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Drivers’ Lawsuit Claims Uber and Lyft Violate Antitrust Laws

A group of drivers claimed on Tuesday that Uber and Lyft are engaging in anticompetitive practices by setting the prices customers pay and limiting drivers’ ability to choose which rides they accept without penalty.

The drivers, supported by the advocacy group Rideshare Drivers United, made the novel legal argument in a state lawsuit that targets the long-running debate about the job status of gig economy workers.

For years, Uber and Lyft have argued that their drivers should be considered independent contractors rather than employees under labor laws, meaning they would be responsible for their own expenses and not typically eligible for unemployment insurance or health benefits. In exchange, the companies argued, drivers could set their own hours and maintain more independence than they could if they were employees.

ballot measure in California that would lock in the independent contractor status of drivers. The companies said such a measure would help drivers by giving them flexibility, and Uber also began allowing drivers in California to set their own rates after the state passed a law requiring companies to treat contract workers as employees. Drivers thought the new flexibility was a sign of what life would be like if voters approved the ballot measure, Proposition 22.

Drivers were also given increased visibility into where passengers wanted to travel before they had to accept the ride. The ballot measure passed, before a judge overturned it.

The next year, the new options for drivers were rolled back. Drivers said they had lost the ability to set their own fares and now must meet requirements — like accepting five of every 10 rides — to see details about trips before accepting them.

bears little relationship to what drivers earn.

Whatever the case, courts in California could be more sympathetic to at least some of the claims in the complaint, the experts said.

gas prices have soared and as competition among drivers has started to return to prepandemic levels.

“It’s been increasingly more difficult to earn money,” said another plaintiff, Ben Valdez, a driver in Los Angeles. “Enough is enough. There’s only so much a person can take.”

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L.A. Advocates March Against Criminalization of the Homeless: ‘Sweepless Summer 2022’

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Advocates from Housing Is A Human Right (HHR), the housing advocacy division of AHF, will take part in “Sweepless Summer 2022,” (LA March Against Criminalization of the Homeless Friday, June 17th starting at 10:00 a.m. from historic Olvera Street across from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles (845 Alameda St, 90012). The march—which will proceed to the Federal Building (300 N. Los Angeles Street, 90012)—is part of a national action against unjust clearing of encampments in DC and cities across the country and is being held in solidarity with the National Poor People’s Campaign and National Coalition for the Homeless events that will be taking place in Washington, DC this weekend.

What:

MARCH AGAINST CRIMINALIZATION of the HOMELESS and in SOLIDARITY with the National Poor People’s Campaign and National Coalition for the Homeless events taking place in Washington, DC this weekend.

 

 

When:

L.A. March: Friday, June 17, 2022 – starts @ 10:00 a.m. (meet @ Olvera Street)

 

NOTE: March should take approx. ½ to 1 hour from start to finish

 

 

Where:

Starts: Olvera Street (across from Union Station)

 

845 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles 90012

 

Marching to: Los Angeles Federal Building

 

300 N Los Angeles St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

March Media Contact for AHF: Eduardo Martinez, Eduardo.martinez@ahf.org 323. 535.8511 c

Housing Is A Human Right will also use the events in Los Angeles and Washington to announce and celebrate its new partnership with National Coalition for the Homeless, which will include co-locating NCH’s West Coast headquarters at HHR’s Hollywood offices, collaboration on projects and strategies to reduce homelessness and increase the supply of permanent housing for the unhoused.

“Housing Is A Human Right is excited to provide a growing presence in Los Angeles for the incredible work of the National Coalition for the Homeless!” said Susie Shannon, Policy Director for Housing Is A Human Right. “Our organizations have collectively fought for the rights of our unhoused community and for permanent housing. Together we will be a formidable force in promoting real solutions to homelessness.”

