US automakers this week reported a rebound in first-quarter sales from the struggles that the coronavirus pandemic caused last year, but numbers were not quite as good as expected due to a global chip scarcity that meant many companies were forced to halt production.

The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted sales overall for automakers as more people choose to travel by their own cars rather than using public transportation.

However, chip shortages and extreme winter weather across the south west throughout February resulted in automakers having to close factories, ensuring analysts remain cautious about the speed of the sector’s recovery over the next year.

General Motors Co reported that its first-quarter U.S. sales rose 4% to 642,250 vehicles, helped initially by an increase in demand for its Escalade sport utility vehicles and Encore subcompact crossover SUVs.

“Sales are off to a strong start in 2021, we are operating our truck and full-size SUV plants at full capacity and we plan to recover lost car and crossover production in the second half of the year where possible,” said Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president.

GM, the number one automaker in the US, said it estimates that the seasonally adjusted annual sales pace for the first quarter of the year was around 16.7 million units.

Japan’s Nissan Motor Co said its U.S. sales rose nearly 11% to 285,553 vehicles in the quarter, while South Korea’s Hyundai Motor’s U.S. sales jumped about 28% to 167,130 vehicles.

Deliveroo’s recent London IPO struggles have left a sour taste in the mouths of a large portion of its customer base.

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A number of amateur traders were swayed by Deliveroo’s regular updates and offers regarding its IPO, but investors are nursing losses after Deliveroo shares plunged as much as 30% on their London Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday.

The early fall, which has sliced 2 billion dollars off initial valuations, is being regarded as a blow to Britain’s ambitions of attracting fast-growing tech companies to London.

The outlook appeared bleak for Deliveroo even before the IPO, with several asset managers shunning it because of complaints over gig-economy working conditions, as well as Deliveroo’s corporate governance.

“I took a gamble,” London-based amateur trader Amy Lee told Reuters. “It was my own fault, but I think I was swayed by the thought ‘surely Deliveroo wouldn’t advertise a bad product to their customers through their app. That would be stupid right?’”

One Londoner who bought 295 pounds of Deliveroo stock said the company’s sales team seemed to have “bent over backwards” to turn diners into investors.

“Every time you placed a Deliveroo order they flashed a sign. They let me invest even without a brokerage account. They said we will open up a Lloyds (bank) account for you and do it for you, (for) a one-off fee of 5 pounds. They made it super helpful,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Asked for comment, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: “Although the trading started lower than we would have liked, we are just starting life as a public company and we are confident that our winning proposition will deliver long term value for all shareholders.”

“We thank each of our customers who took part in our customer offer and will work tirelessly for them each and every day.”

Weekly Jobless Claims In The US Much Higher Than Anticipated

The Department of Labor reported that last-week showed first-time claims for unemployment rose at levels much higher than initially anticipated, especially due to the fact that the economy has been showing signs of recovering after the last year.

According to reports from the Labor Department “first-time claims for the week ended April 3 totaled 744,000, well above the expectation for 694,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The total represented an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 728,000. The four-week moving average edged higher to 723,750.”

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The labor market within the last week, however, has shown signs of recovery after the past year of the pandemic. Nonfarm payrolls in march increased by nearly 916,000 while the unemployment rate fell down to 6%.

This increase in jobs marks the biggest increase in employment in the US since August 2020. Before the pandemic the unemployment rate was at 3.5%, however, so there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially after last week’s unexpected reports.

“Continuing claims provided some good news on the labor front, with the total dropping 16,000 to 3.73 million. That’s the lowest level for continuing claims since March 21, 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and companies instituted wholesale layoffs in conjunction with the economic shutdown. Continuing claims run a week behind the headline weekly number,” according to NBC.

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California and New York account for a majority of the increase in employment; California saw a rise of 38,963 last week while New York saw a 15,714 increase. However, those increases were cancelled out by a 13,944 decline in Alabama as well as a 10,502 decline in Ohio.

