consumer price inflation reading at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wall Street investors will be eagerly watching the data point, which is expected to jump starting this month.
Inflation data matters because it gives an up-to-date snapshot of how much it costs Americans to buy the goods and services they regularly consume. And because the Federal Reserve is charged in part with keeping increases in prices contained, the data can influence its decisions — and those affect financial markets.
But there’s a big reason not to read too much into the expected bounce in March and April — and it lies in so-called base effects.
In March’s data, inflation is expected to rise
substantially above 2 percent.
FROM A YEAR AGO
However, some of the jump can be explained
through what’s known as base effects — prices fell
significantly last spring, so the increase now from the
year prior is larger, even if prices are not rising as
2021 Consumer price index
In March’s data, inflation is expected to rise substantially above 2 percent.
PERCENT CHANGE IN CONSUMER
PRICE INDEX FROM A YEAR AGO
However, some of the jump can be explained through what’s known as base effects —
prices fell significantly last spring, so the increase now from the year prior is larger, even
if prices are not rising as dramatically.
2021 Consumer price index
Consumer inflation is usually measured on a year-over-year basis. Statisticians take a bundle of goods and services Americans buy — everything from fresh fruit to apartment rent — and aggregate it into a price index. The inflation rate that is reported each month shows how much that index changed from one year to the next.
For a quarter century, most measures of inflation have held at low levels. The Consumer Price Index moves around a bit because of volatile food and fuel prices, but a “core” index that strips out those factors has mostly come in shy of 2 percent.
But the data reported for March and April may show something different because price indexes dropped sharply a year ago as the country went into lockdown and airlines slashed ticket costs, clothing stores discounted sweaters, and hotels saw occupancy plunge.
That means inflation measures are about to lap super-low readings, and as that low base falls out, it will cause the year-over-year percent changes to jump — a little bit in March, and then a lot in April.
To be sure, climbing prices could last for a while as businesses reopen, consumers spend down big pandemic savings and producers scramble to keep up with demand. Economists and Federal Reserve officials do not expect those increases to persist for more than a few months, but if they did, it would matter to consumers and investors alike.
But a bump in prices isn’t the kind of demand-driven inflation that would prompt the Fed to lift interest rates or slow bond buying in a bid to control prices. March’s figures are most likely just a mathematical quirk.
Grab — a ride-hailing company, bank and food delivery business all rolled into one — is set to make its debut in the largest offering by a Southeast Asian company on a U.S. stock exchange.
The company, which is based in Singapore, announced a deal on Tuesday with Altimeter Growth, a company listed for the sole purpose of buying a business. These special purpose acquisition vehicles, or SPACs, have snapped up companies over the past year at a rapid-fire pace. But this deal, which values Grab at roughly $39.6 billion, is expected to the largest such deal to date. Grab shares will trade on the Nasdaq stock exchange
The deal also includes an investment of more than $4 billion from a group that includes BlackRock, T. Rowe Price Associates and Temasek. Altimeter Capital Management, the investment firm backing the vehicle acquiring Grab, has agreed to hold certain shares in the company for at least three years.
Grab offers a “super app” that allows users to order food, pay bills and hail a car. It’s a model already popular in China, where WeChat offers a range of services, but is growing in Southeast Asia, particularly as the region builds its digital businesses. The pandemic helped propel the trend forward, with Southeast Asian consumers spending more than $10 billion online last year.
Grab acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia operations in 2018 and a digital banking license as part of a consortium in 2020. It has attracted investors including Booking Holdings, Hyundai, Microsoft, SoftBank and Toyota.
The company is going public as deal-making is flourishing in Southeast Asia. Bain, the consulting firm, said in 2018 it expected that the region would have had at least 10 unicorns, or start-ups valued at $1 billion or more, by 2024. One of those, the e-commerce company Sea, went public in the United States in 2017. Shares of the company have risen more than 400 percent over the past year, giving it a market capitalization of $125 billion.
“It gives us immense pride to represent Southeast Asia in the global public markets,” Grab’s chief executive, Anthony Tan, said in a statement. “This is a milestone in our journey to open up access for everyone to benefit from the digital economy.”
Credit Suisse said it would be able to pay back additional money to investors in funds whose troubles were among a series of disasters that have battered the Swiss bank’s reputation and finances.
The bank said it would pay an additional $1.7 billion to investors in funds linked to Greensill Capital, which collapsed last month. The latest payment means that investors will get back close to half of their money, with the prospect for more payments as Credit Suisse liquidates the funds.
Credit Suisse’s asset management unit oversaw $10 billion in funds put together by Greensill based on financing it provided to companies, many of which had low credit ratings or were not rated at all.
“There is potential for recovery in these cases although clearly there is a considerable degree of uncertainty as to the amounts that ultimately will be distributed to investors,” Credit Suisse said in a statement.
