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  • Oil Holds Gains With Stockpiles Draw Adding to Vaccine Optimism
    Business
    Bloomberg

    Oil Holds Gains With Stockpiles Draw Adding to Vaccine Optimism

    (Bloomberg) -- Oil held gains at an eight-month high after a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles and a weaker dollar supported prices that have been boosted by vaccine breakthroughs.Futures in New York were steady near $46 a barrel after closing up 1.8% on Wednesday. U.S. oil inventories fell by 754,000 barrels last week, government data show, compared with forecasts for a build. A dollar index was near a two-year low, boosting the appeal of commodities priced in the currency.Crude has jumped around 27% in November as signs Covid-19 vaccines could soon be rolled out led to expectations for a swift recovery in energy demand next year, while also reshaping the oil futures curve. Chinese and Indian refiners, meanwhile, have issued a flurry of buy tenders seeking crude for loading in January, highlighting the strong demand coming from parts of Asia.The rapid price gains pose a headache for OPEC+ before its meeting next week to decide whether to postpone a planned increase in output, as it gives members who want to pump more scope to argue a delay is unnecessary. In the latest sign of rifts within the group, Iraq’s deputy leader said that OPEC should take members’ economic and political conditions into account when deciding production quotas rather than adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach.See also: Iraq Voices Frustration With OPEC Days Before Crunch Meeting“The U.S. crude inventory data fits the market narrative, but with the OPEC meeting on Monday, gains will be more cautious from here,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at Oanda Asia Pacific. Iraq and the U.A.E. are making noises but it’s unlikely OPEC+ will surprise by going ahead with output increases from January, he said.In what’s possibly a harbinger of better U.S.-Chinese relations, President Xi Jinping broke his silence on Joe Biden’s election win. The Chinese leader sent the U.S. president-elect a message that he hopes to “manage differences” and focus on cooperation between the world’s two largest economies. Any easing of tensions would likely support economic growth and aid energy demand.The Energy Information Administration report also showed a decline in inventories at the storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma and the 10th straight draw in distillate supplies. But there were some bearish data points: gasoline stockpiles rose by over 2 million barrels and oil production ticked higher.Brent’s one-year timespread flipped into backwardation, a sign of tighter supplies, this week. Oil has also been supported by renewed tensions in the Middle East, with attacks on a fuel depot in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah and on an oil tanker at a terminal on the Red Sea.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • South Korean chat room operator gets 40 years for blackmail
    News
    The Canadian Press

    South Korean chat room operator gets 40 years for blackmail

    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The operator of an online chat room in South Korea was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for blackmailing dozens of women, including minors, into filming sexually explicit video and selling them to others.The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho Ju-bin, 24, of violating the laws on protecting minors and organizing a criminal ring, court spokesman Kim Yong Chan said.The court ruled Cho “used various methods to lure and blackmail a large number of victims into making sexually abusive contents and distributed them to many people for an extended period,” according to Kim. “He particularly disclosed the identities of many victims and inflicted irreparable damages to them.”Cho has maintained he only cheated victims into making such video but didn’t blackmail or coerce them, forcing some of the victims to testify in court.Kim said the court decided to isolate Cho from society for a prolonged period in consideration of his attitude and the seriousness and evil influence of his crime.Both Cho and prosecutors, who had requested a life sentence, have one week to appeal.Cho and seven accomplices were arrested or indicted in June for allegedly producing sexually abusive video of 74 victims, 16 of them minors, and distributing them on the Telegram messaging app where users paid in cryptocurrency to watch them in 2019-2020.A prosecutors’ statement called Cho’s group “a criminal ring” of 38 members. On Thursday, the Seoul court sentenced five of Cho’s accomplices, one of them a 16-year-old, up to 15 years in prison.When he was shown before the media following his arrest, Cho said “Thank you for stopping the life of a devil (I) couldn’t stop.”Cho’s case has triggered intense public uproar and soul-searching in South Korea over a culture that some experts say is too lenient about sexual violence and continuously fails the victims. President Moon Jae-in earlier called for thorough investigation and stern punishment for those operating such chatrooms like Cho’s and their users.In recent years, South Korea has been struggling to cope with what the government describes as digital sex crimes, which aside from the abusive chatrooms also include the spread of intimate photos and videos taken by smartphones or tiny spy cameras hidden in public spaces and buildings, an issue that triggered massive protests in 2018.Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

  • The Latest: Germany passes over 15,000 virus deaths
    News
    The Canadian Press

