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China Bank Regulator Lists Firms It Says Violated Investor Rules

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China’s banking and insurance regulator for the first time published names of companies that it alleges committed shareholder violations in the industry, warning investors against misbehavior as the sector tries to attract private and foreign capital.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission’s list of 38 companies, published on its website Saturday, didn’t identify the banks or insurers they invested in but included a few firms that were previously known as shareholders of troubled Anbang Insurance Group Co.. The violations included illegal connected transactions, seeking illicit gains, exceeding shareholding ceilings without approval and fabricating materials.

Shareholder violations have “seriously affected the stable operations of financial institutions,” the regulator said. “The purpose of the disclosure is to send a signal that shareholder supervision will be further tightened.”

China’s financial regulators have been clamping down on shareholder conduct in the past few years to curb irregularities and financial risks, jailing Anbang’s former chairman for illegal fundraising and injecting state capital to take ownership control in the most high-profile case. The government has also removed foreign-ownership ceilings in banks and insurers as the nation opens up its financial market.

The CBIRC will encourage private investors in banks and insurers, especially those with capital strength and management experience in strategic investments, according to the statement.

— With assistance by Sharon Chen, and Dingmin Zhang

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Nigerian Central Bank Devalues Naira by 5.3% at Currency Auction

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Nigeria’s central bank devalued the naira at one of its currency auctions, according to people familiar with the matter.

The weakening comes after Governor Godwin Emefiele announced last month that the bank plans to unify its multiple exchange rates to improve the transparency of its currency-management system.

At an auction for importers on Friday, the central bank asked that bids for foreign exchange be made at 380 naira per dollar, compared with 360 previously, the people said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. Isaac Okorafor, a spokesman for the central bank, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone or reply to messages seeking comment.

The bank previously devalued the currency in March, when it adjusted the official peg against the dollar to 360 from 307. There’s another rate for investors and exporters known as the nafex window, which acts as a spot-rate for the naira. The nafex — which has been relatively stable around 388 per dollar since mid-May following a recovery in oil prices — was introduced in 2017 as a way of wooing back foreign investors spooked by an economic crisis, without formally devaluing the currency.

The naira also trades widely in the black market, which Emefiele has said is illegal, and is sold by the regulator to companies and individuals at varying rates.

Investors and the International Monetary Fund have long called for Nigeria to merge its multiple exchange rates, saying the absence of a single rate creates confusion and deters foreign investment.

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Texas oil industry crafts plan for students to graduate debt free with 6-figure job

US adults carry an average student debt of $24K

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The state of Texas is working on a plan that would allow college students to graduate debt-free with a job in the lucrative oil and gas industry.

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The program would help fill the hundreds of thousands of positions that will be needed in the coming years to develop the massive 2016 oil discovery in the Permian Basin, located in West Texas and New Mexico.

Texas is working with the Department of Energy and the Small Business Administration to use opportunity zones to “help train a workforce of rural Americans to be part of this new labor force,” Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, whose agency oversees the state's oil industry, told FOX Business.

Opportunity zones, which were created as part of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are designed to allow certain investments in lower-income areas to receive tax advantages.

“We're trying to establish what are the techniques that need to be taught and how do we combine our four-year universities in,” he added. “What's interesting is that it's coming at the same time that I think higher education is realizing we've been producing a lot of kids graduating college without jobs that are in tremendous education debt.”

US NEGOTIATES NORTH AMERICAN RIVAL TO OPEC AS TRUMP TRADE DEAL TAKES EFFECT

The average annual tuition for in-state residents at a four-year college in Texas was $15,819 during the 2018-2019 academic year, according to CollegeCalc. A four-year education would cost $63,276 if costs held steady.

The four-year program in energy now in the works would give graduates the potential to earn "six figure incomes with no debt,” Christian said. Oil is a "tremendous industry," he said, and the program would give higher education "the ability to equip our kids.”