The more money that Credit Suisse can salvage from the funds, the better its chances of repairing its reputation and its ability to attract new customers. The bank has been in crisis following a series of debacles, including its disclosure last week that it will lose almost $5 billion because of money it lent to Archegos Capital Management, which crumbled this month after a high-risk stock market play went sour.
Including the $1.7 billion payment announced Tuesday, Credit Suisse has paid $4.8 billion to investors in the Greensill funds. The bank said it would take legal action to recover more money and “is engaging directly with potentially delinquent obligors and other creditors.” Some losses may be covered by insurance.
“We remain acutely aware of the uncertainty that the wind-down process creates for those of our clients who are invested in the funds,” Credit Suisse said. “We are doing everything that we can to provide them with clarity, to work through issues as they arise and, ultimately, to return cash to them.”
China has ordered 34 of its most prominent internet companies to ensure their compliance with antimonopoly rules within the next month and to submit to official inspections thereafter — with “severe punishment” promised for any illegal practices that are uncovered.
The demand, which China’s market regulator announced on Tuesday, represents the government’s latest cracking of the whip in its campaign to tighten supervision over giant internet platforms.
For years, Beijing gave internet companies wide berth to grow rich and innovate. But in China, as in the West, concerns have been growing about the ways the companies use their clout to edge out rivals, their use and abuse of algorithms and big data and their acquisitions of smaller peers. In recent months, China has begun using both regulatory enforcement actions and public shaming to keep tech companies in check.
The country’s market regulator imposed a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine on Alibaba, the e-commerce titan, on Saturday. And on Monday, Alibaba’s fintech sister company, Ant Group, unveiled a revamp of its business in response to government demands.
Officials from China’s market watchdog, internet regulator and tax authority met with the companies on Tuesday, according to the government’s statement. At the meeting, the officials “affirmed the positive role of the platform economy” but also told the companies to “give full play to the cautionary example of the Alibaba case.”
The nearly three dozen companies included almost all of the top names in the Chinese internet industry, from established titans like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu to newer powerhouses such as TikTok’s parent, ByteDance; the food delivery giant Meituan; the e-commerce site Pinduoduo; and the video platform Kuaishou.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the companies were told to strengthen their “sense of responsibility” and to “put the nation’s interests first,” the regulator’s statement said.
The stock market’s rally during the pandemic has been nothing short of amazing. But rising interest rates are raising the question of how long this bull market can last.
In the 12 months through March, the average general stock mutual fund tracked by Morningstar returned nearly 66 percent — a remarkable rebound after a three-month loss of nearly 22 percent at the start of last year.
The turnaround came after the Federal Reserve stepped in with support for financial markets and the economy, fueling much of the stock market’s exuberance with low interest rates.
But with the economy taking off, rates have begun to rise. At the start of a new quarter, it is a good moment to ask, how long can these strangely prosperous times last?
My crystal ball is no clearer now than it has ever been, alas, and I can’t time the market’s movements any better than anyone else. But this certainly is a good time to assess whether you are well positioned for a possible downward shift.
As always, the best approach for long-term investors is to set up a portfolio with a reasonable, diversified asset allocation of stocks and bonds and then live with it, come what may.
Our quarterly report on investing is intended to help. If you haven’t been an investor before, we’ve included tips on how to get started. Here you will find broad coverage of recent trends, guidance for the future and reflections on personal finance in a challenging era.
An Uneasy Exuberance in the Stock Market
It’s been a long, fine run for the stock market, but a great deal of the upswing has depended on low interest rates, and in the bond market rates have been rising. Investment strategists are taking a wide array of approaches to deal with this difficult problem. For now, the bull market rides on.
Finding Safety Through Global Diversity
Bonds provide ballast in diversified portfolios, damping the swings of the stock market and sometimes providing solid returns. Because bond yields have been rising — and yields and prices move in opposite directions — bond returns have been suffering lately. But adding a diversified selection of international bonds to domestic holdings can reduce the risk in the bond side of your investments.
It’s Not Really All That Complicated
Yes, the markets and the economy are complicated. That often puts people off, and stops them from taking action that can help them and their families immeasurably: investing. But investing need not be complicated. A succinct article gives pointers on how to get started, and on how to navigate the markets for the long haul.
NFTs Are Great, but the Real Money Is in Dollars
After a piece of virtual art known as a nonfungible token — an NFT — sold at auction for $70 million recently, NFTs have suddenly became an asset that you can invest in. Our columnist prefers real dollars.
Fossil Fuel Prices Recovered, but for How Long?
Short-term demand for oil and gas is rising, but if climate change is to be reversed, consumption of fossil fuels will have to diminish. This leaves investors in a tough spot.