Economists have reported that filing backlogs could be one of the larger factors that drive claims up throughout the nation, while spikes in Covid-19 cases are also keeping the filings elevated due to a lack of individuals able to work.

Federal Reserve officials claim that despite the recent progress America has experienced, “much more progress is needed on the jobs front before we can consider changing economic policy.” The most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting cited a better outlook for the US economy in the coming year based on a continued need for an easy policy.

Federal Governor Lael Brainard told the media this week that “the economic outlook has brightened considerably but there are still about 9 million fewer workers than there were before the pandemic. Central bank officials have said they want to see not only full employment but also inclusive gains across income, racial and gender lines. In that sense, we’ve got some distance to go before the outcomes are achieved.”


Nike Denies Utilizing Uyghur Muslim Factories in China

Nike has denied that the company has been using any type of textiles or spun yarn from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR), where China allegedly holds Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in forced labor camps.

Alongside other companies such as Calvin Klein and Coca-Cola, Nike was accused of outsourcing its labor for its textiles to labor camps by a congressional report last March. In response the company said it had no working relationships with certain manufacturers in China that operate in the XUAR.

“Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards. We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region,” a company statement read.

“The Nike Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards have requirements prohibiting any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor, including detailed provisions for freedom of movement and prohibitions on discrimination based on ethnic background or religion. We continue to regularly engage with all of our suppliers to evaluate compliance with Nike’s Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards.

“We have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential forced labor risks related to employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, in other parts of China. Based on evolving information, we strengthened our audit protocols to identify emerging risks related to potential labor transfer programs. Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, elsewhere in our supply chain.”

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Now Nike and other companies that have recently condemned forced labor practices in China are facing backlash from Chinese state media and ecommerce platforms, just weeks after a round of sanctions further escalated tensions between western governments and China. 

Searches for clothing from H&M, the Swedish retailer, turned up no results on Alibaba’s T-mall and, China’s two biggest online retailers. Searches for H&M’s physical shops on Baidu and Gaode, China’s leading mapping apps, also turned up no results.

The share price of H&M fell by over three per cent on Thursday afternoon while Burberry, a clothing brand also recently mentioned by Chinese media as a company that had cut ties with Xinjiang, dropped six per cent.

“It cannot be coincidental that today they drudge up a fairly standard due-diligence statement from months before,” Alison Gill, a US-based campaigner with Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, said of the attacks on H&M.

In other business news, the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter faced fire from US lawmakers on Thursday over their respective approaches to extremism and misinformation in their first appearances before Congress since the US Capitol was assaulted by pro-Trump rioters in early January.

“We fled as a mob desecrated the Capitol, the House floor, and our democratic process,” said Democratic Representative Mike Doyle. “That attack, and the movement that motivated it, started and was nourished on your platforms,” he added.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg admitted that there had been content related to the riot on its platform but denied that he or the company should bear responsibility for the event, as the company’s responsibility was just to ‘build effective systems’.

“We did our part to secure the integrity of the election, and then on Jan. 6, President Trump gave a speech rejecting the results and calling on people to fight,” Zuckerberg said. He argued that polarization in the country was already heavily present due to political and economic reasons.

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“Your business model itself has become the problem and the time for self-regulation is over. It’s time we legislate to hold you accountable,” Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, chair of the Energy and Commerce committee, told the tech bosses.

The tech giants were also the recipient of Republican ire, as some on the panel criticized the firms for what they believe to be efforts to stifle conservative voices.

There have been multiple calls from lawmakers for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from liability over user content, to be either scrapped or amended. Several pieces of legislation from Democrats to reform Section 230 are now going through Congress, although progress has been slow. A number of Republican lawmakers have also been pushing separately to scrap the law entirely.

Facebook released a written testimony before the meeting before lawmakers, arguing that Section 230 should be rewritten to allow companies immunity from liability for what users post on their platforms only if they have been following the set practices for removing damaging material.

Sundar Pichai, Alphabet Inc’s CEO, and Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, said in the hearing they would be open to some of the changes in Facebook’s proposal. Pichai said there were some “good proposals.”, while Dorsey endorsed some of the suggestions from Zuckerberg but said it would be difficult to distinguish between small and large services.

