disappointing winter wheat harvest in June could drive food prices — already high because of the war in Ukraine and bad weather in Asia and the United States — further up, compounding hunger in the world’s poorest countries.

By one estimate, nearly 400 million people in 45 cities have been under some form of lockdown in China in the past month, accounting for $7.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. Economists are concerned that the lockdowns will have a major impact on growth; one economist has warned that if lockdown measures remain in place for another month, China could enter into a recession.

European and American multinational companies have said they are discussing ways to shift some of their operations out of China. Big companies that increasingly depend on China’s consumer market for growth are also sounding the alarm. Apple said it could see a $4 billion to $8 billion hit to its sales because of the lockdowns.

struggle to find and keep jobs during lockdowns.

Even as daily virus cases in Shanghai are steadily dropping, authorities have tightened measures in recent days following Mr. Xi’s call last week to double down. Officials also began to force entire residential buildings into government isolation if just one resident tested positive.

The new measures are harsher than those early on in the pandemic and have been met with pockets of unrest, previously rare in China where citizens have mostly supported the country’s pandemic policies.

In one video widely circulated online before it was taken down by censors, an exasperated woman shouts as officials in white hazmat suits smash her door down to take her away to an isolation facility. She protests and asks them to give her evidence that she has tested positive. Eventually she takes her phone to call the police.

“If you called the police,” one of the men replies, “I’d still be the one coming.”

Isabelle Qian contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.

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With floods and electricity shortages, South Africa’s economy is threatening to go into reverse

DURBAN, South Africa – April 16, 2022: Massive debris at the Durban harbor following heavy rains, mudslides, rain and winds in Durban. The harbour serves as a bulwark for the economy of the city of Durban.

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP via Getty Images

South Africa’s economy picked up momentum in the first quarter of the year, but historic flooding in a key province and the threat of unprecedented power cuts are putting the brakes on its recovery.

The port city of Durban and the wider KwaZulu-Natal province in eastern South Africa were besieged by the country’s worst flash flooding for decades in April, which killed hundreds and throttled freight operations at sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest port.

The Absa/BER manufacturing PMI — having soared to a record high of 60.0 in March — slumped to 50.7 in April, its lowest reading since the violent riots following former President Jacob Zuma’s arrest in July last year.

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’s second-most populous province, was also the center of the country’s worst riots since the end of apartheid.

The S&P Global composite PMI also fell to a four-month low, and in a note last week, Capital Economics highlighted that high frequency data indicates that the recovery in mobility has stalled.

The figures for the first quarter paint a mixed picture, according to JPMorgan economists Sthembiso Nkalanga and Sonja Keller, but point to a seasonally adjusted quarterly GDP growth of 3.5%.

However, April’s dismal PMI showing poses downside risk to JPMorgan’s 1.5% GDP growth projection for the second quarter. Alongside the global backdrop of the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and Chinese supply struggles, South Africa is also dealing with the domestic shocks of flooding and electricity rationing.

Much of the decline in the manufacturing PMI was concentrated on port and manufacturing activity in KwaZulu-Natal, where manufacturing activity dropped from 60.5 in March to 39.6 in April.

Load shedding — the deliberate shutdown of power in parts of an electricity system to prevent its failure when overburdened — scaled up significantly in April, with electricity cuts this year projected to exceed the already substantial quantities seen in 2021.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: Soweto residents picket near the entrance to state entity Eskom Offices at Megawatt Park in Midrand, near Johannesburg, on June 9, 2021 due to the ongoing electricity disruptions. Eskom, on June 9, 2021 announced it will implement nationwide power cuts due to rising consumption as the cold weather sets in and breakdowns at two power plants.

Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

Even as the floods have largely abated, electricity supply cuts pose a consistent problem for the South African economy.

State-owned utility Eskom’s electricity availability factor — which measures the available electricity as a share of maximum amount of electricity that could be produced — has been stuck near record lows in recent weeks, noted Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has cautioned that Eskom could resort to stage 8 load shedding, which would entail blackouts for up to 12 hours a day, in order to avert a total collapse of the country’s electricity grid.

“Some shocks such as the flooding are clearly outside of the government’s control but, even without these, the recovery will continue to be held back so long as issues such as those affecting the electricity sector remain unresolved,” Tuvey said.

The International Monetary Fund is projecting real GDP growth, adjusted for inflation, of 1.9% for South Africa in 2022.

Eskom on Thursday announced the implementation of stage 2 load shedding between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time.