ArcLight Cinemas, a beloved chain of movie theaters based in Los Angeles, including the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, will permanently close all its locations, Pacific Theaters announced on Monday, after the pandemic decimated the cinema business.
ArcLight’s locations in and around Hollywood have played host to many a movie premiere, in addition to being favorite spots for moviegoers seeking out blockbusters and prestige titles. They are operated by Pacific Theaters, which also manages a handful of theaters under the Pacific name, and are owned by Decurion.
“After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters locations,” the company said in a statement.
“This was not the outcome anyone wanted,” it added, “but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward.”
Between the Pacific and ArcLight brands, the company owned 16 theaters and more than 300 screens.
The movie theater business has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. But in recent weeks, the majority of the country’s largest theater chains, including AMC and Regal Cinemas, have reopened in anticipation of the slate of Hollywood films that have been put back on the calendar, many after repeated delays because of pandemic restrictions. A touch of optimism is even in the air as a result of the Warner Bros. movie “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which has generated some $70 million in box office receipts since opening over Easter weekend.
Still, the industry’s trade organization, the National Association of Theater Owners, has long warned that the punishing closures were most likely to affect smaller regional players like ArcLight and Pacific. In March, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, which operates about 40 locations across the country, announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but would keep most of its locations operational while it restructured.
That does not seem to be the case for Pacific Theaters, which, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, fired its entire staff on Monday.
The reaction to ArcLight’s closing around Hollywood has been emotional, including an outpouring on Twitter.
Devastating. Too many losses to process. It’s just too much… At some point when I’m less upset, I’ll tell you guys a funny story about my first time meeting Quentin Tarantino in the lobby of Hollywood Arclight. https://t.co/cFypJxEk4L
— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) April 13, 2021
The election technology company Smartmatic pushed back on Monday against Fox News’s argument that it had covered the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election responsibly, stating that Fox anchors had played along as guests pushed election-related conspiracy theories.
“The First Amendment does not provide the Fox defendants a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Smartmatic’s lawyer, J. Erik Connolly, wrote in a brief filed in New York State Supreme Court. “The Fox defendants do not get a do-over with their reporting now that they have been sued.”
The brief came in response to motions filed by Fox Corporation and three current and former Fox hosts — Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs — to dismiss a Smartmatic lawsuit accusing them of defamation.
Smartmatic and another company, Dominion Voting Systems, became the focus of baseless conspiracy theories after the Nov. 4 election that they had manipulated vote totals in contested states. Those conspiracy theories were pushed by Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, serving as personal lawyers to former President Donald J. Trump, on Fox News, Mr. Trump’s longtime network of choice. Smartmatic, which says that the conspiracy theories destroyed its reputation and its business, provided election technology in only one county during the election.
Last month, Dominion also sued Fox News. Together, the two suits represent a billion-dollar challenge to the Fox empire, which, after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit, canceled the Fox Business program hosted by Mr. Dobbs.
“The filing only confirms our view that the suit is meritless and Fox News covered the election in the highest tradition of the First Amendment,” the network said in a statement late Monday.
Fox’s motion, as well as those of its anchors, argued that the mentions of Smartmatic were part of its reporting on a newsworthy event that it was duty-bound to cover: A president’s refusal to concede an election and his insistence that his opponent’s victory was not legitimate.
But the response Smartmatic filed on Monday, which runs for 120 pages, said that argument amounted to wishful thinking and that Fox had not covered the claims about Smartmatic objectively or fairly.
“The Fox defendants wedded themselves to Giuliani and Powell during their programs,” the brief said. “They cannot distance themselves now.”
Fox will have several weeks to respond to the brief, and a judge will eventually consider whether to allow Smartmatic’s case to proceed.
Reporters from multiple local organizations were denied entry to a news conference on Monday about the shooting of Daunte Wright, whose death at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota has set off protests.
Mr. Wright, 20-year-old Black man, was killed by the officer on Sunday during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. As national and international media flooded in, Brooklyn Center officials organized a news conference for Monday to address the shooting and release body-camera video.
Andy Mannix, a federal courts reporter for The Star Tribune, the largest newspaper in Minnesota, said on Twitter that he and his colleagues were denied access to the news conference while he watched national and international media be let in.
Suki Dardarian, a senior managing editor of The Star Tribune, said in an email that the paper had sent three journalists to the news conference. Two were denied entry, while one, a videojournalist, was able to get in, she said.
A spokeswoman for Minnesota Public Radio said that credentialed M.P.R. journalists also were not granted access. An article in The Star Tribune said journalists from the Minnesota Reformer, a nonprofit newsroom, were also denied.
Ms. Dardarian said local media should be allowed to attend police news conferences and ask questions.
“We were offered no explanation for why the reporter and photographer were not allowed in (as well as some other local journalists), except for someone saying the room was full,” Ms. Dardarian said. “Our videojournalist observed that there was still space in the room.”