“National Coalition for the Homeless is excited to open an office in Los Angeles. – the homeless capital of the United States – in partnership with Housing is a Human Right. NCH and HHR have shared goals in ending and preventing homelessness and finding real solutions through a Housing First approach,” stated Don Whitehead, National Executive Director of NCH. “We look forward to expanding our coalition throughout the State of California.”

AHF’s Los Angeles Domestic Advocacy team will provide the hand-made posters, banner, and about a dozen or more mobilizers for the march. Drinking water will be provided for everyone. Some of the signs and slogans will include the following:

For more information on Housing Is A Human Right (HHR), click here, and follow HHR on:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/housinghumanright/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/housinghumanrt

For information on the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), click here, and follow NCH on:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/NationalCoalitionfortheHomeless

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Migrant caravan in Mexico heads for U.S. border as Americas Summit starts

TAPACHULA, June 6 (Reuters) – Several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States, timing their journey to coincide with the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week.

Migration activists said the group could be one of the region’s largest migrant caravans in recent years.

At least 6,000 people, according to Reuters witnesses, left the border city of Tapachula. Mexico’s National Institute for Migration did not provide an estimate of the group’s size and provided no additional comment on the caravan.

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Caravan organizer Luis Garcia Villagran said the group represented various nationalities of people fleeing hardship in their home countries, including many from Venezuela.

“These are countries collapsing from poverty and violence,” he said. “We strongly urge those who attend the summit … to look at what is happening, and what could happen even more often in Mexico, if something is not done soon.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a regional pact on migration later in the week.

The migrants, including many children, began their trip early under rainfall and fanned out across several lanes of highway, with some wearing plastic ponchos and holding umbrellas, Reuters images show.

Large caravans headed to the United States also traveled across Mexico in 2018 and 2019, mostly comprised of Central Americans, followed by smaller groups in recent years.

Record numbers of migrants last year attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Colombian migrant Robinson Reyes, 35, said he hoped the group would attract the attention of leaders at the summit.

“We want a future for our children … we want to cross Mexico without any problems,” he said. “God willing, they can talk and resolve this.”

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Reporting by Jose Torres in Tapachula and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Biden to unveil economic partnership for Americas – U.S. official

A LAPD helocopter flies near the LA Convention Center during the first day of the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles, U.S., June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

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WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will announce this week at the Summit of the Americas an economic partnership for the Western hemisphere focusing on promoting economic recovery by building on existing trade agreements, U.S. administration officials said on Monday.

Dubbed the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, the plan will cover five areas including mobilizing investments, reinvigorating institutions, clean energy jobs, resilient supply chains and sustainable trade.

“The overall objective is to build our economies from the bottom up and middle out by building on the foundation established by our free trade agreements with the region to better address inequality and lack of economic opportunity,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call.

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The plan would aim to offer an alternative in a region where China has been expanding its sphere of influence. It was unclear, however, how many countries in economically troubled Latin America would buy into such an arrangement.

The United States is hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a gathering where Biden aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. On Monday, the White House said it was not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, prompting Mexico’s president to skip the event.

The summit is being convened in the United States for the first time since the first such gathering in Miami in 1994, as Biden seeks to reassert U.S. leadership and counter China’s growing clout. He is due to formally open the summit on Wednesday.

Biden will put forward “an ambitious reform” of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the official said, adding that the United States would also seek an equity stake at the bank’s private sector lending arm to support the deployment of private capital.

“Because the private sector has a central role to play,” the official said.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, told a Senate subcommittee last week that the Biden administration should push for a regional trade initiative similar to the one for the Indo-Pacific that Biden announced during his Asia tour in May.

But the idea of creating a hemisphere-wide trade bloc has never gotten off the ground, partly because of protectionism sentiment among U.S. labor unions and some lawmakers.

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Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Los Angeles; Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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U.S. bars Cuba, Venezuela from Americas summit; Mexican leader sits out

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 6 (Reuters) – The White House on Monday excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas this week, prompting Mexico’s president to make good on a threat to skip the event because all countries in the Western Hemisphere were not invited.

