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China's Clover Raises $230Mn, Plans Vaccines For COVID-19 Variants Published: 23 February 2021

  • China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a developer of coronavirus vaccines, has raised $230 million from investors, including Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek Holdings, it said on Tuesday, as it develops vaccines for variants.
  • Clover, which has been developing a vaccine using an immune response-boosting ingredient made by U.S.-based Dynavax Technologies Corp, plans to start mid-to late-stage clinical trials in the first half of 2021.
  • “We are working on broadly protective coronavirus vaccine approaches for variant strains of interest,” a spokeswoman said, without identifying the specific strains of SARS-CoV-2 to be targeted by the firm’s new candidates.

(Source: Reuters)

'One-Way Road To Freedom': Johnson Sets Out Cautious Lockdown Exit Plan Published: 23 February 2021

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a map out of lockdown for England on Monday that would keep some businesses shuttered until the summer, saying caution was necessary to ensure there were no reversals on a “one-way road to freedom”.
  • After imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in the western world in January to counter a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus, Johnson said Britain was now in a position to enjoy the fruits of one of the world’s fastest vaccine programs.
  • Starting in two weeks with the reopening of schools, the phased plan will go through four stages, with at least five weeks in between each stage. The final step, when most restrictions will be lifted, will not start until June 21 at the earliest.

(Source: Reuters)

Inflation Rate Remains Within Target Published: 18 February 2021

  • According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), consumer prices fell by -1.6% in January. The decline in the first month of the year resulted in the 12-month point-to-point inflation rate of 4.7%, down from 5.2% in the 12-months to December 2020.
  • A  4.6% decline in the index for the heaviest weighted division, ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ and a 0.8% decrease in the index for the ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ division were behind the reduction in consumer prices.
  • However, an increase of 0.7% in the ‘Transport’ index due to increased petrol prices tempered the overall decline in the CPI.
  • The decrease in the food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ division was due primarily to the 17.8% fall in the index of the class ‘Vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses’ as a result of lower prices for some agricultural produce aided by a recovery in production after the damaging effects of heavy rains in October and December 2020.
  • Considering this, inflation for the fiscal-year-to-date (April 2020 – January 2021) was 3.4%.
  • At 4.7%, inflation remained within the BOJ’s 4%-6% target range for the 7th consecutive month.

(Source: STATIN)

Bank of Jamaica Keeps Policy Rate Unchanged at 0.5% Published: 18 February 2021

  • Bank of Jamaica made the decision to hold the policy interest rate (the rate offered on overnight balances at Bank of Jamaica) unchanged at 0.50% per annum for the 18th consecutive month.
  • The decision to hold the policy rate unchanged reflects BOJ’s assessment that inflation will average 5.0% over the next two years and remain within the target range. This forecast is broadly in line with previous projections.
  • The macroeconomic outlook continues to be characterized by significant uncertainties within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With inflation contained within the target range, the BOJ has remained accommodative in its monetary policy stance with the aim of supporting recovery in economic activity.

(Source: BOJ)

Venezuela's Contraction Likely Bottoming Out, Though Upside Very Limited Published: 18 February 2021

  • The pace of Venezuela’s economic contraction will slow in 2021, as oil exports rise moderately and the government expands opportunities for the private sector in some sectors, though activity will remain a fraction of pre-2014 levels.
  • Fitch Solutions forecasts Venezuela’s economy will contract 2.9% y-o-y in 2021, from a 26.6% contraction in 2020, with growth reaching positive territory in 2022.
  • In the long term, it expects US sanctions will remain in place. Combined with the Venezuelan economy’s myriad other structural weaknesses, there is limited upside for economic activity moving forward.

(Source: Fitch Solutions)

Risk Of Social Unrest In Guatemala To Persist In Quarters Ahead Published: 18 February 2021

  • A slow economic recovery from the pandemic and limited government support for household incomes will drive elevated risks of social unrest in Guatemala in the quarters ahead.
  • Fitch Solutions sees the potential for additional risks to social stability stemming from the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as delays in distribution could slow the economic recovery or allow for another spike in cases.
  • As a result, the agency maintained Guatemala’s score of 40.0 out of 100 in the social stability’ subcomponent of its Short-Term Political Risk Index.

(Source: Fitch Solutions)

Fed Sees Long Road to Tightening as Economy Still Far From Meeting Goals Published: 18 February 2021

  • Federal Reserve policymakers believe it will likely "take some time" until the economy generates substantial growth that would allow the central bank to consider tightening monetary policy, according to the minutes of the central bank's last policy meeting released Wednesday.
  • At the conclusion of its previous meeting on Jan. 27, the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's rate-setting arm, kept its benchmark rate in a range of 0% to 0.25% and bond purchases at a $120Bn monthly pace.
  • "The Committee's guidance for asset purchases indicated that asset purchases would continue at least at the current pace until substantial further progress toward its employment and inflation goals had been achieved," the Fed said in the minutes.
  • The Fed's willingness to persist with the status quo of a lower-for-longer interest rate environment comes as the 10-2 Year Treasury yield spread curve, a gauge of the health of the economy, has widened to levels not seen since April 2017, on expectations for a speedier recovery and a pickup in inflation.

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

Billions Of Pounds In The Red, UK Budget To Have Greenish Hue Published: 18 February 2021

  • British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak's annual budget on March 3 is set to have a green tinge, even as the country goes hundreds of billions of pounds into the red to fund its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Sunak will move forward with plans to launch Britain's first "green" government bonds - designed to finance environmentally-friendly investments - and might also nudge the Bank of England to focus more on climate change.
  • But any progress on carbon taxes - endorsed by the International Monetary Fund in October - is likely to be slow as Sunak grapples with how best to close a 400-billion-pound ($556Bn) budget deficit, the largest since World War Two.
  • Britain is hosting a major United Nations environmental summit, in November and Sunak told other finance ministers last week that he wanted action on climate change to be a major theme of Britain's chairmanship of the G7 this year.

(Source: Reuters)

Supreme Ventures Acquires Majority Stake In Mckayla Financial Services Published: 10 February 2021

  • Supreme Ventures Limited, through its subsidiary Supreme Ventures Fintech Limited, has announced the purchase of a 51% majority shareholding in McKayla Financial Services Limited, a Kingston-based microfinance company.
  • An incorporated company since 2002, Mckayla Financial Services Ltd focuses on business loans, micro and small loans supported by DBJ and MIDA (Micro Investment Development Agency Limited). Additionally, the company is engaged in receivables, factoring financing, as well as personal loans, consumer loans, and insurance premium financing.
  • The acquisition is aligned with SVL’s growth strategy, which has expanded beyond the gaming market and is now making headway into other growth industries, such as the micro-lending space, with significant potential to meet the ever-growing needs of an extensive consumer base.

(Source: JSE)

Brazil Inflation Slows In January, But 4.6% Annual Rate Remains High Published: 10 February 2021

  • Monthly inflation in Brazil slowed in January as a sharp fall in electricity prices dragged down housing costs, official figures showed on Tuesday, but the annual rate of inflation remained high and significantly above the central bank’s year-end goal.
  • It was the third month in a row the benchmark annual IPCA (consumer price index) consumer inflation rate has been above 4%, having more than doubled from the record low below 2% last May.
  • The annual rate of 4.56% in January was slightly below the 4.61% median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, but the highest for any January since 2017, statistics agency IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). 

(Source: Reuters)