    The Latest: Germany passes over 15,000 virus deaths

    BERLIN — Germany has passed the grim milestone of more than 15,000 deaths from the coronavirus.The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control centre, said Thursday that another 389 deaths were recorded overnight, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 15,160.Germany has seen 983,588 total cases of the coronavirus after adding 22,368 overnight, the agency said.Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open.It was initially slated to last four weeks but Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors agreed late Wednesday to extend it through Dec. 20 with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. It’s currently at 140 per 100,000.Merkel said that while existing measures have succeeded in halting an surge in new coronavirus infections, they have stabilized at a high level.___HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Americans risk travelling over Thanksgiving despite warnings— Congress braces for Biden’s national coronavirus strategy— Pandemic gave locals fleeting taste of a tourist-free Hawaii— To avoid any traces of the coronavirus that might be lurking on surfaces, Americans have been wiping down groceries, wearing surgical gloves in public and leaving mail packages out for an extra day or two. But experts say the national fixation on scrubbing can sometimes be overkill.— California has reported a record number of coronavirus cases on the eve of Thanksgiving. More than 18,000 COVID-19 infections were reported Wednesday.— Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a bizarre scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy’s Aosta valley.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded more than 500 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours for the first time in about eight months as health authorities struggle to contain a fresh surge of infections.The Asian nation has been experiencing a spike in cases since it relaxed stringent social distancing rules last month. To deal with the latest surge, the country on Tuesday re-imposed tough distancing guidelines in Seoul and some other areas.South Korea’s cases initially peaked last February and March, with officials reporting hundreds of fresh cases daily, mostly tied to a religious sect. Another major outbreak came during the summer, and was mostly tied to the greater Seoul area.Officials say the latest bout is worrisome because there are many cluster infections tied to a variety of sources.___BEIJING — China is reporting nine new coronavirus cases in the vast Inner Mongolia region, where authorities have closed schools, suspended flights, shuttered public venues and banned banquets and other gatherings.The cluster has been centred on Manzhouli, a city of more than 200,000 people on the border with Russia. Authorities ordered testing of all residents to detect new cases after the country’s latest local outbreak first emerged late last week. Ground transport to and from the city has been largely cut off and movement around the city restricted.Elsewhere in China, local infections have also been reported lately in the financial hub of Shanghai and the northern port of Tianjin, although the government’s pandemic update Thursday listed no new cases in those cities.___KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s two largest metropolitan areas are cracking down on restaurants that violate rules designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.Kansas City’s authorities found two dozen bars and restaurants in violation of the city’s new pandemic restrictions after a weekend sweep of 185 establishments. Previously, the city relied primarily on complaints to enforce the rules.The new rules limit bars and restaurants to 50% capacity and require closing by 10 p.m..Meanwhile, officials in St. Louis County have sent certified letters to three dozen bars and businesses ordering them to cease indoor service or face lawsuits or criminal charges.___ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Officials in Anchorage, Alaska, are imposing new pandemic restrictions for December that will prohibit bars and restaurants from offering indoor service, require employers to allow people to work from home if possible and limit many businesses to 25% capacity.Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson said Wednesday that the rules are needed to deal with increasing coronavirus infections in Anchorage, which is Alaska’s biggest city. The rules take effect Tuesday and run through Jan. 1.As of Wednesday, the city has recorded 15,100 coronavirus cases. Of those, 2,115 were reported in the last week. The city has had 66 deaths from COVID.19.___NEW YORK — A new government report says the U.S. is still missing nearly eight coronavirus infections for every one counted.By the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that as many as 53 million Americans had been infected. That is just under eight times the confirmed cases reported at the time.Previously, the CDC estimated that one of every 10 infections were being missed.The latest CDC calculation is meant to give a more accurate picture of how many people actually have caught the virus since the pandemic began. Of the 53 million estimated infections, the CDC says about 45 million were sick at some point and about 2.4 million were hospitalized.___SALEM, Oregon — Oregon’s governor says bars and restaurants can reopen for limited outdoor service next week but many restrictions will remain in place until a vaccine against the coronavirus is widely available.In making the announcement Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown urged Oregonians to stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday and protect others by not ignoring safety protocols, like wearing masks and limiting personal contacts.The revamped pandemic restrictions take effect when the current two-week “freeze” expires Dec. 3. Currently, only take-out restaurant service is allowed. The restaurant industry pushed hard against the restrictions as several eateries closed for good and others were at risk of doing so.___CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, but has only minor symptoms.Gordon said Wednesday that he plans to continue working remotely.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who test positive for the virus isolate themselves for 10 days.Gordon said on Nov. 13 that Wyoming residents need to be more responsible about preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In his words, “We’ve relied on people to be responsible, and they’re being irresponsible,” Gordon joins nearly 26,700 Wyoming residents who have tested positive.___OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Wednesday that public schools will be allowed to offer in-school quarantines for students exposed to the virus.Schools in Mustang became the first in the state to adopt the policy, the department said.Effective from Nov. 30 through Dec. 23, the policy would allow students to quarantine in school.Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said students who tested positive for COVID-19 and students who had interactions with the infected student would have previously moved to distance learning for 14 days.Under the new policy, students who are quarantined will be allowed to go to school to take part in virtual classes, but will be kept out of individual classrooms in buildings such as gyms or an auditorium where they would be socially distanced and must wear masks.___SAN JOSE, Calif. — Officials in Santa Clara County said they will ramp up enforcement of state health orders during the holiday weekend to make sure businesses follow the permitted capacity, employees and customers wear masks at all times and social distance guidelines are being followed.With Thanksgiving week kicking off the holiday shopping season, compliance officers will fan out throughout the Silicon Valley county starting Thursday and at least through Sunday with the help of firefighters who normally enforce capacity issues for fire codes. They will be able to issue fines on the spot starting at $250.Until now, most California counties have taken an education approach, issuing warnings instead of fines.But the county recorded its highest individual new case count for a day and has only 68 available ICU beds, testing officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said Wednesday, surpassing any levels hit during the peak of the summer surge.“We are really, really concerned,” Fenstersheib said. “All of the metrics that we have been following, that have done well in previous months, are now going up very steeply.”___SALT LAKE CITY — Physicians in Utah are warning that Thanksgiving could become a major super spreader event for COVID-19 transmission if people don’t follow public health guidelines.An increased number of hospitalizations across the state has prompted doctors and public health officials to advise against attending Thanksgiving gatherings with people outside their immediate households.On Wednesday, an infectious disease specialist said COVID-19 cases could further overwhelm a strained healthcare system if people do not follow this guidance. His pleas comes just days after Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said he would not extend his previous order requiring people to limit social gatherings to people in their home.In Utah, 1 in 136 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past week and the state is ranked tenth in the country for new cases per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins.There have been over 182,000 reported virus cases in Utah and more than 800 known deaths related to the virus, according to state data.The Associated Press

