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Syria goes to the polls as new sanctions hit war-ravaged economy – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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DAMASCUS/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria held a parliamentary election on Sunday, gripped by a collapsing economy and new U.S. sanctions after President Bashar al-Assad clawed back control of most of the country.

People voted across government territory at more than 7,000 polling stations, including for the first time in former rebel bastions that the army has recaptured over the last two years.

Assad’s opponents denounced the vote as a farce, nearly a decade into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and made millions refugees.

The elections, originally set for April, were postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. At a polling station in the capital Damascus, many voters – who were disinfected upon arrival – said they were worried about the rising costs of living.

“We have to find a solution for the living conditions,” said Samer Mahmoud, who owns a clothing shop.

“God willing, I hope we overcome these sanctions,” said Mouna Sukkar after casting her ballot.

More than 1,600 candidates, many prominent businessmen, were competing for 250 MP seats in the third such election since the conflict erupted in 2011. No surprises were expected in the vote that marked Assad’s second decade in power, with no real opposition to the ruling Baath party and its allies.

The Syrian National Coalition, an opposition bloc based in Turkey that had Western backing, called it a “theatrical election by the Assad regime” with millions uprooted or in exile.

In the town of Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus where a fierce army offensive snuffed out insurgents in 2018, candidate banners hung in front of piles of rubble, collapsed rooftops and buildings pockmarked with bullets.

Dozens of people crowded a polling station where a portrait of a smiling Assad covered a wall.

“I came to vote…because we want to live in safety and for the rising prices to go down. There’s a big turnout,” said Ziad, a resident who fled and returned some two years ago. In 2016, when the town was rocked by fighting, he had cast his ballot in Damascus.

The town was the site of a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people in 2018 and prompted Western missile strikes. Damascus and Moscow denied any chemical attack took place.

Thanks to help from Russia and Iran, Assad holds more of Syria than at any time in the war, with the northeast in Kurdish hands, and rebels now confined to a northwest corner near the Turkish border.

But the battered economy is sinking deeper into trouble, hit also by a financial meltdown in Lebanon that choked off dollars and the toughest U.S. sanctions yet imposed last month.

Washington says the goal is to hold Assad to account. Damascus blames them for the hardship, as soaring prices and a fall in the value of the currency makes life harder for Syrians.

(Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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China’s Li Sees Economy Returning to ‘Proper’ Range Next Year – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The Canadian Press

Best Buy reports 3Q results that exceed Wall Street views

NEW YORK — Best Buy Co. reported fiscal third-quarter results that blew through analysts’ expectations as the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer enjoyed surging demand for items like home theatre and appliances that help people learn, cook, work and connect in their homes during the pandemic.
The Richfield, Minnesota-based retailer, said that third-quarter profits rose 33% while sales were up 21%. Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 23%, while online sales in the U.S. surged 174%.
Still, shares fell 5% in Tuesday morning trading as Best Buy warned that sales could slow down during the current quarter as the number of virus cases surge.
“As we start the fourth quarter, the demand for the products and services we sell remains at elevated levels, but similar to last quarter, it continues to be difficult for us to predict how sustainable these trends will be,” Matthew Bilunas, Best Buy’s chief financial officer, told analysts during the call. “In fact, we are seeing COVID cases surge throughout the U.S. and Canada at a time of significant holiday volume through our stores, online and supply chain. “
Bilunas also noted other factors such as potential government stimulus, the risk of continued high employment and the availability of inventory like computers to match customer demand.
Best Buy joins big box stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s in reporting strong fiscal results. Unlike mall-based stores and other businesses that sell non-essentials, big box retailers were allowed to stay open during the lockdown in the spring and have all seen their dominance increase as consumers focus on necessities and home-related activities.
Before the pandemic, Best Buy had expanded its services to such options as at-home consulting and same-day delivery. It also sped up its online shipping. But the pandemic has forced Best Buy to adjust its operations and launch new shopping experiences that provide more convenience and safety for customers.
Early fall, Best Buy began using 250 of its stores as fast-shipping hubs for online orders. It’s now adding 90 more locations during the holiday period. It says its goal is to have all 340 stores ship more than 70% of its ship-from-store units during the holiday quarter. It’s also testing new store formats as it transforms locations to fulfilment hubs.
For example, in four Minneapolis locations, Best Buy reduced its square footage for shopping to 15,000 square feet from an average of 27,000. The product assortment on the sales floor will still include the primary categories these locations featured before the remodel, but instead the focus will be on the most popular items, the retailer said. The remodels will result in increased space for staging product for in-store pickup and to help ship-from-store transactions, as well as provide the ability to stage inventory for items that may not be on the sales floor.
Best Buy reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $391 million, or $1.48 per share, compared with $293 million, or $1.10 per share, in the year-ago period. Earnings, adjusted for restructuring costs and amortization costs, were $2.06 per share.
The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.76 per share.
The consumer electronics retailer posted revenue of $11.85 billion in the period, also beating Street forecasts. Eight analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $11.02 billion.
Shares fell $6.69 to $1150 in late morning trading. Shares have increased 39% since the beginning of the year, while the S&P 500 index has increased 11%. The stock has increased 69% in the last 12 months.
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Elements of this story was generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on BBY at https://www.zacks.com/ap/BBY

Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press

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German economy grew by 8.5% in third quarter, but recession fears grow – The Guardian

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s gross domestic product grew by a record 8.5% in the third quarter as Europe’s largest economy partly recovered from an unprecedented plunge caused by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring, the statistics office said on Tuesday.

The stronger-than expected rebound was mainly driven by higher household spending and soaring exports, the office said.

“This enabled the German economy to make up for a large part of the massive decline in gross domestic product caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the second quarter of 2020,” it added.

The reading marked an upward revision to an earlier flash estimate of 8.2% growth, and followed a 9.8% plunge in the second quarter.

The outlook is clouded by a second wave of coronavirus infections and a partial lockdown to slow the spread of the disease. Restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues have been closed since Nov. 2, but shops and schools remain open.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional state premiers are planning to extend the “lockdown-light” on Wednesday until Dec. 20, according to a draft prepared for their meeting.

A contraction in the service sector is expected to weigh heavily on gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, while lockdown measures in other countries are likely to hit export-oriented manufacturers as well.

DIW economist Claus Michelsen said a decline in economic output was therefore on the cards, with initial estimates indicating a GDP drop of around 1% in the final quarter.

“Germany and many important trading partners are likely to slide back into recession,” Michelsen said.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Rene Wagner; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and EKevin Liffey)

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No-deal Brexit would be worse for the UK economy than Covid-19, says Bank of England governor – CNN

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“I think the long-term effects … would be larger than the long-term effects of Covid,” Bailey said Monday in response to a question from a lawmaker on what would happen if the UK government does not complete a deal before the December 31 deadline.
“It takes a much longer period of time for what I call the real side of the economy to adjust to the change in openness and to the change in profile in trade,” Bailey added in testimony before parliament’s Treasury committee.
The United Kingdom left the European Union in January. But the £670 billion ($895 billion) trade relationship has been largely unaffected so far because of a transition period that expires at the end of this year. Negotiators have been trying to hammer out a deal that will allow for tariff-free trade to continue. But progress has been slow, and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Monday that “fundamental differences” still need to be resolved.
UK business groups are pushing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure a deal, saying that many companies have been stretched to the breaking point by the coronavirus and another round of lockdowns. Without an EU deal, UK-based firms face hefty tariffs, quotas and other barriers to doing business with the country’s biggest export market starting on January 1.
The Bank of England forecast earlier this month that the UK economy will shrink by 11% in 2020. Economists are worried about “scarring” caused by coronavirus, but Bailey said on Monday that he was optimistic about the economy’s ability to recover relatively quickly from the pandemic.
A change in the terms of trade with the European Union would produce more lasting upheaval, he suggested, comparing that outcome with modeling the central bank did decades ago showing it would have taken the UK economy between 30 and 40 years to adjust if policymakers had decided to drop the British pound and switch to the euro.
The UK government and the Bank of England have unleashed hundreds of billions of pounds worth of stimulus to help cushion the blow to business and workers from the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the central bank said it would increase its purchases of UK government bonds by £150 billion ($195 billion) to £875 billion ($1.1 trillion), and finance minister Rishi Sunak extended a furlough program through March 2021. The government will pay 80% of the wages of employees of businesses forced to close, capped at £2,500 ($3,270) per month.
Sunak said on Sunday that the economic situation in the country presents “a very difficult picture.”
“The economy is experiencing significant stress,” he told the BBC. “We’ve seen that particularly in the labor market, with people’s jobs. We know that three quarters of a million people have tragically already lost their jobs with forecasts of more to come. Borrowing … is at record peacetime levels and more stress to come.”
Sunak will deliver an update on the economic situation on Wednesday and sketch out his plans for borrowing and spending after the pandemic.

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