Sabra Recalls Classic Hummus Due To Salmonella Contamination 

Sabra Dipping Company, the maker of popular Sabra Hummus, has announced a recall of about 2,100 tubs of its classic hummus after a routine test performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a potential salmonella contamination. The FDA made the announcement this Monday, stating that all 10-ounce tubs should be called back. 

The FDA claimed that “the recall is limited to one single SKU of the brand’s 10-ounce classic hummus with the UPC number 300067. The product was produced on Feb. 10, 2021 between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight with a “best before” date of April 26.”

Sabra themselves released a statement which stated that “no other Sabra products are affected by this recall. The product was distributed to 16 states. The product is over halfway through its shelf life, so it’s unlikely you will find this product on the shelf to begin with.”

So far, there have been no reports of illness or contamination, hence the voluntary aspect of the recall. However, salmonellosis, the condition most commonly caused by salmonella, is an intense sickness that can lead to “diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated product,” according to the FDA. 

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According to the Mayo Clinic, “salmonella infection can cause dehydration, which for some can require hospitalization. But typically, people with salmonella do not exhibit any symptoms unless they have a weakened immune system.”

“Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems — the development of complications can be dangerous.”

The 16 states included in the recall were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Customers who believe that they purchased the specific recalled product should immediately return it to the place of purchase, or they can visit the Sabra recall website for additional information. Sabra also wants their customers to know that they can contact Sabra Consumer Relations at 1-866-265-6761 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Increase as Mid-Atlantic Factory Activity Nears 50-Year High

The number of US citizens filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week, but the labor market continued to regain its footing as an uptick in the rate of vaccinations leads to more business reopening across the country.

With vaccination efforts increased and the country heading towards better weather the health situation across the country has continued to steadily improve. This, in addition to a generous monetary and fiscal policy since Biden’s inauguration, has put the economy on course for its fastest growth pace in 37 years this calendar year.

Data emerging last week revealed factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region almost reached its highest level in 50 years in March.

“It is best to look through the weekly ups and downs of initial claims,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “The labor market is set for a dramatic improvement through the rest of 2021.”

Labor Department statistics showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 45,000 to a seasonally adjusted 770,000 for the week ended March 13, from 725,000 in the prior week. Data for the prior week was revised to show 13,000 more applications received than previously reported.

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A Reuters poll of economists forecast 700,000 applications in the latest week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 16,000 to 746,250 last week, a four-month low. This measure has been decreasing since February.

The S&P 500 fell from a record high on Thursday while the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost more than 1% as a spike in U.S. bond yields meant a move out of pandemic winner tech stocks and into economy-linked financials and industrials was accelerated.

Meanwhile the Russell 1000 value index, which is heavily comprised of cyclical stocks such as financials and energy, added about 0.3% while the Russell 1000 growth index, which includes technology stocks, dropped about 1.3%.

Tech stocks can be more susceptible to rising yields because their value often rests heavily on future earnings, which receive deeper discounts when bond returns go up.

In contrast the blue-chip Dow hit another record high a day after the Fed projected strongest growth in nearly 40 years as the COVID-19 crisis winds down in addition to repeating its pledge to keep its target interest rate near zero for the foreseeable future.

“Investors are generally confident in the U.S. equity story… market has already gone a step ahead and worrying about inflation,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

Reuters are also reporting that tech giant Google’s plan to block the popular web tracking tool called ‘cookies’ has attracted the attention of US Justice Department investigators.

People familiar with the situation revealed investigators have been asking advertising industry executives whether the move by the search giant will negatively impact smaller rivals.

Google announced a year ago that it intended to ban some cookies in its Chrome browser in order to increase user privacy. Over the last month or two, the Alphabet Inc company has released further details, leading to complaints from online ads rivals.

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The questions from Justice Department investigators have touched on how Chrome policies, including those related to cookies, affect the ad and news industries, four people told Reuters.