Department of Energy officials weren't immediately available to comment, and the Small Business Administration didn't respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

The Texas oil industry has been bleeding jobs this year as stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 caused a global drop of 30 million barrels per day in oil demand at the same time Saudi Arabia and Russia battled over output.

The result was a plunge in prices that briefly sent West Texas Intermediate crude oil below zero, forcing some producers into bankruptcy and causing many more to trim their workforces.

While prices have since begun to rally, the industry lost 26,300 jobs in April, the largest monthly decline since recordkeeping began in 1990, according to the Houston Chronicle. Total losses tied to the pandemic will reach 1 million job-years, according to Perryman Group, a Waco, Texas-based economic insight firm.

A job-year is the equivalent of one person working for a year, but can be broken down into multiple people working parts of a year.

“We're not putting lipstick on a hog,” Christian said. “This is not a great time for the oil and gas industry, a lot of people have been laid off. But right now, we are in recovery. That's the good news.”

TEXAS FEARS LOSING OIL-RICH LANDS IN CHINESE TAKEOVER OF WEAKENED ENERGY COMPANIES

The industry was suffering through a labor shortage before the pandemic due to what Christian called “tremendous fines” that have been placed on industry giants over the years and “half-truths” about oil’s impact on the environment.

The six major pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency have decreased by 71 percent since 1970. At the same time, U.S. GDP has soared by over 1,800 percent and the country’s population has grown by 61 percent.

Transportation for the swelling population is increasingly reliant on fossil fuels produced at home, a sharp turnaround from the late 20th century, after the advent of shale-fracturing opened a wealth of petroleum resources in North America.

The 2016 discovery in the Permian Basin alone unearthed an estimated 230 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, increasing total U.S. reserves by a magnitude of almost nine times.

And on the other side of the state, in Mont Belvieu, 30 miles east of Houston, sits the largest salt dome in the world, which contains enough liquefied petroleum to fill tanks all the way to San Diego, California.

Petroleum giant ExxonMobil and plastics manufacturer Inteplast are two of the companies located in Mont Belvieu, and, according to Christian, they are “begging for as many employees as they can possibly get.”

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Not only will the jobs that were lost during the downturn need to be replaced, but many already in the industry will need to be retrained for new technologies that will make operations more efficient and ensure the price of a barrel of oil won’t need to be as high as before for companies to be profitable.

“In Texas and America, we've been through downturns time after time for a lot of different reasons and every single time America has come back stronger and more resilient and more diversified than we were before,” Christian said.

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Fiat, PSA stick to merger deal after dividend cut report

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MILAN - Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and PSA said on Friday they were sticking to the merger plan signed last year after a newspaper said the carmakers were looking at spinning off assets to cut a planned 5.5 billion euro ($6.2 billion) cash payout to FCA shareholders.

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A spokesman for FCA (FCHA.MI) dismissed the report on possible changes to the dividend in Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, while PSA (PEUP.PA) said it remained “lucid in the face of the regular speculations to which this merger project is subject”. It added it was implementing the binding agreement signed by the two companies in December.

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“The structure and terms of the merger are agreed and remain unchanged,” the FCA (FCAU.N) spokesman said.

Italian-American group FCA and France’s PSA plan to finalise their merger by the first quarter of next year.

Il Sole said FCA could conserve cash by handing shareholders assets in place of the special dividend, which has drawn criticism in Italy after the company agreed a 6.3 billion euro state-backed loan to help it through the coronavirus crisis.

Il Sole said talks were at a very early stage and no decision had been taken, adding the aim was to keep the 5.5 billion euro value of the special dividend but to turn it from cash to assets.

In this file photo, a vehicle moves past a sign outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles world headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (AP)

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Accepting the state-backed loan may not legally bar FCA from paying the dividend, as it is not due until 2021 and would be paid by Dutch parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. However, Italian politicians have questioned the appropriateness of such a large cash payout during the crisis.

Options being considered include spinning off the Sevel van business, a 50-50 joint venture between the two groups, which could be valued at between 2.5 and 3 billion euros, or FCA’s Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands, Il Sole said.