“The chief indicated in his remarks that he is committed to transparency,” she said. “We believe that should include allowing the local media to attend a press conference to which they were invited — and agreeing to answer our questions following his statement.”
Dan Shelley, the executive director of Radio Television Digital News Association, a national industry group, said local journalists should be included in news conferences because they are part of the communities on which they’re reporting.
“If you have a genuine desire to be transparent, why would you exclude local journalists from a news conference?” Mr. Shelley said.
The city of Brooklyn Center and the city’s police department did not respond to requests for comment.
We don’t know exactly what Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, will present when she becomes the country’s first woman to deliver a federal budget later this month. But the Liberal government has made it abundantly clear that economic and employment recovery will be its broad theme.
paints a dire picture for one group of workers whose employment is threatened by much more than the pandemic. It forecasts that as the world grapples with climate change, reduced demand for oil and gas will cause to 50 to 75 percent of 600,000 jobs in Canada’s energy sector to vanish.
Beata Caranci, the bank’s chief economist and the main author of the report, told me that while she anticipates the budget will include something for energy workers, the work to transition them to new jobs in the low carbon world should already be underway.
hollowing out of middle income jobs. Wealth and jobs, in turn, became concentrated in a handful of cities.
But in Canada the loss of manufacturing work was offset by well paying jobs in the expanding Canadian energy industry. The rise of fly-in, fly-out work, in which residents of Atlantic Canada and elsewhere commuted to jobs in the oil sands, spread those economic benefits around the country.
visited Canada regularly from 1951, Marilyn Berger writes that he “tried to shepherd into the 20th century a monarchy encrusted with the trappings of the 19th. But as pageantry was upstaged by scandal, as regal weddings were followed by sensational divorces, his mission, as he saw it, changed. Now it was to help preserve the crown itself.” And in Opinion, Tina Brown, author of the forthcoming book “The Palace Papers,” offers her assessment of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Canada is among the nations seized by vaccine envy.
Robert A. Mundell, the Nobel Prize winning economist who was born in Kingston, Ontario, has died. He championed the idea that low tax rates and easy fiscal policies should be used to spur economies, and that higher interest rates and tight monetary policy were the proper tools to curb inflation. Former President Ronald Reagan embraced Professor Mundell’s ideas. Their effects remain a matter of debate.
Vaccine passports might reopen the world. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among those concerned fairness of a two-tier system for haves and have-nots.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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With Covid-19 vaccinations accelerating, attention is turning to tools for people to prove that they have been inoculated and potentially bypass the suffocating restrictions used to fight the pandemic.
Though the idea is meeting some resistance over privacy and equity concerns, several types of coronavirus vaccination records, sometimes called “vaccine passports,” already exist, in paper and digital form. Hundreds of airlines, governments and other organizations are experimenting with new, electronic versions, and the number grows daily, although so far their use has been very limited.
Portable vaccine records are an old idea: Travelers to many parts of the world, children enrolling in school and some health care workers have long had to supply them as proof that they have been vaccinated against diseases.
But vaccine passports use digital tools that take the concept to new levels of sophistication, and experts predict that electronic verification will soon become commonplace, particularly for international air travel, but also for admission to crowded spaces like theaters.
“yellow card,” used for decades by travelers to show inoculation against diseases like yellow fever. But those are on paper, filled out by hand and fairly vulnerable to forgery.
The tool might have to address several variables: It is unclear how long inoculation lasts, there can be bad batches and the emergence of new variants of the virus are likely to require new vaccines. So in the long run, an electronic record might need to show which specific vaccine a person received, from which batch and when.
More than a dozen competing versions are already being developed and promoted.
using CommonPass, developed by the Commons Project, a Swiss-based nonprofit, with support from the World Economic Forum. Lufthansa passengers flying into the United States can also use it.
The same month, Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to make limited use of Travel Pass for people flying between Singapore and London, and will put it into wide use in May.
Also in March, New York State became the first government in the United States to implement a system, the Excelsior Pass, developed with IBM, which some venues have used to prove vaccination. The governors of Florida and Texas have vowed to block any such system in their states, calling it government overreach and an invasion of privacy.
Vaccine Credential Initiative, to develop a broadly agreed-upon set of open standards, meaning that the software underlying a verification system is transparent and it can adapt easily to other systems, while safeguarding privacy. The W.H.O. has a similar initiative, the Smart Vaccination Certificate.
But several companies are creating closed, proprietary systems that they hope to sell to clients, and some apparently would have access to users’ information.
One concern is that a profusion of systems might not be compatible, defeating the purpose of making it easy to check someone’s status.
Another objection is that any requirement to prove vaccination status would discriminate against those who can’t get the shot or refuse to, and there is lingering uncertainty about how well inoculation prevents virus transmission.