The boycott by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the summit in Los Angeles, where the United States aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hopes to repair Latin America relations damaged under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert U.S. influence and counter China’s inroads.

The decision to cut out Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua followed weeks of intense deliberations and was due to concerns about human rights and a lack of democracy in the three nations, a senior U.S. official said.

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U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration “understands” Mexico’s position, but “one of the key elements of this summit is democratic governance, and these countries are not exemplars, to put it mildly.”

Biden aides have been mindful of pressure from Republicans and some fellow Democrats against appearing soft on America’s three main leftist antagonists in Latin America. Miami’s large Cuban-American community, which favored Trump’s harsh policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in the November elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, which is now in the hands of the Democrats.

Lopez Obrador told reporters that his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would attend the summit in his place. The Mexican president said he would meet with Biden in Washington next month, which the White House confirmed. read more

“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent are taking part,” Lopez Obrador said.

Lopez Obrador’s absence from the gathering, which Biden is due to open on Wednesday, raises questions about summit discussions focused on curbing migration at the U.S. southern border, a priority for Biden, and could be a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States.

A caravan of several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States. read more

But a senior administration official insisted Lopez Obrador’s no-show would not hinder Biden’s rollout of a regional migration initiative. The White House expects at least 23 heads of state and government, which the official said would be in line with past summits.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Mexican president, saying his “decision to stand with dictators and despots” would hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.

CUBA CRITICAL

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and Trump admirer who leads Latin America’s most populous country, will attend after initially flirting with staying away. read more

The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua had been flagged in recent weeks. President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Communist-ruled Cuba said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the United States of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.

On Monday, Cuba called the decision “discriminatory and unacceptable” and said the United States underestimated support in the region for the island nation.

The United States invited some Cuban civil society activists to attend, but several said on social media that Cuban state security had blocked them from travel to Los Angeles. read more

Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Biden administration expects representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido will attend, Price said. He declined to say whether their participation would be in person or virtually.

The senior administration official, asked whether Biden might have a call with Guaido during the summit, said there was a good chance of an “engagement,” but declined to elaborate.

Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham. But some countries in the region have stuck with Maduro.

Also barred from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.

Most leaders have signaled they will attend, but the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin America are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as in past times.

Faced with low expectations for summit achievements, U.S. officials began previewing Biden’s coming initiatives. Those include an “Americas partnership” for pandemic recovery, which would entail investments and supply-chain strengthening, reform of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a $300 million commitment for regional food security.

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Reporting By Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Jose Torres in Tapachula and Dave Sherwood in Havana; Writing by Ted Hesson; Editing by Grant McCool, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Cathay Bank Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–This year marks Cathay Bank’s 60th Anniversary. Founded in 1962 in Los Angeles Chinatown, the bank’s initial focus was to serve the growing and underserved Chinese American community in Los Angeles. Cathay Bank became a publicly traded company, through its holding company Cathay General Bancorp, on Nasdaq in 1990, and by 1999, the bank had expanded its footprint to the East Coast. Today, Cathay Bank remains headquartered in Los Angeles and operates over 60 branches throughout the U.S., with one branch in Hong Kong and representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei.

Some of the bank’s more recent milestones include refreshing the Cathay brand, purchasing HSBC Bank USA (“HSBC”) West Coast mass retail market consumer banking business and retail business banking business, and surpassing $20 billion in asset size as of December 31, 2021.

Cathay Bank also gives back to its local communities. The Cathay Bank Foundation was founded in 2002 to help raise and administer funds distributed to community-based nonprofit organizations and continues to do so today. To celebrate its many years of achievements and to thank the support of our clients and community, Cathay Bank hosted a celebratory event this evening in San Marino, California.

Executive Chairman Dunson Cheng and President and Chief Executive Officer Chang M. Liu both attended the event and delivered speeches commemorating the occasion. A press conference was held before the formal dinner and the media interviewed Liu, focusing on the bank’s milestones, achievements, and community involvement.