“We don’t believe tracking individuals across the web will stand the test of time as privacy concerns continue to accelerate,” Jerry Dischler, a Google vice president overseeing ad services, told an industry conference last week.

However smaller rivals have dismissed the privacy rationale used by big companies such as Google and Apple Inc to restrict tracking as they claim would simply continue to collect valuable data and potentially capture even more ad revenue in the process.

“There is a weaponization of privacy to justify business decisions that consolidate power to their business and disadvantage the broader marketplace,” said Chad Engelgau, chief executive of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc’s ad data unit Acxiom.

This week investors are also closely watching how fast US treasury yields rise after it was this week once again stated by the Federal Reserve how it is committed to lose policies that will most likely help further increase economic growth and inflation.

“To me it feels like it is a coiled spring,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America. The Fed “is signaling that it wants to see an overshoot, it wants to see inflation and employment run quite hot.”

The Fed’s stance “does raise some risks that whenever we do begin to hear a shift in tone from the Fed that there may be a bit more of a rapid adjustment in the market,” Cabana said.

While long-term rates are likely to continue their upward march in line with better economic projections, higher inflation and rising Treasury supply, the question is how fast they move.

The Fed “has now calmed down potential market anxiety about a taper tantrum, and I think it buys time and paves the way for financial conditions to remain relatively loose and for the recovery to gather pace,” said Daniel Ahn, chief U.S. economist and head of Markets 360 North America at BNP Paribas.

Movie & Popcorn

Cineworld Signs Multi-Year Deal With HBO, Plans To Reopen Regal Cinema Theaters In April

Cineworld and Warner Brothers are the parent company of Regal Cinema, one of the most popular movie theater chains in the country. The company recently announced that they are projected to reopen all Regal Cinema theaters in the beginning of April to line up with the theatrical release of Godzilla Vs Kong on April 2nd. 

More Regal locations are set to open on April 16th in order to line up with the release of Mortal Kombat. Both Cineworld and Warner Bros have also reached a multi-year deal with HBO Max that would give subscribers same day access to all movies as they’re released in theaters. Warner Bros has already been releasing their new movies on HBO Max for one month as a means of gaining viewership during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Beginning in 2022, Warner Bros theatrical films will all have a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity at Regal Cinema theaters as well. Theaters in New York and Los Angeles have already begun reopening with limited capacity. Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger claims that Regal’s reopenings will be great news for the industry overall. 

“This is a great moment for us, the US market represents 75% of our business, and soon will be followed with all our marklets. We are great believers in the theatrical experience, which only one year ago generated $43 billion worldwide.”

The UK is Cineworld’s second largest market, and Greidinger claimed that the company reached a deal to show Warner Bros movies in Regal Cinemas 31 days prior to general release. “We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100 year relationship with Warner Bros,” Greidinger explained. 

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Cineworld announced last year that it was temporarily closing 536 Regal locations in the US and 127 in the UK. 11 locations have since been able to reopen in New York. In late November of last year Cineworld secured an additional liquidity that helped ensure it would be able to survive the pandemic. 

Greidinger told the media last year that “reopening Cineworld’s theaters would hinge upon a clear picture of the lineup of the studios… It cannot be one movie only. We have long awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theaters and restore our essential role within the communities we serve.”

“With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience.”

Greidinger went on to explain that with health and safety procedures, including capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, the company will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets. We will also be monitoring developments closely in the UK and across Europe as we set to gradually reopen across the world in line with local government guidance.”

Tesla Logo on Trunk

Tesla Adds $100 Billion in Value as Stocks Surge

Tesla has been at the forefront of a strong bounce-back for US tech stocks as shares in Elon Musk’s company surged by as much as 20%, partly due to the release of figures showing higher sales in Asia.

The electric car company was also boosted by an upgrade in personnel, as well as a general wider upturn in investor sentiment which meant the tech-dominated Nasdaq index climbed by almost 4%.