For those reasons, the W.H.O. said this week that it does not support requiring proof of vaccination for travel — for now.
LONDON — For Aruba, a Caribbean idyll that has languished since the pandemic drove away its tourists, the concept of a “vaccine passport” is not just intriguing. It is a “lifeline,” said the prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes.
Aruba is already experimenting with a digital certificate that allows visitors from the United States who tested negative for the coronavirus to breeze through the airport and hit the beach without delay. Soon, it may be able to fast-track those who arrive with digital confirmation that they have been vaccinated.
“People don’t want to stand in line, especially with social distancing,” Ms. Wever-Croes said in an interview this week. “We need to be ready in order to make it hassle-free and seamless for the travelers.”
Vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the key to unlocking the world after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns — a few bytes of personal health data, encoded on a chip, that could put an end to suffocating restrictions and restore the freewheeling travel that is a hallmark of the age of globalization. From Britain to Israel, these passports are taking shape or already in use.
But they are also stirring complicated political and ethical debates about discrimination, inequality, privacy and fraud. And at a practical level, making them work seamlessly around the globe will be a formidable technical challenge.
The debate may play out differently in tourism- or trade-dependent outposts like Aruba and Singapore, which view passports primarily as a tool to reopen borders, than it will in vast economies like the United States or China, which have starkly divergent views on civil liberties and privacy.
The Biden administration said this week that it would not push for a mandatory vaccination credential or a federal vaccine database, attesting to the sensitive political and legal issues involved. In the European Union and Britain, which have taken tentative steps toward vaccine passports, leaders are running into thorny questions over their legality and technical feasibility.
And in Japan, which has lagged the United States and Britain in vaccinating its population, the debate has scarcely begun. There are grave misgivings there about whether passports would discriminate against people who cannot get a shot for medical reasons or choose not to be vaccinated.
Japan, like other Asian countries, has curbed the virus mainly through strict border controls.
“Whether or not to get vaccinated is up to the individual,” said Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura. “The government should respond so that people won’t be disadvantaged by their decision.”
Still, almost everywhere, the pressure to restart international travel is forcing the debate. With tens of millions of people vaccinated, and governments desperate to reopen their economies, businesses and individuals are pushing to regain more freedom of movement. Verifying whether someone is inoculated is the simplest way to do that.
“There’s a very important distinction between international travel and domestic uses,” said Paul Meyer, the founder of the Commons Project, a nonprofit trust that is developing CommonPass, a scannable code that contains Covid testing and vaccination data for travelers. Aruba was the first government to sign up for it.
“There doesn’t seem to be any pushback on showing certification if I want to travel to Greece or Cyprus,” he said, pointing out that schools require students to be vaccinated against measles and many countries demand proof of yellow fever vaccinations. “From a public health perspective, it’s not fair to say, ‘You have no right to check whether I’m going to infect you.’”
CommonPass is one of multiple efforts by technology companies and others to develop reliable, efficient systems to verify the medical status of passengers — a challenge that will deepen as more people resume traveling.
At Heathrow Airport in London, which is operating at a fraction of its normal capacity, arriving passengers have had to line up for hours while immigration officials check whether they have proof of a negative test result and have purchased a mandatory kit to test themselves twice more after they enter the country.
Saudi Arabia announced this week that pilgrims visiting the mosques in Mecca and Medina during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would have to show proof on a mobile app of being “immunized,” which officials defined as having been fully vaccinated, having gotten a single dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before arrival, or having recovered from Covid.
In neighboring United Arab Emirates, residents can show their vaccination status on a certificate through a government-developed app. So far, the certificate is not yet widely required for anything beyond entering the capital, Abu Dhabi, from abroad.
Few countries have gone farther in experimenting with vaccine passports than Israel. It is issuing a “Green Pass” that allows people who are fully vaccinated to go to bars, restaurants, concerts and sporting events. Israel has vaccinated more than half its population and the vast majority of its older people, which makes such a system useful but raises a different set of questions.
With people under 16 not yet eligible for the vaccine, the system could create a generational divide, depriving young people of access to many of the pleasures of their elders. So far, enforcement of the Green Pass has been patchy, and in any event, Israel has kept its borders closed.
So has China, which remains one of the most sealed-off countries in the world. In early March, the Chinese government announced it would begin issuing an “international travel health certificate,” which would record a user’s vaccination status, as well as the results of antibody tests. But it did not say whether the certificate would spare the user from China’s draconian quarantines.
Nor is it clear how eager other countries would be to recognize China’s certificate, given that Chinese companies have been slow in disclosing data from clinical trials of their homegrown vaccines.
Singapore has also maintained strict quarantines, even as it searches for way to restart foreign travel. Last week, it said it would begin rolling out a digital health passport, allowing passengers to use a mobile app to share their coronavirus test results before flying into the island nation.