“As part of our many anniversary celebrations, we hosted various events, including an Open House event at every branch from April 18 to 20, to reconnect with our local communities, clients, and prospects. On our Diamond Anniversary, we stand on the shoulders of our dedicated colleagues past and present who have planted and cultivated the seeds of success as we applaud our Bank’s history, celebrate its present and shape its future,” stated Liu.

About Cathay Bank

Cathay Bank, a subsidiary of Cathay General Bancorp (Nasdaq: CATY), opened its doors in 1962 in Los Angeles to serve the growing immigrant community. Today, we operate over 60 branches across the U.S., with a branch in Hong Kong, and representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei. In 2022, we proudly celebrate our diamond jubilee. While much has changed over six decades, our pursuit and dedication has only grown stronger. Then, now, and always, we go above and beyond, so you can, too. Learn more at cathaybank.com. FDIC insurance coverage is limited to deposit accounts at Cathay Bank’s U.S. domestic branch locations.

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Exclusive: How a Russian billionaire shielded assets from sanctions

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  • Melnichenko ceded ownership of coal, fertilizer firms to wife
  • Cession occurred the day before EU imposed sanctions on him
  • Transfers of assets fuel doubts over sanctions’ effectiveness

ISTANBUL/BRUSSELS, May 27 (Reuters) – Russian businessman Andrey Melnichenko ceded ownership of two of the world’s largest coal and fertilizers companies to his wife the day before he was sanctioned by the European Union, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Melnichenko, who built his fortune in the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, gave up his stakes in the coal producer SUEK AO and fertilizer group EuroChem Group AG on March 8, the day of his 50th birthday, leaving his wife, Aleksandra Melnichenko, the beneficial ownership of the companies, the people said.

Until March 8, Melnichenko owned the two companies through a chain of trusts and corporations stretching from Moscow and the Swiss town of Zug to Cyprus and Bermuda, according to legal filings reviewed by Reuters.

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Since 2006, Melnichenko’s wife was second in line behind her husband on the list of beneficial owners of the two companies in trust documents, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t allowed to speak publicly about the couple’s assets. That meant that she stood to inherit ownership of the companies in the event her husband died, the people said.

When the war in Ukraine began in February, however, Melnichenko grew concerned that he would be designated under the European Union’s Russia sanctions regime, the people familiar with the matter said. On March 8, Melnichenko notified trustees of his retirement as the beneficiary, the people said. That triggered the same chain of changes in trust records that would have happened if the businessman had passed away, and made his wife the beneficiary.

Reuters was unable to reach Melnichenko and his wife for comment.

A spokesman for Russia-based SUEK didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. Switzerland-based EuroChem confirmed that Aleksandra Melnichenko had replaced her husband as beneficial owner.

“Following the departure of its founder, the primary beneficial ownership of a trust holding a 90% stake in the global fertilizer company has automatically passed to his wife,” the company said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

The role of Melnichenko’s wife at EuroChem was first reported by Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. Her role at SUEK as well as the timing of ownership changes and other details are reported here for the first time.

Melnichenko, who founded SUEK and EuroChem two decades ago, was ranked as Russia’s eighth richest man last year by Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $18 billion.

The European Union sanctioned Melnichenko, citing his alleged proximity to the Kremlin, on March 9 as part of a Western attempt to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions – which include freezing his assets, banning him from entering the European Union and prohibiting EU entities from providing funds to him – do not apply to his wife nor the couple’s daughter and son.

Britain also put Melnichenko, who is Russian but was born in Belarus and has a Ukrainian mother, on its sanction list on March 15. Switzerland imposed sanctions against him the following day.

The businessman said in a statement to Reuters in March, after the EU sanctions were imposed, that the war in Ukraine was “truly tragic” and he appealed for peace. A spokesman for Melnichenko said at that time he had “no political affiliations”.