An auto dealership selling the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Chrysler vehicles is seen in Los Angeles, California. (REUTERS/Phil McCarten/File Photo)

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Spinning off Sevel could help address European Union concerns about competition in the van segment, but Il Sole said the option looked complicated as it would require PSA to transfer its 50% stake in the unit to FCA.

Another option is scrapping a planned spin-off of PSA’s controlling stake in parts maker Faurecia, Il Sole said.

A source close to the matter said PSA could instead sell its Faurecia (EPED.PA) stake before the merger and keep the cash proceeds in the merged company.

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Is Tesla the latest victim of the political divide?

New York (CNN Business)Tesla’s stock soared 26% during the holiday-shortened week, topping $1,000, $1,100 and $1,200 in the process. Tesla is now worth more than most blue chip firms in the S&P 500.

But one Wall Street analyst is making the case that the stock still could surge another 66% over the next 12 months to hit $2,000. So far Tesla (TSLA) shares have risen an electrifying 189% this year, driven partly by a broader increase in the tech sector.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a report earlier this week that solid demand for Tesla’s Model 3 from Chinese consumers could help boost the stock. He dubbed the strength in China a “ray of shining light for Tesla in a dark global macro” environment.

    Ives noted that demand for Tesla’s newer Model Y SUV is starting to ramp up in China, too. For these reasons, he thinks that China’s growth could add between $300 and $400 to its stock price.
    There is a caveat though. Ives has an official price target on Tesla of just $1,250. His $2,000 call is a bull case. Everything has to go right for Elon Musk’s company.


    Still, at a price of $2,000 a share, Tesla would have a market value of about $370 billion.
    There are only eight American companies that are currently worth more than that — Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon (AMZN), Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB), Visa (V) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).
    Tesla’s stock has continued to climb thanks to healthy sales for its pricier Model S and X vehicles as well as the more affordable 3 and Y models.
    But many other Wall Street analysts are skeptical of Tesla.

    The bear case for Tesla

    According to data from Refinitiv, only nine of the 33 analysts who cover Tesla have a “buy” rating on it. Eleven have Tesla rated a “hold,” and the remaining thirteen are recommending that investors sell Tesla. The average price target for all Tesla analysts is just $710.47 a share.
    Tesla bears point out that the company has yet to prove it can be consistently profitable, which is the main reason the stock is not in the S&P 500 yet — despite its huge market value.
    J.D. Power also recently noted that Tesla ranked last in its latest quality ratings for major automakers.
    What pandemic? Tesla really wants an in-person annual meeting
    And then there’s Elon Musk.
    While the Tesla CEO is hailed as a visionary by his fans, Musk’s detractors worry about his penchant for saying controversial things on Twitter and recent comments suggesting that coronavirus concerns are overblown.

      Some investors also are worried about a brain drain at Tesla. Several key executives have left in the past year and Tesla also does not have a chief operating officer to help Musk.
      The lack of a COO is worrisome to some analysts, especially since Musk has many other business interests that occupy his time, such as SpaceX and his tunnel firm the Boring Company.
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      Chinese stocks hit their highest level in 5 years, while Europe looks for direction with US markets closed for July 4th

      • Global markets were mixed Friday as investors seek direction with the US markets closed in observance of of the Fourth of July public holiday. 
      • Chinese stocks hit a five-year high as stronger than expected PMI data out of the world's second biggest economy boosted sentiment.
      • In Europe, stocks dropped a little, although there was no immediately apparent key driver to the moves.
      • Liquidity was thin with few US investors online during the day.
      • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

      Global stocks painted a confused picture on Friday as the US holiday for the Fourth of July caused thin liquidity in markets, and upbeat Chinese PMI data pushed Chinese stocks to a five-year high. 

      US markets are closed on Friday because of the holiday, leaving markets in Europe and other areas of the western world looking somewhat listless.

      In Asia, China's Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 (CSI300) closed at its highest level in five years at 4419.60 after stronger than expected data out of the country's service sector.

