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As the pandemic persists, New Zealand considers negative interest rates

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New Zealand is considering negative interest rates, as it grapples with the severe economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In its interest rate decision this week, the central bank maintained its official cash rate at 0.25%, but also raised the possibility of going into negative territory.

“The severe global economic disruption caused by the pandemic is persisting. Any significant change in the global and domestic economic outlook remains dependent on the containment of the virus, which is highly uncertain as evidenced today by the return to social restrictions in New Zealand,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Adrian Orr said the option of negative rates would not be used on its own, but rather, as part of a package of measures to tackle the health crisis.

“Negative rates won’t be on their own, which is why we talked about a package of measures because any one instrument will achieve only certain amount of effectiveness on its own,” he said.

 “We’re still very confident monetary policy is effective, but it’s not the main game in town,” Orr said, adding that fiscal policy too would need to be tapped upon.

People wait for a walk-up Covid-19 test on August 14, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Covid-19 restrictions have been reintroduced across New Zealand.

Fiona Goodall | Getty Images News | Getty Images

New Zealand’s economy shrank 1.6% in the March quarter, the largest drop in 29 years. The decline is expected to be worse in the June quarter, according to its finance minister.

The country was virus-free for more than 100 days, before seeing a resurgence of coronavirus cases in its largest city, Auckland, in recent weeks. The development prompted authorities to lock down the city again on Wednesday, imposing movement and travel restrictions for three days. Since then, more cases have been confirmed and linked to the new cluster.

New Zealand will decide today whether to ease or extend the latest lockdown, according to Reuters.

Lowering interest rates would typically slash lending and deposit rates, which tends to encourage businesses and individuals to invest and spend more — actions that help the economy to grow.

Negative interest rates should — in theory — have the same effect. Some economists said that when commercial banks have to pay to deposit funds with the central bank, instead of earning an interest on those reserves, they should be encouraged to loan out that money instead.

However, some studies found that negative interest rates did not work in Japan and some European economies, and in fact, they reduced bank profits.

When asked how ready New Zealand banks were for a move to negative rates, Orr said the “vast bulk of banks are ready.”

He added that he did not want to be “held hostage at all” by banks saying they weren’t ready.

“The banks themselves know that they are on notice to be operationally ready by at least December,” he said. “We’ve got time to consider the education, we need the operational capability …  and the monitoring that we need to see … bank  just how effective (it is).”

— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/14/new-zealand-considers-negative-interest-rates-amid-coronavirus-pandemic.html

CNBC

U.S. stock futures are mixed after Dow snaps a 4-day winning streak

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Stock futures were mixed in early trading on Friday after another sell-off on Wall Street led by major technology names.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average pointed to a nearly breakeven opening. S&P 500 futures were also little changed, while Nasdaq 100 futures traded higher.

During Thursday’s regular trading session, the S&P 500 declined 0.8% for its biggest drop in a week. The Dow dipped 130 points, snapping a four-day winning streak. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 1.3% and briefly dipped back into correction territory, down 10% from its record high. 

“Tech inflicted a lot of the damage as that group extends the sell-off that commenced back on Sept.3,” Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisafulli said in a note on Thursday. “The summer excess is still being wrung out of tech and the process has a bit more to run.”

Some of the biggest technology stocks have suffered double-digit losses so far this month as investors rotated out of high-flying market leaders. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple have all lost at least 10% this month.

Investors also remained on edge about the outlook on further coronavirus stimulus as well as the timing of a viable vaccine. 

Republicans and Democrats are still struggling to agree on how much aid to continue to provide in a follow-up bill to the previous $2 trillion package. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he liked “the larger numbers,” urging GOP lawmakers to go for a bigger coronavirus stimulus, but his comments left Republicans skeptical.

Meanwhile, the path to a Covid-19 vaccine, which is critical to the economic recovery, still seems unclear. Health officials said vaccinations would be in limited quantities this year and not widely distributed for six to nine months.

“A safe and transparent vaccination process is critical to encouraging widespread inoculations once effective vaccines are identified and tested.” Mark Haefele, UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief investment officer, said in a note. “In our central scenario, we expect widespread vaccine availability by 2Q21.”

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve, which just began a second round of Wall Street stress tests, said it’s weighing whether to continue capping U.S. banks’ dividend payments and share buybacks.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/17/stock-futures-are-flat-in-overnight-trading-after-dow-snaps-a-4-day-win-streak.html

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The next wave of the global recovery could send commodity prices soaring

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A freight train carrying iron ore travels along a rail track towards Port Hedland, Australia, on Monday, March 18, 2019.

Ian Waldie | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The next phase of the economic recovery is likely to be driven by commodity-intensive infrastructure investment, analysts have told CNBC, potentially setting the stage for further gains across the industrial space in the coming months.

The prediction comes at a time when market participants are closely monitoring the strength of the global economic recovery, as many countries grapple with an upsurge in the number of reported Covid-19 infections.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted forecasters to issue dire economic projections this year, with the OECD warning on Wednesday that the outlook remains “exceptionally uncertain.”

One sign the recovery may be gaining momentum, however, came as the world’s second-largest economy reported industrial output expanded the most in eight months in August.

China, which has been in recovery mode for months now, published data on Tuesday that showed industrial output growth accelerated to 5.6% in August when compared to a year earlier. It bolsters the view that Beijing’s demand recovery continues to gather pace, with government stimulus helping to fuel a rebound.

“We’ve already seen a metals-intensive response in China, highly metals-intensive,” Max Layton, head of EMEA commodities research at Citi, told CNBC via telephone.