Western governments have imposed sweeping sanctions against Russian companies and individuals in an effort to force Moscow to withdraw.

But some sanctioned Russian businessmen, including Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Yevtushenkov, have transferred assets to friends and family members, fuelling doubts over the effectiveness of these attempts to pressure Moscow.

Melnichenko, whose residence was registered in the Swiss alpine resort town of St. Moritz until he was hit by sanctions, gave his instructions to change the ownership of his companies from a retreat near Mount Kilimanjaro where he was celebrating his birthday, according to a person familiar with the matter. A Boeing 737 emblazoned with the billionaire’s signature “A” on the fuselage had landed in Tanzania on March 5, arriving from Dubai, according to flight-tracking service Flightradar24.

A lawyer for Melnichenko didn’t respond to questions about the Kilimanjaro trip.

Melnichenko’s transfer of ownership at SUEK and EuroChem had far-reaching implications.

After reviews lasting several weeks, Swiss financial authorities concluded that the two companies could continue operating normally on the grounds that Melnichenko was no longer involved with them. SUEK and EuroChem said that British and German financial regulators have reached similar conclusions.

The British and German regulators didn’t respond to requests seeking comment.

Upon completion of the reviews in late April, SUEK and EuroChem – which had revenues last year of $9.7 billion and $10.2 billion respectively – were able to resume distribution of millions of dollars in interest payments to bondholders.

In recent weeks, SUEK and EuroChem have also approached Western clients, showing them documents with the new ownership structure in a bid to reassure them that they can continue doing business with Mr. Melnichenko’s former companies, two people familiar with the matter said.

NO MORE PAYMENTS

In Switzerland, the Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said neither SUEK nor EuroChem were under sanctions in the country.

SECO said that, as far as it was aware, Melnichenko was no longer a beneficiary of the trust to which EuroChem belonged at the time of his sanction by the EU and Switzerland.

SECO also said it sought confirmation from Eurochem that it would no longer provide funds to Melnichenko.

“The company and its management have guaranteed in writing to SECO that the Swiss sanction measures will be fully complied with and in particular that no funds or economic resources will be made available to sanctioned persons,” SECO said in response to a query.

Swiss authorities have defended their decision not to extend sanctions to Melnichenko’s wife or to his former companies, pointing to the fact that EU authorities had not sanctioned them either.

“In this case, we have done exactly what the EU has done,” Switzerland’s Economy Minister Guy Parmelin told Swiss television on Wednesday.

Parmelin added that Switzerland was also wary that sanctioning EuroChem at a time when fertilizer prices have soared in most parts of the world could have dire consequences on agriculture markets. EuroChem said it produced more than 19 million metric tons of fertilizer last year – roughly equivalent to 10% of the world’s output, according to U.N. data.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it had no information about the transfer of Melnichenko’s assets to his wife. The commission has said it is willing to close loopholes allowing individuals and companies to elude its sanctions. Earlier this week, it unveiled proposals aimed at criminalising moves to bypass sanctions, including by transferring assets to family members, across the 27-nation bloc.

Under the trust structure, control over SUEK and EuroChem is exercised by independent trustees while beneficial ownership, which was in the hands of Melnichenko until March 8, has moved to his wife.

A mathematician who once dreamt of becoming a physicist, Melnichenko dropped out of university to dive into the chaotic – and sometimes deadly – world of post-Soviet business.

He founded MDM Bank but in the 1990s was still too minor to take part in the privatizations under President Boris Yeltsin that handed the choicest assets of a former superpower to a group of businessmen who would become known as the oligarchs due to their political and economic clout.

Melnichenko then began buying up often distressed coal and fertilizer assets, making him one of Europe’s richest men.

The EU said, when it announced its sanctions, that Melnichenko “belongs to the most influential circle of Russian business people with close connections to the Russian government”.

Melnichenko was among dozens of business leaders who met with Putin on the day Russia invaded Ukraine to discuss the impact of sanctions, showing his close ties to the Kremlin, the EU said in its March 9 sanction order.