      China's services PMI — a closely watched economic survey — hit a 10-year high on Friday in the latest sign that the country's economic recovery as it comes out of the worst of its coronavirus crisis is accelerating.

      Read More: A 22-year market vet explains why stocks are headed for a 'massive reset' as the economy struggles to recover from COVID-19 — and outlines why that will put mega-cap tech companies in serious danger

      China's Caixin Services Purchasing Managers Index hit 58.4 for in June. The previous reading for May was 55. 

      In Europe, the EuroStoxx 600 Index pared earlier gains as France's prime minister resigned.

      Here's the market roundup as of 12.08 p.m in London (7.08 a.m. ET):

      • Asian indexes were up with China's Shanghai Composite up 2%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng up 1%, and Japan's Nikkei up 0.7%.
      • European equities were down, with Germany's DAX down 0.3%, Britain's FTSE 100 down 1%, and the Euro Stoxx 50 down 0.5%.
      • US futures are mixed. Futures underlying the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.2% the S&P 500 is down 0.2%  and the Nasdaq is flat. US real-time markets will not open until Monday.
      • Oil prices fell. West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude are both down 1.3%.
      • The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield fell to 0.67%.
      • Gold rose 0.1% to $1,788 per ounce.

      Markets were also confused whether to focus on upbeat Non-Farm Payrolls data that came out on Thursday, or rising coronavirus infections worldwide, and particularly in the US. 

      American businesses added 4.8 million jobs duringJun e, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      That exceeded the 3 million new jobs expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg and represents the second straight month of job additions during the coronavirus induced recession. 

      Ahead of the May jobs report, economists were predicting job losses of 7.5 million instead of an addition of 2.5 million new jobs that emerged in that month's job report. 

      Continued optimism on a vaccination was also in part driving markets for another session. 

      Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia-Pacific, at OANDA, said: "Pleasingly, some real progress appears to be being made on the Covid-19 vaccine front. By my count this week alone, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, along with their partners, are all on the verge of commencing phase III mass trials."

      Read More: The most accurate tech analyst on Wall Street says these 6 stocks have potential for huge gains as they transform the sector

      "My anti-black swan for 2020 has been, that a vaccine appears in Q4 2020 with immediate deployment thereafter."

      On Wednesday Pfizer revealed positive early-stage trial results for its coronavirus vaccine.

      Pfizer said patients created between 1.8 and 2.8 times the antibodies seen in those who have recovered from COVID-19. 

      Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

      Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.

      Get the latest Pfizer stock price here.

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      The UK is in 'pole position' for market recovery despite gloomy economic outlook, UBS says

      • U.K. GDP saw its sharpest contraction since 1979 in the first quarter, and the balance-of-trade deficit widened to £21.1 billion ($26.4 billion).
      • U.K. stocks currently trade at a 19% discount to the MSCI World index, versus an average of 7% since 2002, UBS strategists pointed out in a research note Wednesday.
      • S&P Global has cut its forecast for U.K. GDP in 2020 to an 8.1% contraction, warning of a "perfect storm" if Britain suffers a second wave of coronavirus infections and fails to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement.

      Although the U.K. faces a gloomy economic picture, UBS believes the country's assets are "heavily undervalued" and best placed to capitalize on the Covid-19 recovery.

      U.K. GDP saw its sharpest contraction since 1979 in the first quarter, and the balance-of-trade deficit widened to £21.1 billion ($26.4 billion). However, strategists at the Swiss bank suggested that a promised £5 billion of government infrastructure spending and several key market dynamics place the U.K. in "pole position" to outperform.

      "We see the UK as benefiting in an upside scenario for the global economic recovery, among other markets, including U.S. mid-caps, German industrials, and consumer brands," said Mark Haefele, the chief investment officer of UBS Global Wealth Management.

      "In particular, we see sterling as the most notable beneficiary of the vulnerability of the U.S. dollar, which we expect to fall as safe-haven flows reverse and as political uncertainty mounts ahead of the November U.S. presidential election."

      Stocks and sterling undervalued?