Free movement across borders is the goal of the European Union’s “Digital Green Certificate.” The European Commission last month set out a plan for verifying vaccination status, which would allow a person to travel freely within the bloc. It left it up to its 27 member states to decide how to collect the health data.
That could avoid the pitfalls of the European Union’s vaccine rollout, which was heavily managed by Brussels and has been far slower than that in the United States or Britain. Yet analysts noted that in data collection, there is a trade-off between decentralized and centralized systems: the former tends to be better at protecting privacy but less efficient; the latter, more intrusive but potentially more effective.
“Given the very unequal access to vaccines we are witnessing in continental Europe, there is also an issue of equal opportunity and potential discrimination,” said Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.
For some countries, the legal and ethical implications have been a major stumbling block to domestic use of a passport. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada put it last month, “There are questions of fairness and justice.”
And yet in Britain, which has a deeply rooted aversion to national ID cards, the government is moving gingerly in that direction. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week outlined broad guidelines for a Covid certificate, which would record vaccination status, test results, and whether the holder had recovered from Covid, which confers a degree of natural immunity for an unknown duration.
Mr. Johnson insisted that shops, pubs and restaurants would not be required to demand the certificate, though they could opt to do so on their own. That did not stop dozens of lawmakers, from his Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party, from opposing the plan on grounds that were legal, ethical and plainly commercial — that it could keep people out of the country’s beloved pubs.
Government officials now suggest that the plan is targeted less at pubs and restaurants and more at higher-risk settings, like nightclubs and sporting events.
“Would we rather have a system where no one can go to a sports ground or theater?” said Jonathan Sumption, a former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s strict lockdowns. “It’s better to have a vaccine passport than a blanket rule which excludes these pleasures from everybody.”
Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle in London, Motoko Rich in Tokyo, Shashank Bengali in Singapore, Vivian Wang in Hong Kong, Vivian Yee in Cairo, Asmaa al-Omar in Beirut, and Ian Austen in Ottawa.
HONG KONG — Political opposition has been quashed. Free speech has been stifled. The independent court system may be next.
But while Hong Kong’s top leaders take a tougher line on the city of more than seven million people, they are courting a crucial constituency: the rich. Top officials are preparing a new tax break and other sweeteners to portray Hong Kong as the premier place in Asia to make money, despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly autocratic rule.
So far, the pitch is working. Cambridge Associates, a $30 billion investment fund, said in March it planned to open an office in the city. Investment managers have set up more than a hundred new companies in recent months. The Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are increasing their Hong Kong staffing.
“Hong Kong is second only to New York as the world’s billionaire city,” said Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, at an online gathering of finance executives this year.
erupted two years ago. At the same time, it is trying to charm the city’s financial class to keep it from moving to another business-friendly place like Singapore.
“It is a one-party state, but they are pragmatic and they don’t want to hurt business,” Fred Hu, a former chairman of Goldman’s Greater China business, said of Chinese officials.
For apolitical financial types, the changes will have little impact, said Mr. Hu, who is also the founder of the private equity firm Primavera Capital Group. “If you’re a banker or a trader, you may have political views, but you’re not a political activist,” he said.
flowed out of local Hong Kong bank accounts and into jurisdictions like Singapore.
Tensions run taut inside Hong Kong’s gleaming office towers. Even executives who are sympathetic to the government have declined to speak publicly for fear of getting caught in the political crossfire between Beijing and world capitals like Washington and London. Hong Kong’s tough rules on movement in the pandemic may also spark some expatriates to leave in the summer once school ends.
Today in Business
For now, however, financial firms are doubling down on Hong Kong. Neal Horwitz, an executive recruiter in Singapore, said finance was likely to remain in Hong Kong “until the ship goes down.”
carried interest, which is typically earned by private equity investors and hedge funds. Officials had discussed the plan for years but didn’t introduce a bill until February, and it could pass in the coming months through the city’s Beijing-dominated legislature.
sparked criticism elsewhere, including in the United States. But Hong Kong fears a financial exodus without such benefits, said Maurice Tse, a finance professor at Hong Kong University’s business school.
“To keep these people around we have to give a tax benefit,” he said.
Hong Kong has also proposed a program, Wealth Management Connect, that would give mainland residents in the southern region known as the Greater Bay Area the ability to invest in Hong Kong-based hedge funds and investment firms. Officials have boasted that it would give foreign firms access to 72 million people. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials signed an agreement in February to start a pilot program at an unspecified time.
Pandemic travel restrictions have slowed the proposal’s momentum, said King Au, the executive director of Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, but it remains a top priority.
“I want to highlight how important the China market is to global investors,” Mr. Au said.