“The onset of winter has seen increased demand and this will lead to capacity constraints throughout this period, particularly during the evening and morning peaks. Unfortunately, this would generally require the implementation of loadshedding during the evening peaks,” it said in a statement.

Eskom reiterated that loadshedding is a “last resort to protect the national grid” and urged South Africans to continue using electricity “sparingly,” particularly in the early mornings and evenings.

Possible Q2 contraction

The government declared a state of disaster in response to the floods and has begun efforts to repair the damage.

“Yet, we expect the April slide to reverse more slowly than the swift rebound seen after the unrest last July, given the damage to road infrastructure, as well as the delays at the ports,” JPMorgan’s Nkalanga and Keller said in their latest research note.

“Meanwhile, energy availability is down significantly this year, raising the risks of prolonged power cuts, while the consumer resiliency that likely led the GDP growth in 1Q should fade this quarter due to a purchasing power squeeze.”

Against this backdrop and the sensitivity of the South African economy to changes in external market conditions, including global supply chain problems, a potential growth slowdown in China and the war in Ukraine, JPMorgan sees “increased risk of slower GDP growth or even a contraction this quarter.”

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Playoff Loss To Miami Heat Exposed Harsh Truths About Sixers’ Roster

The Philadelphia 76ers’ roller-coaster season came to an end Thursday thanks to the Miami Heat’s 99-90 victory over them in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They’re now headed into a pivotal offseason that may determine whether they’re ever able to surround MVP runner-up Joel Embiid with a championship-caliber supporting cast.

The biggest decision they’ll have to make this offseason revolves around James Harden, their blockbuster acquisition at the trade deadline. Regardless of whether he picks up his $47.4 million player option for next season or declines it to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Sixers will have to decide how much money and how many years they’re willing to commit to him on his next contract.

The rest of the Sixers’ offseason decision-making will trickle down from there. But regardless of how those negotiations play out, the Heat series demonstrated just how far away they are from assembling a legitimate championship contender.

When veteran wing Danny Green suffered what’s feared to be a serious knee injury in the opening minutes of Game 6, it further exposed the depth disparity between the Heat and Sixers. The Heat were able to rely on undrafted free agents such as Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin throughout the series, while the Sixers’ reliable depth ended as soon as they dipped into their bench.

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Kyle Lowry played only two games in this series before aggravating his hamstring injury and missing Games 5 and 6. Duncan Robinson, whom the Heat signed to a five-year, $90 million contract this past offseason, played only 18 minutes across the entire series. Despite that, Miami had a plethora of other options at its disposal.

Meanwhile, the Sixers sputtered as soon as they tapped into their bench. Heat guard Tyler Herro, this season’s Sixth Man of the Year, nearly single-handedly outscored every Sixers reserve in the series. (Herro had 88 points, while the Sixers’ bench combined for 117.)

As much as top-end talent matters in the playoffs, teams need some playable two-way depth in the event of injuries, foul trouble or specific matchup challenges. The Sixers were sorely lacking in that department.

Matisse Thybulle, who started in 50 of his 66 regular-season appearances this year, might have cost himself tens of millions of dollars with his postseason no-show. He was unavailable for the Sixers’ first-round games in Toronto because he wasn’t fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and he was far too inconsistent defensively to offset the spacing concerns he introduces offensively when he did play.

Georges Niang, the Sixers’ most reliable three-point shooter during the regular season, shot a horrific 4-of-25 from deep against Miami. He also pulled down only 10 rebounds in 93 minutes of playing time, and the Heat routinely targeted him on defense.

Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz showed positive flashes at times, but both were in and out of the rotation throughout the series. Second-year big man Paul Reed was the Sixers’ most consistent bench player throughout the playoffs, and he wasn’t even in their rotation until late in the regular season.

The Sixers won’t have many pathways to improve that depth this offseason barring a major shakeup. Even if they re-sign Harden for less than the max and waive Green in the wake of his knee injury, they’ll be limited to the $10.4 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception and the $4.1 million bi-annual exception, provided they can stay under the $155.7 million luxury-tax apron. If they can’t, they’ll have nothing more than the $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception and veteran minimum contracts to round out their roster.

The draft might not provide much reprieve, either. They traded their 2022 first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Harden, but the Nets could defer it for their 2023 first-rounder instead. (Brooklyn must make that decision by June 1.) The Sixers also owe their second-rounder to the Heat, so they might not have a single pick in this year’s draft.

The Sixers could always try to buy a pick if so desired, but they’re already flush with young players at the end of their bench. Unless they believe they can add someone who can jump into their rotation right away they’d likely be better off prioritizing the development of recent draft picks such as Reed, Jaden Springer, Isaiah Joe and Charles Bassey.