At the time, a spokesman for Melnichenko denied that the businessman belonged to Putin’s inner circle and said he would dispute the sanctions in court. On May 17, Melnichenko challenged the sanctions by lodging an appeal with the EU’s General Court, which handles complaints against European institutions, court records show.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

Italy seized Melnichenko’s superyacht – the 470-foot Sailing Yacht A, which has a price tag of 530 million euros – on March 12, three days after he was placed on an EU sanctions list.

SUEK and EuroChem said on March 10, a day after the EU announced sanctions against Melnichenko and 159 other individuals tied to Russia, that their founder had resigned from his board positions at the companies.

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Reporting by David Gauthier-Villars and Gabriela Baczynska; Additional reporting by Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles, Andrew MacAskill in London, Michael Shields and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich
Editing by Daniel Flynn

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Japan’s Economy Shrank 1 Percent as Consumers Fled Covid

TOKYO — Last December, after two years of stop-and-go growth, Japan’s economic engine seemed like it might finally be revving up. Covid cases were practically nonexistent. Consumers were back on the town, shopping, eating out, traveling. The year 2021 ended on a high note, with the country’s economy expanding on an annual basis for the first time in three years.

But the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, geopolitical turmoil and supply chain snarls have once again set back Japan’s fragile economic recovery. In the first three months of the year, the country’s economy, the world’s third largest after the United States and China, shrank at an annualized rate of 1 percent, government data showed on Wednesday.

A combination of factors contributed to the decline in growth. In January, Japan had put into place new emergency measures as coronavirus case numbers, driven up by Omicron, moved toward the highest levels of the pandemic. In February, Russia invaded Ukraine, spiking energy prices. And that was before China, Japan’s largest export market and a key supplier of parts and labor to its manufacturers, imposed new lockdowns in Shanghai, throwing supply chains into chaos.

The contraction has not been as “extreme” as previous economic setbacks thanks to high levels of vaccine uptake and less wide-ranging emergency measures than during previous waves of the coronavirus, according to Shinichiro Kobayashi, principal economist at the Mitsubishi UFJ Research Institute.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

Consumer spending “will recover from the downward pressure, but because there are these negative factors, the question is how broad will that recovery be?” said Yoshiki Shinke, a senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has tried to offset the effects of price increases with large government subsidies for fuel and cash handouts for families with children. But Japanese consumers, wary of the pandemic’s economic effects, have largely been putting rounds of stimulus money into savings.

Japan’s growth is facing diverse challenges, but ultimately its recovery will depend on Covid, analysts said, a common refrain over the last two years.

While Japan has high vaccination rates and has performed better than most other wealthy countries at keeping the pandemic in check, the virus’s protean nature has made it difficult to predict its path. And that has made experts hesitant to commit to any forecasts about its future impact on global economies.

“The big risk is that corona starts to spread again,” said Naoyuki Shiraishi, an economist at the Japan Research Institute. “If a new variant appears, there will be new restrictions on activity, and that will suppress consumption.”

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KB Home Announces the Grand Opening of Three New-home Communities in the Highly Desirable and Thriving Valencia Master Plan

VALENCIA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–KB Home (NYSE: KBH) today announced the grand opening of three new-home communities in the highly desirable Valencia® master plan in Valencia, California. Sage, Vesper and Crimson feature spacious single-family homes, paired homes and townhomes in Valencia’s scenic high country. The new neighborhoods are situated just off West Magic Mountain Parkway near the Interstate 5 and Highway 126 interchange, providing easy access to the area’s major employment centers as well as shopping, dining and entertainment at Westfield Valencia Town Center. The three communities are also minutes to outdoor recreation, including hiking/biking trails and several popular golf courses. Additionally, the new neighborhoods are convenient to the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, popular beaches and other attractions.

