BERLIN (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on Tuesday dashed hopes of business lobby groups for a quick reopening of the economy, saying the country should not rush to ease coronavirus restrictions as this could risk another wave of infections.
“Business can’t flourish if we get a third wave of infections,” Altmaier told German television before a virtual meeting with representatives of 40 industry associations.
The minister said he recognised that lots of businesses were desperate for a prospect of an end to the current lockdown, but added that Germany was proceeding with caution for fear of new coronavirus variants in neighbouring countries.
Altmaier told reporters after the meeting he would work closely together with businesses associations in the coming days on a proposal to set out which sectors should be allowed to re-open and under what conditions.
The proposals would be presented ahead of the next meeting of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state premiers when a decision is also expected on how to proceed with the current lockdown which had been extended until March 7.
Altmaier also said large companies from now on should be allowed to apply for coronavirus emergency grants, adding the government had decided to lift a cap which has excluded firms with annual sales of more than 750,000 euros.
Merkel and state premiers agreed last week that hairdressers should be allowed to open from March 1 while other services and retailers must wait at least until March 7. Factories, offices and supermarkets have remained open during the lockdown.
Merkel and state premiers also agreed to tighten the threshold for a gradual re-opening of the economy, targeting an infection rate of under 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously.
The number of new daily infections in Germany has been falling in recent weeks, down to 3,856 on Tuesday, or a national incidence of 59 cases per 100,000.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Michael Nienaber; editing by Kirsti Knolle and Madeline Chambers)
South Korea economy shrank in 2020 for 1st time in 22 years – Yahoo Canada Finance
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — South Korea’s central bank says the country’s economy shrank for the first time in 22 years in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic destroyed service industry jobs and depressed consumer spending.
Preliminary data released by the Bank of Korea on Thursday showed the country’s gross domestic product last year contracted 1% from 2019. It was the first annual contraction since 1998, when South Korea was in the midst of a crippling financial crisis.
The economy would have been even worse if not for the country’s technology exports, which saw increased demand driven by personal computers and servers as the pandemic forced millions around the world to work at home.
The bank expects South Korea’s economy to manage a modest recovery this year driven by exports. But it says it would take a longer time for the job market to recover from the damage to services industries such as restaurants and transportation.
The bank since March last year has maintained its policy rate at an all-time low of 0.5% to help pump money into the economy. But experts say traditional financial tools aimed at lowering borrowing costs have had only limited effect during the pandemic that has damaged both supply and demand.
The country reported another new 424 cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing its national caseload to 91,240, including 1,619 deaths.
The Associated Press
Canadian dollar clings to this week’s gains as oil climbs
By Fergal Smith
TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar was little changed against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, holding on to this week’s gains as oil prices rose and domestic data showed the value of building permits scaling a record high in January.
The loonie was trading nearly unchanged at 1.2629 to the greenback, or 79.18 U.S. cents. Since the start of the week, it has advanced 0.9%.
Canada‘s “strong” GDP data and the rally in oil prices have helped underpin the Canadian dollar, said George Davis, chief technical strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, settled 2.6% higher at $61.28 a barrel, boosted by a huge drop in U.S. fuel inventories and expectations that OPEC+ producers might decide against increasing output when they meet this week.
Canadian building permits rose 8.2% in January from December to C$9.9 billion, surpassing the previous record set in April 2019, Statistics Canada said.
On Tuesday, data showed that Canada‘s economy grew at an annualized rate of 9.6% in the fourth quarter and likely rose again in January, boosting speculation the Bank of Canada will reduce its bond purchases soon.
The central bank is due to make an interest rate decision next Wednesday.
A break of 1.2587 would add “to positive CAD momentum,” while the currency could find buyers at 1.2655, Davis said.
The U.S. dollar rose against a basket of major currencies as investors priced for strong U.S. growth relative to other regions.
Canadian government bond yields were higher across a steeper curve in tandem with U.S. Treasury yields. The 10-year rose 7.6 basis points to 1.401% but was trading well below Friday’s 13-month high at 1.501%.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
UK extends job support, tax breaks for pandemic-hit economy – Lethbridge News Now
U.K. public borrowing has risen to levels not seen since World War II as the government seeks to cushion the fallout from COVID-19, which has reduced gross domestic product by 10% and cost more than 700,000 people their jobs. Projections released Wednesday by the Office for Budget Responsibility show that the economy will still be 3% smaller five years from now than it would have been without the pandemic.
Sunak said government support programs have succeeded in mitigating the impact. The unemployment rate is now expected to peak at about 6.5%, rather than the 11.9% forecast last July, he said, citing estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility. The economy is forecast to grow 4% this year and 7.3% in 2022.
On Wednesday, Sunak announced plans to extend those support programs for six months. They include a furlough program, under which the government pays 80% of the wages for private employees unable to work during the pandemic, as well as grants for self-employed workers, a temporary increase in welfare payments and tax relief for businesses.
Looking to the future, Sunak said the government will in 2023 increase corporation tax to 25%, from the current rate of 19%, and freeze personal income tax thresholds, which will increase revenue as inflation boosts incomes.
But opposition leader Keir Starmer accused Sunak of failing to address deep-seated economic problems and banking on a “consumer spending blitz” to bail out the economy.
Starmer said the budget fails millions of key workers who are having their pay frozen, businesses swamped by debt, and families paying higher local property taxes.
“The central problem in our economy is a deep-rooted insecurity and inequality, and this budget isn’t the answer to that,” Starmer said. “So rather than the big, transformative budget that we needed, this budget simply papers over the cracks.”
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Parliament, criticized Sunak for continuing a strategy of temporary support that leaves businesses and consumers unsure of the future.
The budget leaves Scottish voters with a clear choice as the SNP campaigns to hold a second referendum on independence from the U.K., Blackford said.
“For the people of Scotland, this budget comes at a critical moment of choice,” he said, echoing Sunak’s language. “Post-Brexit and post-pandemic, Scotland now has a choice of two futures: The long-term damage of Brexit and more Tory austerity cuts, or the opportunity to protect her place in Europe and to build a strong, fair and green recovery with independence.”
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at:
Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Report: New Nintendo Switch With 4K Output, OLED Screen Will Release Before Christmas – Kotaku
Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between COVID doses – ABC News
Asking 'Where do you think you got COVID?' helps contact tracers zero in on superspreader events – CBC.ca
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