The free-agent market is relatively barren in terms of impact players, but between Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, the Sixers don’t necessarily need another star. Instead, they need more two-way complementary players, which is where they should focus their attention with their MLE. Wesley Matthews, Danuel House Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Harris could all be names of potential interest, among others.

Backup center will be another critical area of need to address this offseason. They spent four roster spots on backup bigs heading into the playoffs, two of whom—DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap—were effectively unplayable. If they can’t trust Reed or Bassey in that role, they’ll have to pursue a veteran option in free agency or via the trade market.

The players bear some responsibility for their collapse in Games 5 and 6, too. After their Game 6 loss, both Harris and Embiid said the Sixers needed to be tougher.

All of this sets the stage for a momentous offseason. Team president Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand will have to work their magic on the margins for the Sixers to advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2000-01.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac. All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

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Cryptocurrencies Melt Down in a ‘Perfect Storm’ of Fear and Panic

Cryptocurrency prices also dropped precipitously. The price of Bitcoin fell as low as $26,000 on Thursday, down 60 percent from its peak in November, before rising somewhat. Since the start of the year, Bitcoin’s price movement has closely mirrored that of the Nasdaq, a benchmark that’s heavily weighted toward technology stocks, suggesting that investors are treating it like any other risk asset.

The price of Ether plunged, too, losing more than 30 percent of its value over the last week. Other cryptocurrencies, like Solana and Cardano, are also down.

Any panic might be overblown, some analysts said. A study by Mizuho showed that the average Bitcoin owner on Coinbase would not lose money until the digital currency’s price sank below $21,000. That, according to Mr. Dolev, is where a true death spiral could occur.

“Bitcoin was working as long as no one lost money,” he said. “Once it gets back to those levels, that’s sort of the ‘Oh, my God’ moment.”

Professional investors who have weathered past crypto volatility also stayed calm. Hunter Horsley, chief executive of Bitwise Asset Management, which provides crypto investing services to 1,000 financial advisers, met with more than 70 of them this week to discuss the market. Many were not selling, he said, because every other asset was down, too. Some were even trying to capitalize on the drop.

“Their standpoint is, ‘This is no fun, but there is nowhere to hide,’” he said.

Still, the plummeting prices have rattled crypto traders. Just a few months ago, blockchain proponents were predicting that Bitcoin’s price could rise as high as $100,000 this year.

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Dubai Airports passenger traffic may reach pre-Covid levels earlier than expected, CEO says

Air passenger traffic in Dubai may reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a year earlier than previously expected, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.

Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images

Air passenger traffic in Dubai may reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a year earlier than previously expected, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.

“We recorded 13.6 million passengers in that first quarter [at Dubai International Airport]. This is causing us to revise our forecast for the year,” he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Wednesday, calling it an “extremely encouraging” result.

“Originally, we thought 2025, but it’s quite likely we’re going to be back to pre-Covid levels — maybe as early as Q1 or Q2 of 2024,” he said.

The first quarter passenger numbers for 2022 are up nearly 140% from the same period in 2021, and represent a 15.7% increase from the last quarter of 2021, Dubai Airports said in a press release.

Air traffic plunged during the pandemic, but Dubai International Airport remained the busiest airport for international passengers in 2020 and 2021, according to the Airports Council International.

The airport served 29.1 million passengers in 2021and 25.9 million in 2020. Griffiths said he expects traffic to hit 58.3 million passengers this year — still a far cry from numbers before the pandemic, when the airport saw 86.4 million customers come through in 2019.

Some of the visitors to Dubai actually are helping boost our point-to-point traffic numbers to more than 100% of pre-Covid levels.

Paul Griffiths

CEO, Dubai Airports

Dubai Airports, which is owned by the city’s government, manages Dubai International and Dubai World Central Airports in the United Arab Emirates.

Travel between Dubai and the rest of the world, or point-to-point traffic, has rebounded “incredibly strongly,” Griffiths said.

“Some of the visitors to Dubai actually are helping boost our point-to-point traffic numbers to more than 100% of pre-Covid levels,” he said.

The recovery in the transit market has been slower and stands at around 60% of 2019 levels, the press release said.

Some markets such as those in Southeast Asia and Australasia closed their borders for a period, but are starting to reopen now, he noted.

“So hopefully, during May, we will see rebounds in the Chinese travel market, further strengthening in Australasia and all the traditional markets that are very good for us for transfer traffic will be back to their former strength,” he said.