Investors in Tesla shares have faced a turbulent few months so far this year, with Musk becoming the world’s richest person for a short time after a stock surge before the 49-year-old lost his crown as shares in his firm fell again.

Tesla was the stand-out performer in a week on the stock markets that saw tech stocks generally surge as they stage a recovery following sharp losses over recent weeks. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft all made sizable gains.

These are among the so-called ‘stay at home’ stocks that have continued to net backers profit throughout the pandemic but more recently have come off those highs.

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Tesla in particular continues to be at the heart of market volatility as it has over the past year or so. In 2020, it became the world’s most valuable car maker despite manufacturing a fraction of the volume of vehicles produced by more conventional rivals.

The firm only recently reported its first ever annual profit, due mainly to its decision to sell carbon credits to less environmentally friendly companies.

The value of Tesla has also been heavily linked to the fluctuating fortunes of Bitcoin, after it was revealed that the company had made a $1.5 billion investment in the cryptocurrency.

Mr. Musk wrote on social media that the company’s decision to invest in cryptocurrency was not taken by him personally.

He said: “Tesla’s action is not directly reflective of my opinion.

“Having some Bitcoin, which is simply a less dumb form of liquidity than cash, is adventurous enough for an S&P 500 company.”

Tesla was also boosted by one analyst raising his rating of the stock to “buy” from “neutral”.

The shares are still more than 20% lower than their January record high but are up by 70% over the past six months.

In other business news, Singapore-based firm Grab is reportedly in talks about a stock market listing that could potentially value the company at $40 billion. The company started as a ride-hailing app and has now developed into one of South East Asia’s best known tech companies.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Grab is discussing a deal with a special-purpose acquisition company (Spac). Spacs are set up to buy a private firm to merge with and then take public on the stock market.

Japanese conglomerates Softbank and Toyota are among Grab’s high-profile backers, with the relatively young company’s most recent valuation reaching the heights of around $15 billion.

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Since it was established in 2012, the company has emerged throughout South East Asia as the dominant ride-hailing app.

Grab bought out Uber’s South East Asian operations in 2018 in a deal that left the US ride-hailing giant with a stake in the Asian firm.

Regulators, concerned about a monopoly, fined the two companies more than $4.8 million each, but Grab still managed to go on to further expand its services, soon becoming one of South East Asia’s super-apps, providing users with restaurant and grocery delivery capabilities, as well as financial services for merchants.

Until recently Grab and its Indonesian rival Gojek were considering a merger but talks have stalled as it now appears Gojek is seeking a deal with Indonesian e-commerce leader Tokopedia ahead of its own listing in Jakarta and the US.

“Grab’s founder Anthony Tan has always had big ambitions for the super-app.

When I interviewed him in 2018, he was trying to carve out a name for the company, taking an Asian company global,” Asia business expert Karishma Vaswani said.

“In the last three years, he and his team have achieved much of that – expanding across Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, turning into a financial app from a transport firm.

“But running a business like this takes money, and by some estimates, Grab won’t break even until 2023.

“The company maintains it is profitable in some divisions, but Mr Tan also needs access to funds to continue his expansion plans. So far he’s relied on the largesse of investors with big pockets.

“Grab may be betting that the timing for an IPO is right – several Asian tech companies that aren’t making much in the way of profits have listed successfully recently, partly because there’s a lot of liquidity in stock markets.

“But a listing would also give investors an insight into how much profit Grab is actually making – which could prove to be far less advantageous for the firm.”

AstraZeneca Vaccine

Doctors ‘Disappointed And Confused’ That Some Countries Are Suspending Use Of AstraZeneca Vaccine

Health experts in Europe say they’re feeling “disappointed and confused” by the slew of suspicions that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can lead to blood clots. Doctors are claiming that there’s not enough evidence for these countries to be raising these suspicions, and going so far as to suspend the use of the vaccine from the University of Oxford, especially considering a lot of European countries are still moving slowly in their vaccine distribution.  