Mainland money has already helped Hong Kong look more attractive. Chinese firms largely fueled a record $52 billion haul for companies that sold new shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last year, according to Dealogic, a data provider. New offerings this year have already raised $16 billion, including $5.4 billion for Kuaishou, which operates a Chinese video app. The record start has been helped in part by Chinese companies that have been pressured by Washington to avoid raising money in the United States.
triple its hires across China, and a spokeswoman said a Hong Kong staff increase was part of that. Bank of America is adding more people in Hong Kong, while Citi has said it will hire as many as 1,700 people in Hong Kong this year alone.
hew to the party line. Still, it is considering moving some of its top executives to Hong Kong, because it will be “important to be closer to growth opportunities,” Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said in February.
Investment funds are flocking to Hong Kong, too, after officials in August lowered regulatory barriers to setting up legal structures similar to those used in low-tax, opaque jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Government data shows that 154 funds have been registered since then.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, and Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party’s No. 3 official, at one point owned Hong Kong property, according to a trail that can be traced partly through public records.
While officials have welcomed business, they have made clear to the financial and business worlds that they will brook no dissent. In March, Han Zheng, a Chinese vice premier, praised the stock market’s performance and the finance sector in a meeting with a political advisory group but made its limits clear.
“The signal to the business community is very simple,” said Michael Tien, a former Hong Kong lawmaker and businessman who attended the closed-door session. “Stay out of politics.”
BANGKOK — Nearly three months after Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crashed into the Java Sea, Indonesian officials announced Wednesday that they had recovered the memory module of the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder by pumping up mud and sand from the seafloor.
The crucial memory unit, which apparently broke loose from the cockpit voice recorder on impact, could reveal the final words of the pilot and co-pilot as the Boeing 737-500 plummeted into the sea on Jan. 9.
The module was recovered Tuesday night and brought to shore Wednesday by a Coast Guard ship. Officials said they believed the module was still functional and that it would take three days to a week to download and read its data.
The aircraft crashed minutes after taking off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, killing all 62 people aboard, including six active crew members.
difference in the level of thrust between the plane’s two engines might have contributed to the aircraft rolling over before it plunged into the sea.
A difference in the level of thrust — the force of the engines that propels the aircraft forward — can make planes difficult to control, but it is unclear why that problem may have occurred during the Sriwijaya flight.
Officials hope that the recovered memory module will shed some light on why the pilot and co-pilot were unable to recover control of the plane, which plummeted more than 10,000 feet in less than a minute.
“Without the cockpit voice recorder, it would be very difficult to know the cause in this Sriwijaya 182 case,” Mr. Soerjanto said.
The Sriwijaya aircraft was the third to crash into the Java Sea in just over six years after departing from airports on Java, one of Indonesia’s five main islands.
In December 2014, Air Asia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea off the coast of Borneo with 162 people aboard as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. Investigators eventually attributed the disaster to the failure of a key component on the Airbus A320-200 and an improper response by the flight crew.
nose-dived into the Java Sea northeast of Jakarta minutes after taking off for Pangkal Pinang with 189 aboard. Investigators concluded that the anti-stall system malfunctioned on the Boeing 737 Max, a newer model than the Boeing that crashed in January.
In U.S.-China diplomatic circles, Tzu-i Chuang was once referred to as the “most famous diplomatic wife” and credited with helping the U.S. score soft-power points with Chinese people at a time when few others could.
The wife of the former U.S. consul general in Chengdu, Jim Mullinax, she was a popular Taiwanese-American food writer and budding musician who amassed a huge following on Chinese social media, where more than half a million fans followed her posts on cooking and music even as political tensions were rising between the U.S. and China. In 2019, as the U.S. and China traded tariffs, she was named cultural and tourism ambassador for Chengdu city.
Then, in July, Chinese social-media users turned against her. They seized on a comment she had made in an earlier post—one she later said she regretted—and flooded her social-media feeds with vitriol for months. The online attack on her was both encouraged by state media and unusual for how long it lasted, according to experts who study Chinese media.
Ms. Chuang’s transformation from celebrity to pariah offers a vivid window into rising Chinese anger at the U.S. It also highlights a challenge for the Biden administration as it builds a strategy for dealing with Beijing at a time when political tensions have eroded the diplomatic and cultural ties between the two countries.
“This groundswell of anger is something the new administration needs to keep in mind if it seeks to rebuild people-to-people exchanges,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and a former senior U.S. Defense Department official, referring to the attacks on Ms. Chuang.
LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.
At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.
The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.
Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.
At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.
The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.
Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.
Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.
Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.
Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.
Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.
After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.
For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.
GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.
The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.
BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.
insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.
an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.
While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.
“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”
Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.
The benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 — namely, protection against a dangerous virus — should be obvious by this stage in the pandemic.
If that isn’t sufficient motivation, consider the swag.
Businesses across the United States and beyond are offering free merchandise and other stuff to people who receive Covid shots. The perks include free rides, doughnuts, money, arcade tokens and even marijuana.