China is still holding on to its zero-Covid policy, and imposed strict restrictions to deal with outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing in recent weeks.

Rules for travel

In terms of health and safety requirements for air travel, including testing and mask mandates on planes, Griffiths said they may soon ease further in Dubai.

“We’re not far away from a total relaxation,” he said, noting that vaccinated travelers to Dubai don’t need to be tested on arrival.

“We’re very anxious, obviously, to relax restrictions, but not until it’s safe to do so,” he added.

Separately, the CEO said it’s up to the government whether Dubai Airports will be listed publicly in an initial public offering.

“The Dubai government, I’m sure, in fullness of time will make a decision. And we will obviously embrace whatever decision that is with great enthusiasm,” he said.

Asked if the company is ready for an IPO, he said: “We are ready for anything.”

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Wednesday, May 11. Russia’s War On Ukraine: News And Information From Ukraine

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Bitcoin Is Increasingly Acting Like Just Another Tech Stock

SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin was conceived more than a decade ago as “digital gold,” a long-term store of value that would resist broader economic trends and provide a hedge against inflation.

But Bitcoin’s crashing price over the last month shows that vision is a long way from reality. Instead, traders are increasingly treating the cryptocurrency like just another speculative tech investment.

Since the start of this year, Bitcoin’s price movement has closely mirrored that of the Nasdaq, a benchmark that’s heavily weighted toward technology stocks, according to an analysis by the data firm Arcane Research. That means that as Bitcoin’s price dropped more than 25 percent over the last month, to under $30,000 on Wednesday — less than half its November peak — the plunge came in near lock step with a broader collapse of tech stocks as investors grappled with higher interest rates and the war in Ukraine.

The growing correlation helps explain why those who bought the cryptocurrency last year, hoping it would grow more valuable, have seen their investment crater. And while Bitcoin has always been volatile, its increasing resemblance to risky tech stocks starkly shows that its promise as a transformative asset remains unfulfilled.

institutional investors like hedge funds, endowments and family offices that have poured money into the cryptocurrency market.

declining revenue and a loss of $430 million in the first quarter. The company’s stock has fallen more than 75 percent overall this year.

The Nasdaq is already in bear-market territory, having ended Wednesday down 29 percent from its mid-November record. November was also when Bitcoin’s price hit a peak of nearly $70,000. The crash has been a reality check for Bitcoin evangelists.

Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv appears to have contributed to sharply reduced Russian shelling in the eastern city. But Moscow’s forces are making advances along other parts of the front line.

Bitcoin has rebounded from major losses before, and its long-term growth remains impressive. Before the pandemic boom in crypto prices, its value hovered well below $10,000. True believers, who call themselves Bitcoin maximalists, remain adamant that the cryptocurrency will eventually break from its correlation with risk assets.

Michael Saylor, the chief executive of the business-intelligence company MicroStrategy, has spent billions of his firm’s money on Bitcoin, building up a stockpile of more than 125,000 coins. As the price of Bitcoin has cratered, the company’s stock has dropped roughly 75 percent since November.

In an email, Mr. Saylor blamed the crash on “traders and technocrats” who don’t appreciate Bitcoin’s long-term potential to transform the global financial system.

“In the near term, the market will be dominated by those with less appreciation of the virtues of Bitcoin,” he said. “Over the long term, the maximalists will be proven correct, because billions of people need this solution, and awareness is spreading to millions more each month.”

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Japan is set to open its doors in June, but some locals aren’t happy about it

As countries across Asia reopen to international travelers, Japan — one of the continent’s most popular destinations — remains firmly closed.

That may soon change. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday at a news conference in London that Japan will ease border controls in June.

Locals often celebrate the easing of pandemic-related border restrictions, but some in Japan say they are fine keeping the measures in place.

Even before the pandemic, many locals preferred to travel within the country, with domestic tourism totaling $21.9 trillion yen ($167 billion) in 2019, according to government-backed Japan Tourism Agency.

Although Japanese people are currently allowed to travel abroad, many “don’t want to go overseas” and choose to “travel inside the country” instead, said Dai Miyamoto, the founder of travel agency Japan Localized.

Izumi Mikami, senior executive director at Japan Space Systems, visited Kyushu Island and Okinawa Island, two tourist hot spots before the pandemic. He said he felt safer with fewer tourists around.

Some people are taking the opportunity to be outdoors after spending much time at home.

Shogo Morishige, a university student, took multiple ski trips to the Nagano — the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games — and said it was “surprisingly crowded” with locals.

