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Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on July 4, 2020

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OTTAWA, ON, July 4, 2020 /CNW/ – In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:

“There have been 105,091 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 8,663 deaths. 65% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada have tested over 2,885,000 people for COVID-19 to date. Over the past week, an average of 39,000 people were tested daily, with 1% testing positive.

In recent days, as society reopens and the novel coronavirus continues to be present in many communities, more Canadian jurisdictions have mandated the use of non-medical masks or face coverings in indoor public places, to protect their populations and prevent resurgences of cases.

Masks are an extra layer of protection alongside other COVID-19 prevention measures like physical distancing, frequent handwashing, staying home when you are sick. Wear a mask in places where physical distancing is not possible or where you are not certain you will be able to keep two metres apart from others.

Wearing a cloth mask or face covering reduces the chance that others will come into contact with your respiratory droplets. Whenever you go out, always have a mask with you in case you need it in a closed space or crowded place.

Make sure your mask is well-fitted over your nose, mouth and chin, and that it is secured to your head with ties or ear loops so that you do not have to adjust frequently. Try not to touch the mask or your face while wearing the mask, as this is another route of infection.

Some people may not realize that masks can become contaminated on the outside. Wash your hands before and after putting on and taking off your mask using soap and water or a Health Canada-approved hand sanitizer. Only you should wear your mask – please do not share it with others.

It is also important to remember that not all people can or should wear a mask.  Masks are not recommended for people who suffer from an illness or disabilities that make it difficult to put on or take off a mask, those who have difficulty breathing and children under the age of two. 

Always go out smart to prevent new infections and stop the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

Visit Canada.ca/coronavirus for more information on how to wear a non-medical mask correctly, as well as the latest case numbers, public health advice and guidance.”

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/statement-from-the-chief-public-health-officer-of-canada-on-july-4-2020-1029366762

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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

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Stock futures rise slightly after S&P 500 struggles to reach February record high

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U.S. stock futures rose slightly early Friday morning after the S&P 500 failed once again to reach its record high from February.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 82 points at 2:18 a.m. ET, pointing to opening gains of around 85.28 points on Friday. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also traded up. 

The S&P closed the regular session Thursday down 0.2%. Earlier in the day, it briefly traded above its record closing high of 3,386.15. The gyrations between gains and losses through the day came as tech shares outperformed while names that would benefit from the economy reopening struggled.

Facebook, Netflix and Alphabet all closed higher and Apple rallied to an all-time high. Meanwhile, Gap and American Airlines both fell at least 1.8%. JPMorgan Chase slid 0.6%.

“The SPX’s negative reversal and its inability to make new highs today will receive many of the headlines. But the day’s intra-day sell off was much less severe than Tuesday’s,” Frank Cappelleri, executive director at Instinet, said in a note. He added Thursday’s fall “did little to alter [its] bullish patterns.”

If the S&P 500 breaks out for a fresh record, it would be the index’s fastest recovery from a 30% drop in its history, according to data compiled by Ned Davis Research. 

The S&P 500 remained 0.7% higher for the week despite Thursday’s decline. The broader market index has also rallied more than 50% from an intraday low set March 23.

Stimulus talks

To be sure, sentiment was kept in check as lawmakers seem unable to move forward with a coronavirus stimulus bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she will not restart talks with Republicans on the matter until they increase their aid offer by $1 trillion. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow also told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that the administration and Democrats were at a “stalemate.”

“Given the current fiscal stalemate, it is extremely unlikely that consumers receive any additional fiscal support in August. Needless to say, the outlook for September is highly dependent on fiscal policy,” said Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies, in a note.

Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/13/stock-market-futures-open-to-close-news.html

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The $150 billion video game industry grapples with a murky track record on diversity

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A woman plays at the stand of Xbox during the media day of the Gamescom video games trade fair in Cologne, western Germany, on August 20, 2019.

Ina Fassbender | AFP via Getty Images

The video game industry may be booming in the coronavirus era but it continues to face intensifying pressure over its handling of diversity and inclusion.

For years, gaming has been criticized for fostering a culture that excludes and is even hostile toward women. Stereotypes surrounding so-called “gamer girls” for instance have led to harassment of female gamers online and resulted in a perception of the $150 billion industry as one dominated by men.

The industry has been trying to change this by highlighting the variety of people that play video games and throwing the spotlight on initiatives to engage women, ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) for instance notes that American gamers are almost evenly split between men (54%) and women (46%).

But industry employment demographics show a different picture. “The industry is overwhelmingly white and male,” Tanya DePass, director and founder of I Need Diverse Games, a non-profit aiming to diversify the gaming industry, told CNBC. 

According to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), 71% of game developers globally are men while just 24% are women and 3% are non-binary. And when it comes to race and ethnicity, just 2% of developers are Black while 69% identify as white.