      U.K. stocks currently trade at a 19% discount to the MSCI World index, versus an average of 7% since 2002, UBS strategists pointed out in a research note Wednesday, suggesting that this implies considerable upside potential over the next 12 months.

      Net earnings-per-share (EPS) revisions, the balance of upward and downward revisions to analyst forecasts, have been improving on the back of rising oil prices, but stock performance has remained sluggish. EPS refers to a company's net profit divided by the number of common shares it has outstanding.

      UBS believes that sterling is second only to the Japanese yen among G-10 currencies in terms of undervaluation relative to the dollar, with strategists estimating its purchasing power parity (PPP) with the greenback is 1.54, against a current exchange rate of 1.25. PPP uses the prices of particular goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of currencies in various countries.

      The note also highlighted that some value stocks (those which trade at a low price relative to their fundamentals) and cyclical sectors (those which generally track economic performance) which have upside potential in the Covid-19 economic recovery align well with the U.K. equity market. In particular, the FTSE 100 has a 40% cumulative exposure to value sectors such as banks, basic materials and energy.

      "Notably, the U.K. would benefit from a recovery in the Brent crude oil price, which we expect to rise to USD 55 a barrel by the end of the second quarter of next year," UBS strategists said. Energy stocks account for 12% of the FTSE 100 index, compared to just 4% for the MSCI World index.

      A steep climb to recovery

      S&P Global on Wednesday cut its forecast for U.K. GDP in 2020 to an 8.1% contraction, warning of a "perfect storm" if Britain experiences a second wave of coronavirus infections and fails to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement with the European Union.

      The U.K. has passed the June 30 deadline to request an extension to the current transition period beyond the end of 2020, meaning its future trading relationship with the bloc will have to be determined over the next six months.

      Berenberg Chief Economist Holger Schmeiding noted Thursday that despite an extension being off the table, the tone from British and European leaders has softened, with both sides floating possible compromises over governance, level playing field provisions and politically sensitive fisheries. But despite signs of progress, Berenberg does not expect a deal before year-end.

      "Instead, we expect the two sides to agree on some modest stopgap measures in order to prevent a disorderly hard exit," Schmeiding said.

      "Instead of one big cliff edge, where the U.K.-EU economic relationship suddenly shifts from open single market rules to the much more restrictive World Trade Organisation rules for trade, we expect the two sides to see to it that the switch occurs in a series of smaller steps."

      S&P Global now assumes that a "core" trade agreement will be reached, rather than the comprehensive accord once hoped for by the markets, and suggested that the switch to this regime will dampen the 2021 rebound and drag on growth in the coming years. The ratings agency now expects that the U.K. economy will be around 3% smaller in 2022 than initially projected before the pandemic.

      Political and monetary risks 'overdone'

      Despite the potential headwinds, however, Haefele's UBS team believes the monetary and political risks are "overdone" and overstating the concerns that no agreement is reached, owing to a clear incentive for both sides to avoid such an outcome.

      "We also believe markets have been exaggerating the risk of the Bank of England reducing rates into negative territory, a potential drag on the pound," the UBS note added.

      The Bank of England revealed last month that it had been assessing the impact of negative rates, but Governor Andrew Bailey confirmed that this was not an immediate consideration, and the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) did not discuss it at June's policy meeting.

      "As these risks subside, we expect the pound to regain ground and investment into the U.K. to pick up," Haefele concluded.

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      ECB Split Is Brewing on Pandemic Program That Calmed Crisis

      European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde’s signature crisis-fighting tool is becoming the focus of disagreement among policy makers in what could amount to her first major test of discipline.

      Governing Council members face a potential rift over how much their emergency bond-purchase program should stay weighted toward weaker countries such as Italy, according to multiple conversations with central-bank officials.

      While the debate remains hypothetical for now, it could crystallize as the economy emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The danger is that such friction undermines a program unveiled at the height of the crisis to reassure investors of the ECB’s resolve in defending the integrity of the euro.