“It has been absolutely stunning how strong China has rebounded on the construction side of things,” he continued, reflecting on the “spectacular” rally seen across the industrial commodity space as a result.

I’m watching things like iron ore very closely now because those sorts of industrial commodities are going to skyrocket if we do get this bounce-back driven by infrastructure.

Andy Critchlow

Head of news in EMEA at S&P Global Platts

Layton identified “three big catalysts” for commodity investors to track through to the end of the year: Coronavirus vaccine news; the strength of China’s economic recovery; and the scale of the U.S. easing package.

Iron ore prices could ‘skyrocket’

“I do think that a lot of the stimulus will be infrastructure driven. We already know that there is a massive infrastructure deficit in a lot of developed countries and that is something that could be addressed in this period,” Nitesh Shah, director of research at New York-based WisdomTree Investments, told CNBC via telephone.

“Why waste a good crisis? You can actually get through a lot of the infrastructure programs that you’ve been waiting decades to actually get through the door in this time,” Shah continued. “I’m not as optimistic on a big ‘V-shaped,’ rigorous recovery but even some sort of recovery is good for the industrial space.”

A V-shaped recovery refers to a sharp decline in economic activity which is then matched by an abrupt rebound.

“Ultimately, if you look at the response economies are making to (the coronavirus crisis), we’ve had the fiscal response, we’ve had central banks slashing interest rates, we’ve had central banks pumping more money into economies, the next phase is massive investment in infrastructure and that’s going to come globally,” Andy Critchlow, head of news in EMEA at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” last month.

“We saw this back in 2008-2009 in response to the financial crisis (and) what did we get out of that? We got a rally in some of the industrial commodity markets — it was a super-cycle,” he said.

“I’m watching things like iron ore very closely now because those sorts of industrial commodities are going to skyrocket if we do get this bounce-back driven by infrastructure and then that will filter into oil.”

Spot iron ore prices climbed to fresh six-and-a-half-year highs on Monday, trading close to $129 a dry metric ton on the back of a construction boom in China.

The steelmaking ingredient has since pared gains, changing hands at $126.59 on Friday. Iron ore prices have climbed more than 37% year-to-date.

Twenty kilogram gold and silver bricks sit at the ABC Refinery smelter in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday, July 2, 2020.

David Gray | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alongside net-zero interest rates globally, demand for a hedge against a perceived inflation risk has helped spot gold futures jump more than 28% so far this year, while silver has gained around 50% over the same period.

Looking ahead to 2021, Critchlow suggested some of the world’s largest economies could soon announce “big” infrastructure developments.

These projects were likely to be led by China, India and the U.S., he argued, noting that both candidates in the upcoming U.S. presidential election had pledged to spend an “awful lot of money” on infrastructure. “That’s got to be good for oil demand and it’s got to be good for commodities across the board.”

Trump vs. Biden on infrastructure

President Donald Trump was rumored to be preparing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan earlier in the year, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source. However, his position on future investment into infrastructure has remained vague ahead of the November 3 presidential election.

The Trump campaign announced the president’s second term agenda last month, pledging to “build the world’s greatest infrastructure system.” The press release offered no further detail on how Trump planned to fulfill this promise if re-elected. In 2016, the incumbent Republican famously committed to spending $1 trillion on infrastructure, but nothing much has happened since.

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about climate change during a campaign event at the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., September 14, 2020.

Leah Millis | Reuters

By comparison, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has pledged to spend $2 trillion “to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future.” Biden has said, if elected, he plans to rebuild roads, bridges, green spaces and water systems as well as providing universal broadband.

“To the degree the market believes they are going to put through infrastructure easing, then yes, it is good news either way for the commodities that are going to be exposed to both candidates’ proposals,” Citi’s Layton said.

He suggested Trump’s prior commitments to “old school” infrastructure projects, such as roads and bridges, would likely be “steels-intensive.”

Biden’s commitment to develop solar and wind technologies would likely benefit copper and, to a lesser degree, silver, he added.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/18/world-economy-infrastructure-led-recovery-could-send-commodity-prices-soaring.html

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Report: Most firms in Korea’s ‘blockchain city’ don’t know what blockchain is

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A recent report from the Busan Research Institute has revealed a peculiar trend: 62% of firms in the blockchain sandbox city of Busan, South Korea apparently do not know anything about the technology.

Since last year, Busan has been considered a “regulation-free” zone for blockchain development by the South Korean federal government. The city has undertaken numerous projects in the blockchain space including plans for a blockchain-based virtual power plant, and even its own municipal cryptocurrency

This makes the underwhelming results of the “Report on Activation of the Busan Blockchain Free Regulatory Zone,” reported by local media outlet Fn News, all the more surprising. 

Exactly 91% of the 100 surveyed companies from various industries said that they had no plans to adopt blockchain technology.

In a separate survey of 26 blockchain-related companies, 23% complained about the regulatory obstacles that have been facing recently.

Furthermore, 19% of blockchain businesses also stated that they feel alone in terms of development, blaming a lack of government support for blockchain adoption, while 15.4% raised concerns about a lack of technology and human resources to develop the technology.

Looking ahead, the report pointed out some tips for the government to better support blockchain companies in the city:

“In terms of the market, various related companies must be attracted and aggregated. It is necessary to support marketing support for finding demanding companies, nurturing professional manpower, and technology development.”

It further stated that current blockchain implementations are mostly restricted to service sectors, and suggested that the technology should be applied to the city’s manufacturing and industrial sectors.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/report-most-firms-in-koreas-blockchain-city-dont-know-what-blockchain-is

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