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British Columbia school district to lock all schools due to anti-vax protests

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School district in the British Columbia will be locking down schools starting Monday due to ongoing anti-vaccine protests, the district said late on Friday.

The “hold and secure” protocol was enacted on Friday after people protesting vaccines and masks, who the district said had been targeting schools all week, entered two school buildings in and around Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

The protocol meant that students could not leave or enter the building for the rest of the day. All schools in the district, a town of less than 20,000 people located roughly 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Vancouver, will be under the same “hold and secure” starting Monday.

Superintendent of Schools Donna Kriger called the protesters’ move “completely unacceptable” and said the district is working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to ensure protesters are kept off school property.

The Salmon Arm RCMP said in a statement they had been called to two schools on Friday after four protesters entered.

Canada has seen a wave of anti-vaccine protests ramp up in recent weeks as the country’s federal election draws nearer. Protesters have drawn ire from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail for targeting hospitals and healthcare workers, and he has vowed to crack down on such actions.

In August Trudeau had to cancel a campaign rally due to security concerns from aggressive anti-vax protests.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Bitcoin hovers near 6-month high on ETF hopes, inflation worries

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Bitcoin hovered near a six-month high early on Monday on hopes that U.S. regulators would soon allow cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETF) to trade, while global inflation worries also provided some support.

Bitcoin last stood at $62,359, near Friday’s six-month high of $62,944 and not far from its all-time high of $64,895 hit in April.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, a move likely to lead to wider investment in digital assets.

Cryptocurrency players expect the approval of the first U.S. bitcoin ETF to trigger an influx of money from institutional players who cannot invest in digital coins at the moment.

Rising inflation worries also increased appetite for bitcoin, which is in limited supply, in contrast to the ample amount of currencies issued by central banks in recent years as monetary authorities printed money to stimulate their economies.

But some analysts noted that, after the recent rally, investors may sell bitcoin on the ETF news.

“The news of a suite of futures-tracking ETFs is not new to those following the space closely, and to many this is a step forward but not the game-changer that some are sensing,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia.

“We’ve been excited by a spot ETF before, and this may need more work on the regulation front.”

 

(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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China’s plunging construction starts reminiscent of 2015 downturn

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China’s September new  construction starts slumped for a sixth straight month, the longest spate of monthly declines since 2015, as cash-strapped developers put a pause on projects in the wake of tighter regulations on borrowing.

New construction starts in September fell 13.54% from a year earlier, the third month of double-digit declines, according to Reuters calculations based on January-September data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

That marks the longest downtrend since declines in March-August 2015, the last property malaise.

When the sector recovered in 2016 after authorities loosened their grip on purchases and development, tens of thousands of real estate firms borrowed heavily to build homes.

But as regulations tightened again this year, many of them have started to face a liquidity crunch, which was then worsened by sharply weaker demand due to tighter restrictions on speculative purchases.

Property sales by floor area dropped 15.8% in September, down for a third month, according to Reuters calculations based on the statistics bureau’s data.

The slowdown in the sector was also underscored by a 3.5% drop in property investments by developers in September, the first monthly decline since January-February last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

“All the data are poor,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.

“Financing is hard, sales are tough, so of course, there has been no enthusiasm to build. For the first time in history, developers are encountering two blockages – blockages in sales and blockages in financing.”

The potential collapse of highly indebted real estate firms such as China Evergrande Group have raised concerns about systemic risks to the broader economy. The real estate sector accounts for a quarter of China’s gross domestic product.

Authorities will try to prevent problems at Evergrande from spreading to other real estate companies to avoid broader systemic risk, Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, said on Sunday.

On Friday, a central bank official said the spillover effect of Evergrande’s debt problems on the banking system was “controllable.”

“There is a likelihood that housing policies may loosen in the fourth quarter, and that would ease the pessimism in the property transaction data,” said Yan Yuejin, director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.

On Friday, representatives from 10 Chinese Property Companies met government regulators to ask for an “appropriate loosening” on policy restrictions, financial news outlet Yicai reported.

China’s real estate shares have fallen 22% so far this year. On Monday, they were down 2.6% as of 0300 GMT.

In the first nine months, property investment rose 8.8% from a year earlier, slowing from 10.9% growth seen in January-August.

Funds raised by China’s property developers grew 11.1%, slower than the 14.8% rise seen in the first eight months.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Saks Fifth Avenue ecommerce unit aims for IPO at $6 billion valuation – WSJ

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The ecommerce business of luxury department store  Saks OFF 5TH is preparing for an initial public offering and targeting a $6 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing sources.

The company is interviewing potential underwriters this week for an  IPO that could take place in the first half of next year, according to the report.

 

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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