Jay-Ann Lopez, founder of the online community Black Girl Gamers, said that increasing diversity and inclusion in the sector has been a “work in progress.” Big industry events like E3 — which is usually hosted by the ESA every year — and Gamescom “happen to be very male-led,” Lopez, who is based in the U.K., told CNBC.

“Even the way they’re designed, marketed and structured is very male-focused,” she added. “It’s hard, especially now, to tell what action (on diversity and inclusion) is actually being taken as opposed to performative narrative.”

Lopez held an online summit on the Amazon-owned live streaming service Twitch in June, aimed at giving a platform to Black game streamers as well as industry representatives from the likes of Ubisoft and “League of Legends” developer Riot Games. Her organization began as a small Facebook group in 2015 but has since grown into a community of around 6,000 members, Lopez said.

Gender discrimination

This year, the issue of discrimination against women in the industry in particular has manifested itself in a number of ways.

Last month, Ubisoft announced plans to shake up its work culture in response to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company. According to Bloomberg, the French publisher’s now-former creative chief Serge Hascoet behaved inappropriately around women and even prevented a female character from becoming the only playable lead in the game “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.” Hascoet was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Hascoet and two other top executives of the company resigned following an investigation into allegations of misconduct. When asked about the allegations in Bloomberg’s reporting, an Ubisoft spokesman told CNBC: “We don’t have anything else to share at this time.”

Meanwhile, the trailer for a full-motion video game called Gamer Girl received sharp criticism for its portrayal of a female game streamer whose actions are controlled by the player, which assumes the role of her livestream’s chat moderator. The trailer was subsequently pulled, but its publisher, Wales Interactive, claimed it was created “to raise the issue of the toxic environment which can often appear online behind the anonymity of a username.”

A string of controversies in the industry has exposed the gaming industry’s murky track record on diversity. It’s been years since the so-called Gamergate scandal, which saw women in the industry subjected to coordinated harassment. The episode at the time highlighted a toxic culture in gaming that enabled sexism and harassment of non-white male gamers and developers.

“The industry hasn’t progressed, especially with all the folks being outed as abusers, rapists and harassers on the (developer) side,” DePass said. “It’s far too common to see threats, hate and other vitriol flung at community managers, developers when they are more public facing or have any kind of social media presence.”

Sony-owned video game developer Naughty Dog faced an online backlash over its survival horror game The Last of Us 2, with one of the game’s voice actors, Laura Bailey, receiving death threats on social media. “I try to only post positive stuff on here,” Bailey wrote on Twitter, “but sometimes this just gets a little overwhelming.”

“The games industry have not been able to keep the Black, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ & women safe,” Stephanie Ijoma, founder of Black gaming and entertainment organization NNESAGA, told CNBC. “There is a lot of abuse in power in this industry which opens the floor up for incidents to happen.”

Investors have a role to play

There have been some positive steps around diversity, particularly in the creation of video games. Titles like The Last of Us 2 and Tell Me Why, a Microsoft exclusive from French developer Dontnod Entertainment, have won praise for increasing the visibility of LGBT characters.

And in the competitive e-sports scene, several top executives at professional gaming organization FaZe Clan recently quit to start a competing venture focused on bringing more women, people of color and LGBT people into the mix.

For Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO of Evil Geniuses, investors have a particularly important role to play in helping diversify talent in the industry. Jameson, who previously worked in private equity, said the bulk of investment that goes into e-sports tends to come from venture capital, or VC, investors.

“Part of the esports problem is there aren’t a lot of diverse owners and founders in the space,” she told CNBC. “Even though it’s changed over the past year, the type of investor profile that’s interested in a space like this tends to be venture.”

Jameson says it wasn’t easy for her to enter the space. “There was no one like myself, however you want to slice the pie: national background, demographic, age, gender, race,” she said. But, she added: “To be diverse is to be successful.”

Roberta Lucca, co-founder and chief marketing officer of British game developer Bossa Studios, also thinks investors need to play their part. Herself an angel investor, Lucca says a big focus for her has been identifying “underrepresented founders” in the space.

A screenshot taken from Bossa Studio’s upcoming video game Surgeon Simulator 2.

Bossa Studios

Lucca and fellow Bossa Studios co-founder Henrique Olifiers think that big triple-A developers need to be ready to take more risks in game development. Olifiers notes that the independent publisher created a diverse set of characters for its upcoming Surgeon Simulator 2 game.

Indie developers are “less constrained” by “established dogmas that take a long time to chip away,” Olifiers said. “The bigger a game, the more risk averse that production has to be. In doing so, naturally they tend to perpetuate dogma, whereas smaller games can be more risky in that regard — even though there’s no risk at all to being inclusive and broader.”

Demand for gaming has exploded during the coronavirus pandemic. According to analysis firm NPD Group, a record $11.6 billion was spent on video games in the U.S. in the second quarter, up 30% from the previous year. Major companies in the industry such as Nintendo and Activision have benefited as a result, posting better-than-expected earnings.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/14/video-game-industry-grapples-with-murky-track-record-on-diversity.html

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