“Everyone similar to us had not traveled for a long time … Right now, it’s almost as if [Covid-19] isn’t really here,” said Morishige. “I don’t think anyone’s too scared of it anymore.”

Others ventured to new destinations.

“After moving to Yamagata prefecture, I started going to places I would not normally go, such as ski resorts … hot springs in the mountains and aquariums and sandy beaches,” said Shion Ichikawa, a risk management employee at internet firm, Line.

Tours are changing

International travelers to Japan fell from nearly 32 million in 2019 to just 250,000 in 2021, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

With a clientele of nearly all locals, some tour companies redesigned their tours to conform to local interests.

Japanese travelers steered away from visiting big cities and are opting for outdoor experiences that they can “discover by foot,” said Miyamoto. So Japan Localized — which catered its tours to English-speaking foreigners before the pandemic — collaborated with local tour company Mai Mai Kyoto and Mai Mai Tokyo to provide walking tours in Japanese.

People across Japan are also spending time at camping sites and onsen — or hot spring — spas, said Lee Xian Jie, chief developer at tour company Craft Tabby.

“Campsites have become very popular,” he said. “Caravan rentals and outdoor gear sales have been doing very well because people are going outdoors a lot more.”

Luxury onsens popular with younger people “are doing quite well,” but traditional onsens are suffering as the elderly are “quite scared of Covid” and do not go out much, Lee said.

Craft Tabby used to operate walking and cycling tours in Kyoto, but transitioned online when the pandemic hit. As countries reopen their borders, “online tours have not been doing well” and participation has “dropped to almost zero,” Lee said.

Tourists’ appetites are changing and people are looking for “niche” activities in “rural areas where it isn’t so densely populated,” he said.

Lee now lives south of Kyoto in a village called Ryujinmura and is planning to operate tours in the rural town once tourists are back.

“We need to think of tours and activities up here where people can explore new stuff,” he added.

‘Over-tourism’

Japan welcomed nearly 32 million international visitors in 2019 — up from just 6.8 million just ten years prior, according to Japan Tourism Agency.

The rapid increase in tourists caused major draws, such as the culturally rich city of Kyoto, to struggle with over-tourism.

Residents in Kyoto are now saying that “silence is back,” said Miyamoto, who recounted instances where foreign tourists spoke loudly and were discourteous to locals.

Similarly, Lee said that “a lot of people who were quite upset about over-tourism in Kyoto” are now saying “it feels like how Kyoto was 20 years ago — the good old Kyoto.”

But that may be coming to an end.

Is Japan ready to move on?

Prime Minister Kishida’s announcement may not be welcome news for portions of the Japanese population.

More than 65% of respondents in a recent survey conducted by the Japanese broadcasting station NHK said they agreed with the border measures or believed they should be strengthened, according to The New York Times.

Local reports indicate international travelers may need multiple Covid-19 tests and a packaged tour booking to enter, though JNTO told CNBC that they have yet to receive word on this. Still, this may not be enough to pacify some residents.

Foreign visitor spending contributes less than 5% to Japan’s overall gross domestic product, so “it is not necessarily surprising for the government to make decisions prioritizing” other industries, said Shintaro Okuno, partner and chairman of Bain & Company Japan, referring to why the country had stayed closed.

Women wearing kimonos tie “omikuji” fortune strips outside the Yasaka Shrine during Golden Week holidays in Kyoto, Japan, on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022.

Kosuke Okahara | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The recent decision is likely to be most unpopular with Japan’s elderly citizens, said Ichikawa. Nearly 1 in 3 are over 65 years old, making Japan home to the largest percentage of elderly people in the world, according to the research organization PRB.

“The elderly tend to be more prejudiced than younger people that Covid-19 is brought in by foreigners,” said Ichikawa. “It is understandable that in Japan — a country of elderly people — politicians must tighten the borders to protect them physically and psychologically.”

When the pandemic was at its peak, Japanese were even wary of people from other parts of Japan visiting their hometowns.

“I saw signboards at public parks and tourist attractions saying ‘no cars from outside Wakayama,'” said Lee. “People were quite fearful of others from outside the prefecture.”

However, residents living in cities may feel differently.

“Japan is too strict and conservative” in controlling Covid-19, said Mikami, who is based in Tokyo.

Miyako Komai, a teacher who lives Tokyo, said she is ready to move on.

“We need to invite more foreign people” so Japan’s economy can recover, she said. “I don’t agree that we want measures to be strengthened … We need to start living a normal life.”

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