Sweden and Latvia announced this week that they would be joining the growing number of European nations now suspending the use of the vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following reports of blood clots. Germany, France, Italy, and Spain also announced that they would cease administering the shot. 

Thailand also joined Europe in their removal of the AstraZeneca vaccine from its lineup. The UK, Canada, and Australia, on the other hand, are still distributing the vaccine, and are working to reassure their citizens that it is indeed safe, or else it wouldn’t have gotten the approval for its distribution in the first place. 

“The World Health Organization, Europe’s drug regulator and the International Society, have all recommended that countries continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The decisions by France, Germany and other countries look baffling, the data we have suggests that numbers of adverse events related to blood clots are the same (and possibly, in fact lower) in vaccinated groups compared to unvaccinated populations,” said Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, U.K.

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“Halting a vaccine roll out during a pandemic has consequences. This results in delays in protecting people, and the potential for increased vaccine hesitancy, as a result of people who have seen the headlines and understandably become concerned. There are no signs yet of any data that really justify these decisions,” he added.

The WHO is meeting this week to review the safety of the shot to really give citizens that additional reassurance. The European Medicines Agency is doing the same thing, but has also already claimed that there is “no indication that the AStraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots, the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”

AstraZeneca themselves have claimed 17 million people have now received a full dose of their vaccine, and of those individuals there have been 15 reported incidents of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism across the EU. 

“This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. The data available so far showed that the number of blood clots in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen among the general population,”  AstraZeneca said.

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Dr. Stephen Griffin is an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, who recently spoke to the media about how disappointed he was that so many nations were using this fear as a reason to delay vaccine distribution. 

“Since many European countries are currently experiencing another resurgence of SARS-CoV2 infections and yet are lagging behind in terms of roll out, the importance of continuing the vaccination programs cannot be underestimated, and the harm caused by depriving people of access to a vaccine will likely vastly outweigh even the worst case scenario if any link to the clotting disorders is eventually found. It should also be noted that nationwide gestures such as this are bound to fuel hesitancy, or more extreme anti-vaccine sentiment, further undermining the vaccination effort,” Griffin proclaimed. 

“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the AZ vaccine have now been administered across the UK, and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population,” he continued.

“We are working closely with international counterparts in understanding the global safety experience of COVID-19 vaccines and on the rapid sharing of safety data and reports. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so,” Griffin reassured, guaranteeing European citizens that by the end of the week these major medical groups will likely re-release more updated data regarding the safety of this vaccine. 

Shell Chief Executive Receives 40% Pay Cut Due To Covid-19 Pandemic

Royal Dutch Shell has cut the pay of its chief executive by more than 40% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic which dramatically dropped the demand for oil in the world; 2020 is regarded as the year with the steepest decline in demand for oil. Shell reported a loss of about $20 billion for 2020 due to this lack of demand.

Ben Van Beurden, the CEO, took a cut of around $5.8 million in 2020, and the year before he received a cut of around $10 million, marking the second consecutive year in which the chief executive received a major pay cut. His salary was completely halved back in 2019.

Van Beurden also was reportedly forced to cut Shell’s dividend for the first time since World War 2. It’s expected that the company will be cutting 7,000-9,000 staff members across their global businesses as well. These cuts are also the result of the massive financial loss the company is experiencing due to a lack of need for oil and other fossil fuels, as well as the growing need to live a greener lifestyle.

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Shell also announced that its chairman, Chad Holliday, will be stepping down after six years with the company. He will be replaced by the former BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who also spent six years at his former company. His time with BHP was defined by his coworkers as an “ambitious turnaround in which we were able to streamline operations.”

“Right now it’s a pivotal time for the industry and wider society. I plan to profitably accelerate Shell’s transition into a net zero emissions energy business that would continue to generate substantial value for shareholders, customers and communities alike,” Mackenzie explained. Van Beurden also recently claimed that he was looking forward to working closely with Mackenzie.

“We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with a clear and distinct strategy that I believe will enable us to seize the opportunities presented by the energy transition. I cannot think of anyone better than Andrew to take this role,” he said.