      The officials asked not to be named because of the confidentiality of internal discussions. An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

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      @ecbPress release: ECB announces €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) https://ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2020/html/ecb.pr200318_1~3949d6f266.en.html12:08 AM · Mar 19, 2020

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      The internal mood is reflected in differing public comments by the central-bank heads of the euro zone’s two biggest economies: Germany’s Jens Weidmann and France’s Francois Villeroy de Galhau. Other Governing Council members hold similar views to them on either side of the debate, according to the officials.

      The prospect of disagreements might evoke memories of the discord that punctuated the eight-year reign of Lagarde’s predecessor, Mario Draghi. The bond-buying tool he developed during the euro-area debt crisis and his later pursuit of quantitative easing both met bitter German opposition.

      At the core of the current argument is the much-touted flexibility of the pandemic emergency purchase program. Lagarde proclaimed it to have “no limits” after she corralled colleagues into agreeing to the measure during a late-night emergency session in mid-March.

      It allowed the ECB to skew purchases toward Italy, one of the worst-hit countries, as bond yields there started to surge, averting the kind of debt crisis that almost splintered the bloc in 2012.

      But it also meant deviating from a rule intended to keep the ECB in line with a European Union law that bans it from financing government spending. The so-called capital key links bond programs to the relative size of each economy — more German than Italian debt is bought regardless of economic conditions — and was a fundamental reason the EU’s top court ruled an earlier program legal in 2018.

      Moreover, while the ECB repeatedly says the emergency program is temporary, it also pledges to keep going “until it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over” — a vague term that could be open to wide interpretation.

      Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank, wants to limit the plan’s scope amid concern that too much leeway could backfire, while his opposite number at the Bank of France has championed maximum flexibility to channel support to those needing it most.

      “Clinging to the capital keys to determine each country’s purchase amounts would be an uncalled-for constraint that would undermine the very effectiveness of our intervention efforts,” Villeroy said on May 25. “Certain national central banks must be able to purchase significantly more, and others significantly less.”

      Villeroy is practicing what he’s preaching. The first breakdown of purchases by country in early June showed France undershot its quota by more than 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion).

      Weidmann supported the program because of the sheer scale of the economic shock. But he also insists that it must either be temporary or, if it morphs into yet another long-lasting stimulus tool, adhere to rules such as the capital key.

      In a speech last month, he argued that governments mustn’t rely on the ECB to keep financing costs low forever.

      “‘Flexible’ doesn’t mean ‘unrestricted’,” he said. “It’s important to me that monetary policy doesn’t set wrong incentives for public finances. In this context, the capital key offers the ECB a sensible guideline for pandemic emergency purchase program holdings at the end of net purchases.”

      Read more…

      • Deflation Fears at ECB Signal Stimulus Battles for Lagarde
      • ECB’s Lagarde Warns of Rocky Recovery After Economy Turns Corner

      After so much over-buying of Italian bonds, rebalancing the 1.35 trillion-euro program by the end of net purchases, currently scheduled for June next year, would be tough. It risks driving Italian yields higher, worsening the sustainability of that nation’s debt.

      The account of the latest policy meeting, when the program was almost doubled in size and extended, showed that a decision to reinvest the proceeds of maturing debt until at least the end of 2022 was made in part to allow more time to bring total holdings back in line.

      Weidmann’s tough interpretation of the rules pre-dates this crisis and often caused friction under Draghi, but the issue was thrown into sharp relief in early May when Germany’s constitutional court said an earlier bond-purchase program might be illegal. The standoff was only resolved on Thursday, when German lawmakers decided the ECB’s efforts were proportionate to the economic challenges.

      While the court’s surprise decision wasn’t about the capital key, the judges did note how critical the guideline is for preventing monetary financing. One of Germany’s political parties subsequently pledged to launch a legal challenge against the newer program.

      The ECB’s Governing Council will next meet in two weeks, giving officials another chance to hash out their differences over what should happen when the economic crisis finally eases.

      — With assistance by William Horobin

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      Uber Is Finally Coming to Tokyo After Six Years in Japan

      After six years in Japan, Uber Technologies Inc. is finally coming to Tokyo.

