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Shanghai hunkers down for final COVID battle, Beijing outbreak stubborn

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab sample from a chef for nucleic acid testing, during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 13, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai was tightening its COVID-19 lockdown for what it hoped would be the final week of its battle with the virus before it could gradually begin to ease restrictions, while Beijing kept fighting its much smaller but persistent outbreak.

China’s commercial hub of 25 million hoped to come out of its painful six-week-old lockdown later this month. Authorities on Saturday were hoping one last round of tightening would eradicate the last infections of the country’s worst COVID outbreak of the pandemic.

Many residents of the nation’s most populous city, allowed to leave their housing compounds about a week ago for short walks or quick grocery trips, have more recently received notices to stay indoors for a three-day “silent” period.

Many buildings were told overnight that restriction would be extended until Friday. Going silent usually means residents cannot leave home and, in some cases, it can mean no deliveries.

Linette Lim, who has spent more than 40 days under lockdown, said her community received such a notice on Friday, a day after its official risk levels was lowered to a grade that in theory should have led to looser restrictions.

“It’s very frustrating because everyone has been asked to make sacrifices, to overcome the present difficulties for the collective good, and people have been consistently complying and coping with whatever is thrown at them,” she said.

“But somehow the goalposts keep shifting,” said Lim. “Nerves are frayed and people have no end goal to look forward to.”

CLOSING QUARANTINE CENTRES

Hundreds of millions in dozens of Chinese cities live under COVID curbs of various degrees. The measures are hurting consumption and manufacturing in the world’s second-biggest economy, and disrupting global trade and supply chains.

Some analysts expect the economy to shrink this quarter. Officials have promised more stimulus measures.

China will offer subsidies, tax breaks and easier loans to boost prospects for college graduates, the cabinet said on Friday, as a record 10.76 million are set to finish college and enter the workforce this year in a weaker economy.

China’s jobless rate hit its highest in nearly two years in March at 5.8%, while youth unemployment was 16%, the highest since July 2021.

Shanghai city official Ding Bo said on Saturday the number of patients in quarantine hospitals dropped to 50,000, one-fifth of the peak recorded last month. Authorities therefore closed five quarantine centres, he said.

The city reported more than 1,500 daily coronavirus cases, down from more than 2,000 the day before – all in areas under the tightest controls.

Cases found in relatively freer communities are being closely watched for clues on where the outbreak is heading. There was one such case detected on Friday, down from four the previous day.

Beijing reported 56 daily cases, up from 50. The capital has been detecting a few dozen new cases almost every day since the first infections of its outbreak were discovered on April 22.

Officials in the capital this week denied rumours of an imminent lockdown, urging people not to panic-buy but to stay at home. Residents seemed to be heeding the advice as many of Beijing’s streets were eerily quiet.

Mass testing across most of the city has become an almost daily routine.

Authorities in the capital had already banned dine-in services at restaurants, closed some malls, entertainment and tourist venues, suspended sections of the bus, subway and taxi systems and imposed lockdowns on some residential buildings.

Economic Indicators

Ukraine removes fuel price restrictions to increase supply – economy minister

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Drivers stay in line outside a petrol station as they try to buy fuel, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 11, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s government has lifted restrictions on fuel prices to enable traders to import more and make up the shortage Ukraine is experiencing after Russian forces destroyed many storage facilities and logistics chains, the economy minister said on Tuesday.

“We … suspended price regulation in order to enable market operators to saturate the market … so that they will be able to deliver all the resources available on the European market, and not only from the European market,” Yulia Svyrydenko said in an online interview with Ukrainian television.

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Economic Indicators

Motor vehicles boost U.S. business inventories in March

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An assembly worker of Ford Motor works on an F-series pickup truck at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. business inventories increased slightly more than expected in March, lifted by a jump in motor vehicle stocks, government data showed on Tuesday.

Business inventories rose 2.0% after increasing 1.8% in February, the Commerce Department said. Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories rising 1.9%.

Inventories surged 14.7% on a year-on-year basis in March. Retail inventories increased 2.3% in March, instead of 2.0% as estimated in an advance report published last month. That followed a 1.6% increase in February.

Motor vehicle inventories rose 1.6% instead of 1.2% as estimated last month. They increased 1.4% in February. Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, shot up 2.5%, rather than 2.3% as estimated last month.

Inventory investment slowed in the first quarter from the October-December period’s robust pace. That, together with a record trade deficit, weighed on gross domestic product, resulting in the economy contracting at a 1.4% annualized rate in the first quarter.

Wholesale inventories increased 2.3% in March. Stocks at manufacturers gained 1.3%.

Business sales rose 1.8% in March after climbing 1.2% in February. At March’s sales pace, it would take 1.27 months for businesses to clear shelves, unchanged from February.

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Economic Indicators

U.S. Retail Sales Kept Up Strong Growth in April, Keeping Fed Rate Hikes on Track

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© Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com — The U.S. consumer kept spending in April, shrugging off concerns that high inflation and the looming prospect of an economic slowdown might act as a brake.

Retail sales grew 0.9% from March, and March’s data were revised up to show a gain of 1.4% from February, double the 0.7% initially reported. That left the annual rate of retail sales growth at a robust 8.2%.

Nor was that all down to rising prices for groceries and gasoline. Excluding food and energy costs, core retail sales grew 0.6%, more than the 0.4% predicted. Here, too, March sales were revised up to a gain of 2.1% from an initial 1.4%.

Financial markets took the data as a sign that the Federal Reserve will persevere with a string of hefty interest rate hikes over the course of the next few months. The yield on the interest-rate sensitive 2-year Treasury note rose 8 basis points to 2.64%, while the benchmark 10-Year yield rose 6 basis points to 2.94%.

S&P 500 futures, meanwhile, edged down 3 points but were still posting solid gains of over 1% for the overnight session.

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