Experts in behavioral motivation say that offering incentives is not necessarily the most effective or cost-efficient way to increase vaccine uptake. But that hasn’t stopped the freebies from piling up.
In Cleveland, the Market Garden Brewery is offering 10-cent beers to the first 2021 people who show a Covid-19 vaccine certificate. “Yes, you read that right,” the brewery says on its website. “Ten Cents.”
prerolled joint until the end of the month.
Chobani provides free yogurt at some vaccination sites. And Krispy Kreme said on Monday that for the rest of the year, it would give one glazed doughnut per day to anyone who provides proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.
As vaccinations accelerated across the United States, “We made the decision that said, ‘Hey, we can support the next act of joy,’ which is, if you come by, show us a vaccine card, get a doughnut any time, any day, every day if you choose to,” the company’s chief executive, Michael Tattersfield, told Fox News.
The Krispy Kreme initiative is no relation to the “vaccinated doughnuts” that were sold last month by a bakery in Germany, garnished with plastic syringes that dispense a sweet, lemony-ginger amuse-bouche. It also does not entitle vaccinated Americans to endless doughnuts, as Mr. Tattersfield seemed to imply in his Fox News interview — just one per day, as the company notes on its website.
In a promotion it is calling “Tokens for Poke’ns,” Up-Down, a chain of bars featuring vintage arcade games, is offering $5 in free tokens to guests who present a completed vaccination card. Up-Down, which has six locations in five Midwestern states, is extending the offer to guests who visit within three weeks of their final dose.
Cleveland Cinemas, a movie-theater chain in Ohio, is offering a free 44-ounce popcorn at two of its locations to anyone who presents a vaccination card through April 30.
The Times of Israel reported.
Presenting cards for so many promotions might cause some wear and tear. To protect the cards from damage, Staples is offering to laminate them at no charge after customers have received their final dose. The promotion runs through May 1.
Some vaccine perks flow from corporations to their employees. Tyson Foods, Trader Joe’s and others pay for the time it takes them to get vaccinated, while Kroger pays them a $100 bonus.
study, Ms. Dai and her colleagues found that text messages could boost uptake of influenza vaccinations. The most effective texts were framed as reminders to get shots that were already reserved for the patient. They also resembled the kind of communication that patients expect to receive from health care providers.
Jon Bogard, a graduate student at U.C.L.A. who contributed to the study, said that policymakers should proceed with caution on incentives because they can sometimes backfire. One problem is that the campaigns are expensive, he said. Another is that people receiving shots could see a large incentive as a sign that “vaccines are riskier than they in fact are.”
A better alternative, Mr. Bogard said, could be handing out “low-personal-value, high-social-value” objects — like stickers and badges — that tap into a larger sense of “social motivation and accountability.”
There appears to be no shortage of such swag swirling around the world’s hospitals and vaccination clinics.
Hartford, Conn., people receiving shots can pick up an “I got my Covid-19 vaccination” sticker bearing the home team’s mascot, a goat.
If you aren’t satisfied with the vaccine-related style accouterment at your local clinic, there are plenty of options available for purchase online.
One badge — “I got my Fauci ouchi” — pays homage to America’s best-known doctor, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.
WASHINGTON—An alleged North Korean intelligence operative appeared in federal court in Washington on Monday to face charges of laundering funds to evade U.S. and United Nations sanctions, in the first such prosecution of its kind as relations between the Biden administration and North Korea have had a rocky start.
Mun Chol Myong was extradited from Malaysia last week after waging a nearly two-year legal battle against the U.S. request. Mr. Mun is the first North Korean national to be brought to the U.S. from overseas to face criminal charges, U.S. authorities said. The move prompted Pyongyang to cut off ties with Kuala Lumpur.
According to an indictment unsealed Monday, Mr. Mun worked for a Singapore-based company and was affiliated with North Korea’s intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau. He relocated to Malaysia after Singapore expelled him in 2017 for violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea, the indictment said. Between 2013 to 2018, Mr. Mun conspired with others to process some $1.5 million in transactions that violated U.S. and U.N. sanctions, prosecutors said.
As part of the scheme, according to the indictment, Mr. Mun’s company procured sensitive technology, agricultural commodities and luxury goods including liquor and tobacco for North Korean customers. The company used another hair-and-beauty-products front company to make payments in U.S. dollars and hide any connections to North Korea, the indictment said.
North Korea has denied the accusations against Mr. Mun, saying he was engaged in legal business activities. At a brief court hearing on Monday, Mr. Mun appeared via videoconference from a U.S. jail and spoke through a translator. He said he was 55 years old and asked the court to appoint a federal public defender as his attorney, because he had no access to his assets in North Korea. A prosecutor said the U.S. government would seek to detain Mr. Mun before his trial, and he is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in the coming weeks.