      Starting Friday, users in the Japanese capital will be able to hail taxis using the Uber app, according to Tom White, who heads the company’s operations in the country. Uber is partnering with three local taxi operators to make 600 cars available primarily in the city’s central business district and the popular areas of Shinagawa, Akihabara and Asakusa.

      The U.S. company has done things a little differently in the world’s No 3. economy, which has strict regulations covering ride-sharing. The San Francisco-based company has focused on growing its food-delivery business, which now encompasses about 25,000 restaurants in 20 prefectures. For rides, it’s built partnerships with taxi companies in provincial cities, including the popular tourist destinations of Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. In Tokyo, its offering has been limited to black-car hires till now.

      “We wanted to do it right, having learned lessons in smaller markets,” White said in an interview. “We are in a better position to not just offer a good service to riders, but also to have lasting relationships with taxi companies.”

      In Tokyo, Uber is partnering with Hinomaru Limousine Co., Tokyo MK Corp. and Ecosystem and is in talks with more operators, White said. The goal is to extend coverage to all of the capital’s central districts by the end of the year. That brings the total number of Japanese cities where the service is available to 12.

      Despite the regulatory challenges, Japan has only grown in importance for Uber. After years of costly battles, ride-hailing giants have struck deals to stay out of each other’s core markets. In 2016, Uber ceded China to Didi Chuxing in exchange for a stake in its former rival. It pulled out of Russia in a similar manner the following year, and sold its Southeast Asian operations to Grab in 2018. That left few reservoirs of untapped growth.

      Despite being the second-largest taxi market in the world — generating some $50 billion in annual revenue — most locals in Japan still hail a cab by flagging one down in the street. Apps are used for less than 5% of the rides, White said. Others have also spotted the opportunity. Sony Corp., startup Japan Taxi and China’s Didi are among those that have rolled out competing taxi-hailing apps.

      “We are very much still in the early days,” White said. “There is still tremendous opportunity in this market. And the success of Uber Eats shows that people are open to the brand.”

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      China v U.S., India’s Bright Spot, Job Growth Optimism: Eco Day

      Happy Friday, Asia. Here’s the latest news and analysis from Bloomberg Economics to help get you through to the weekend:

      • The U.S. Senate gave final approval to legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials cracking down on dissent in Hong Kong. The bill heads to President Donald Trump for his signature or veto
      • India has accumulated the world’s fifth-largest foreign exchange reserves at more than $500 billion, making it a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy
      • The U.S. labor market made great progress last month digging out of a deep hole, yet optimism was tempered by stubbornly high layoffs and a resurgent outbreak across the country
      • The past two weeks saw some improvement in Hong Kong’s economy, even as the number of new cases of Covid-19 rose, writes Chang Shu
      • Boris Johnson’s government refused to back down after China warned of “consequences” if it presses ahead with the offer a home in the U.K. for millions of Hong Kong residents
      • Here’s why it’s hard for Europe to break China’s supply chains, Stephanie Flanders and Lucy Meakin discuss in Stephanie’s weekly podcast
      • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will fall short of his pledge for women to hold 30% of the nation’s leadership positions this year as the pandemic highlights the fragility of women’s employment gains
      • Thailand’s plan to target high-spending foreigners to kick-start its travel sector has a green light after winning Cabinet approval and additional support from the nation’s aviation regulator
      • An average of 178,000 workers have been exiting Spain’s furlough program every week to return to their jobs in a sign that the recovery is slowly gathering pace, where the recession is expected to be one of Europe’s deepest
      • The gulf between generations in the U.K. is yawning as the pandemic exposes inequalities and damages younger people’s work prospects
      • The Indian military has been discussing a two-front war with Pakistan and China for decades to keep politicians focused on defense spending. Now that scenario is looking ever more realistic
      • Nathan Tankus, 28, hasn’t yet finished his bachelor’s degree. He has, however, mastered enough knowledge of economics and finance to become a widely followed commentator on the Fed

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