Valencia is an exciting and thriving master plan with several new amenities, including a pool with cabanas and lounge areas as well as open space and walking trails. Future planned amenities will include shops, restaurants, additional pools and over 30 miles of interconnected trails and multimodal pathways to explore by foot, bike or Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs). Homeowners will also enjoy 10,000 acres of parks and open space and schools in the popular Newhall School District.

The single-family homes at Sage at Valencia showcase desirable design characteristics like open kitchens and great rooms perfect for entertaining, generous bedroom suites with retreats, walk-in closets and ample storage space. The community offers one- and two-story floor plans that feature up to five bedrooms and three baths, and range in size from approximately 2,300 to 2,800 square feet. Pricing begins from low $1M.

Vesper at Valencia offers a selection of paired homes that blend attractive design features like beautiful kitchens and large bedroom suites with walk-in closets as well as loft spaces and covered patios. The community’s floor plans feature up to four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, and range in size from approximately 1,700 to 2,200 square feet. Pricing begins from the low $800,000s.

The beautiful new townhomes at Crimson at Valencia offer spacious kitchens overlooking large great rooms, expansive bedroom suites and optional downstairs bedrooms or dens. The community’s floor plans feature up to four bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, and range in size from approximately 1,800 to 2,000 square feet. Pricing begins from the mid $700,000s.

“Our three new communities, Sage, Vesper and Crimson, feature spacious single-family homes, paired homes and townhomes in a picturesque setting that offer a wide selection of floor plans. The new neighborhoods are compelling additions to the highly desirable Valencia master plan, which showcases several family friendly amenities, including a pool with cabanas and lounge areas as well as open space and walking trails,” said Keltie Cole, President of KB Home’s Los Angeles and Ventura County division. “The new communities are also convenient to Interstate 5 and Highway 126, providing access to the Los Angeles metropolitan area’s major employers and attractions. As with other KB Home communities, Sage, Vesper and Crimson provide home shoppers with the opportunity to purchase a personalized, new KB home at a price that fits their lifestyle and needs.”

KB Home stands out from other homebuilders as the company gives homebuyers exceptional choice and control. KB Home starts by offering a wide variety of homes at an affordable price. From there, the builder gives buyers the ability to personalize their homes from floor plans to exterior elevations, from design options to where they live in the community. The KB Home team works hand in hand with homeowners every step of the way, so they have a real partner in the process.

Every KB home is designed to be ENERGY STAR® certified thanks to the quality construction techniques and materials utilized that ultimately deliver significant savings on utility bills compared to used homes. Additionally, all new KB homes are designed to deliver an enhanced indoor environment and include high performance ventilation systems, low- or zero-VOC products and other features guided by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor airPLUS standards.

The Sage, Vesper and Crimson sales offices and model homes are open for walk-in visits and private in-person tours by appointment. Homebuyers also have the flexibility to arrange a live video tour with a sales counselor. Pricing begins from low $1M, low $800,000s and mid $700,000s, respectively.

For more information on KB Home, call 888-KB-HOMES or visit kbhome.com.

About KB Home

KB Home is one of the largest and most recognized homebuilders in the United States and has built over 655,000 quality homes in our more than 65-year history. Today, KB Home operates in 47 markets from coast to coast. What sets KB Home apart is the exceptional personalization we offer our homebuyers — from those buying their first home to experienced buyers — allowing them to make their home uniquely their own, at a price that fits their budget. As the leader in energy-efficient homebuilding, KB Home was the first builder to make every home it builds ENERGY STAR® certified, a standard of energy performance achieved by fewer than 10% of new homes in America and has built more ENERGY STAR certified homes than any other builder. An energy-efficient KB home helps lower the cost of ownership and is designed to be healthier, more comfortable, and better for the environment than new homes without certification. We build strong, personal relationships with our customers, so they have a real partner in the homebuying process. As a result, we have the distinction of being the #1 customer-ranked national homebuilder in third-party buyer satisfaction surveys. Learn more about how we build homes built on relationships by visiting kbhome.com.

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