  • Global Stock Rally Pushes On; Dollar Steady: Markets Wrap
    Business
    Bloomberg

    Global Stock Rally Pushes On; Dollar Steady: Markets Wrap

    (Bloomberg) -- Global equities headed for fresh records on Thursday as stocks climbed in Asia and European futures pointed higher. The dollar held at the lowest level in more than two years.Asian shares saw modest gains and S&P 500 contracts ticked up after the benchmark pulled back from an all-time high on Wednesday. Treasury futures edged higher after U.S. bonds ended the session little changed. West Texas Intermediate crude remained below $46 a barrel.Traders are off for the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday that will keep U.S. markets closed. A deluge of data on Wednesday brought the first back-to-back rise in weekly U.S. jobless claims since July, an uptick in durable goods orders and a widening trade deficit.Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting did little to alter views. The central bank discussed at the Nov. 4-5 meeting providing more guidance on its bond-buying strategy “fairly soon” but didn’t see a need for immediate adjustments. An MSCI gauge of global shares has gained 13% in November -- set for the best month since 1988 -- on progress toward a coronavirus vaccine.“We believe the market rally can continue from here powered by all the positive vaccine news, more political clarity with a peaceful White House transition and with more stimulus to come,” Xi Qiao, managing director at UBS Global Wealth Management, said on Bloomberg TV. “We are already seeing a strong rotation into cyclical and reopening trades with the vaccine news and we expect this trend to continue,” she said.Elsewhere, the won ticked higher after South Korea’s central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged as expected. In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum slid following a recent surge.Here are some key events coming up:U.S. celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. The stock market closes at 1 p.m. on Friday.The week ends with Black Friday, the traditional start of the U.S. holiday shopping season.Here are the main moves in markets:StocksS&P 500 Index futures rose 0.3% as of 7:11 a.m. in London. The gauge slid 0.2% on Wednesday.Japan’s Topix index gained 0.6%.Shanghai Composite added 0.2%.Hang Seng Index gained 0.3%.South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.9%.Euro Stoxx 50 futures climbed 0.2%.CurrenciesThe Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed.The euro bought $1.1932, up 0.1%.The offshore yuan traded at 6.5627 per dollar, up 0.1%.The yen rose 0.1% to 104.34 per dollar.BondsThe yield on 10-year Treasuries was at 0.88% on Wednesday.Australia’s 10-year yield was at 0.91%, down two basis points.CommoditiesWest Texas Intermediate crude slid 0.1% to $45.66 a barrel.Gold added 0.2% to $1,811 an ounce.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.