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Oil prices have dropped dramatically since March of last year when the pandemic began. This was initially due to traders adjusting their prospects to cope with the lower demand. Shell cut its spending which lowered its pricing and future pricing as well.

Van Beurden refused to take an annual bonus last year, however, he still received one of about $3.7 million due to his long-term incentive plan which initially gave him a bonus of $8 million before his major pay cut back in 2019.

Oil prices have begun recovering in the early parts of 2021 due to dramatic cuts in production, as well as a rollout of multiple vaccine programs throughout the world that is helping stimulate the economy and return the world to a greater sense of normalcy.

Apple Store Logo

Apple to Face EU Charges Over Spotify Complaint

Apple are potentially facing an EU antitrust charge sheet in the foreseeable future after a complaint by rival Spotify that the technology firm unfairly pushed its own music streaming service, two sources told Reuters.

The European Commission is considering sending the statement of objections setting out suspected violations of the bloc’s antitrust rules to Apple before the start of summer, one source said.

The EU competition enforcer opened four cases against Apple in June of last year. The EU charge sheets normally consist of whether a fine is merited and what companies must do in order to halve anti-competitive practices.

The Commission has as yet failed to comment on the matter.

Apple instead chose to refer simply to its March 2019 blog, which claimed its App Store helped Spotify to benefit from hundreds of millions of app downloads in order to become Europe’s largest music streaming service.

In its 2019 complaint to the Commission, Spotify claimed Apple unfairly restricts rivals to its own streaming service app Apple Music. Spotify also protested against the 30% fee app developers are charged to use Apple’s in-app purchase system (IAP).

As well as the Spotify complaint, the European Commission is also currently investigating Apple’s App Stores rules for all competing apps, e-books and audio books, as well as its terms and conditions for the mobile payment service Apple Pay.

The UK competition watchdog also opened an investigation into Apple’s practices, while in the Netherlands a similar agency is close to a decision in its own investigation into Apple.

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The watchdog’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli 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.”

The UK regulator will work to ascertain whether or not Apple has a “dominant position” in the business of distributing apps on its devices in the UK.

If the regulator determines this is indeed the case, it will investigate whether the company imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store ‘ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons’.

Apple said this week that it was prepared to work with the regulator.

“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,” the company said.

In more positive business news, President Biden became the toast of the Scottish whisky industry this week as the US and UK came to an agreement to suspend damaging tariffs imposed by the Trump administration for four months at least.

The 25% tariff was part of a range of European products targeted by Trump as part of an infamous row over government subsidies provided to European aerospace firm Airbus and to US plane manufacturer Boeing.

Last month, officials in the Scotch whisky sector claimed the single malt penalty, the result of a dispute not of its making, had accounted for almost $700 million in export losses.

The suspension of the tariffs, which also cover more UK-made products such as cheese, allows for both sides to now reach a sustainable agreement following the UK’s decision at the end of the Brexit transition period to lift retaliatory tariffs imposed by the EU on some US goods.

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A joint statement said: “The United Kingdom and the United States are undertaking a four-month tariff suspension to ease the burden on industry and take a bold, joint step towards resolving the longest running disputes at the World Trade Organization.

“This will allow time to focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes and begin seriously addressing the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from non-market economies, such as China.”

The Scotch Whisky Association’s chief executive, Karen Betts, responded: “The tariff on single malt Scotch whisky exports to the US has been doing real damage to Scotch whisky in the 16 months it has been in place, with exports to the US falling by 35%.”

Diageo – home to the Johnnie Walker brands – also welcomed the development.

Its chief executive, Ivan Menezes, said: “Today is a very good day for Scotch and Scotland.

“We recognize the government’s tireless efforts, using the UK’s newly independent trade policy, to deliver the suspension and hopefully in time, a permanent end to these punitive tariffs.”

He added: “Final resolution of the aerospace dispute, combined with the announcement of a continued freeze on spirits duty in yesterday’s budget, will safeguard thousands of jobs across Scotland and the UK.”