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World News

No COVID-19 deaths reported in Sweden in 24 hours, but weekend figures typically delayed

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden has not reported any coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, for the first time since March 13, the health authority said on Sunday, but there is typically a delay in reporting figures at weekends.

Sweden’s open approach to the virus, mostly based on voluntary social distancing and basic hygiene, has been criticized by some as a dangerous experiment, but also once touted as a future model by the World Health Organization.

Last week, Sweden had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe per capita over a seven-day-period, data showed.

There have been previous weekends where the death toll has increased by as little as two, only for a steeper rise to return in the following days when the reporting catches up, the health authority spokesman said.

The pandemic has killed 4,395 people in Sweden.

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Business

Stocks, euro rise on recovery hopes; U.S.-China rift lifts gold

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets climbed on Thursday on optimism for a speedy economic recovery and a massive stimulus plan in Europe helped lift regional stocks and the euro, while gold rebounded on a safety bid on deteriorating U.S.-China relations.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe rose 0.46% but Wall Street ended lower after a late-session reversal on headlines that President Donald Trump would hold a news conference on Friday about China.

Markets are slowly realizing the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China is not going away and represent headwinds for the global economy, said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

“There’s going to be some push back. No one was anticipating that in the immediate future,” Moya said. “It could derail some of the reopening momentum we’ve had.”

Oil futures rose, reversing earlier losses, on signs U.S. gasoline demand is increasing despite a big surprise build in crude inventories and worries that China’s new security law for Hong Kong could result in demand-dampening trade sanctions.

Gold pared earlier gains of 1% as rising stock markets dulled its safe-haven appeal, but the escalating U.S.-Chinese tensions kept bullion propped up.

China’s parliament approved national security legislation for Hong Kong that democracy activists say could erode the territory’s freedoms and jeopardize its role as a global financial hub.

Investors have largely turned a blind eye to renewed U.S.-China tensions and instead are focused on the reopening of business activity, Candice Bangsund, a global asset allocation portfolio manager at Fiera Capital in Montreal, said earlier in the session.

“Stocks have maintained that positive momentum largely reflecting optimism that growth will recover as COVID lockdowns are eased and economies progressively reopen,” Bangsund said. “Enhanced government stimulus announcements this week out of Europe and Japan have emboldened that risk-on trade.”

The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell for an eighth straight week last week, but claims remained astonishingly high.

In Europe, the pan-regional STOXX 600 index rose 1.64% to an 11-week high on the European Union’s plan to prop up the bloc’s coronavirus-hit economies with a 750-billion-euro ($828 billion) recovery fund.

The euro fell 0.04% to $1.1072, a two-month high. The dollar index fell 0.423%.

Stocks on Wall Street closed lower, as early gains in healthcare and technology stocks were overtaken by falling bank and consumer discretionary shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 147.63 points, or 0.58%, to 25,400.64. The S&P 500 lost 6.4 points, or 0.21%, to 3,029.73 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 43.37 points, or 0.46%, to 9,368.99.

Overnight in Asia, markets were subdued after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Hong Kong no longer warranted special treatment under U.S. law.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ended flat. Shares in Hong Kong ended down 0.7% as Chinese shares managed to close in positive territory [.SS], while Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.3%. [.N][.T]

Euro zone bond yields were stable, with Italian borrowing costs – a key European confidence indicator – edging toward eight-week lows. Safe-haven German bonds sold off slightly.

U.S. government debt yields rose as stocks gained, reducing demand for safe-haven bonds, before the Treasury is due to sell a record $38 billion of seven-year notes.

Benchmark 10-year notes rose 1.5 basis points to yield 0.6966%.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude inventories rose 7.9 million barrels in the latest week, exceeding expectations, due to a big increase in imports. But gasoline stockpiles fell unexpectedly as refiners boosted output. [EIA/S]

U.S. crude futures rose 90 cents to settle at $33.71 a barrel while Brent rose 55 cents to settle at $35.29.

Saudi Arabia and some other OPEC oil producers are considering extending record-high output cuts until the end of 2020 but have yet to win support from Russia, according to OPEC+ and Russian industry sources.

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.1% at $1,728.30 an ounce.

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Business

Hong Kong tensions rattle world stock markets, oil tumbles

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices tumbled and global equity markets fell on Friday as China’s move to impose a new security law on Hong Kong further strained U.S.-China relations and clouded economic recovery prospects.

China also dropped its annual growth target for the first time, adding to uncertainty about the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting safe-haven investments such as U.S. Treasuries US10YT=RR and the dollar.

China said it would impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong, leading President Donald Trump to warn that Washington would react “very strongly” against any attempt to gain more control over the former British colony.

Emerging market shares slid -2.72%. Stocks in Europe closed mostly flat and on Wall Street finished mixed as investors prepared for a long weekend in the United States, the UK and elsewhere.

After trading lower most of the session, Wall Street trended upward in late trading, with the S&P and the Dow managing to finish higher.

“The market just keeps battling higher, it just wants to go higher,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. “It’s anticipating improvement and we’ve seen all the bad news.”

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have risen in recent weeks, with Washington ramping up criticism of China over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, raising fears the rhetoric could crimp economic growth.

The U.S. Commerce Department said late in the session that it is adding 33 Chinese companies and other institutions to a blacklist for human rights violations and to address U.S. national security concerns.

The resurgent U.S.-China standoff weighed on oil prices.

“You have these doubts over China that is triggering this sell-off in oil, and it’s going to gain steam. If oil sells off, it’s hard to have a strong stock market,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

Of major asset classes, crude oil has rebounded the most off the year’s lows on hopes world economies will soon recover from coronavirus-induced business shutdowns, he said, adding that he believed oil’s rally was overdone.

“There’s just too much uncertainty, and that’s going to likely keep on weighing on risk appetite,” Moya said.

MSCI’s all-country world stock index .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.40%, but the pan-European STOXX 600 index closed down just 0.3%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 8.96 points, or 0.04%, to 24,465.16. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 6.94 points, or 0.24%, to 2,955.45, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 39.71 points, or 0.43%, to 9,324.59.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index .HSI slid more than 5% to a seven-week low, its biggest daily percentage fall since 2015. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost 2.7%; Japan’s Nikkei .N225 fell 0.8%.

Analysts said extensive central bank stimulus continues to underpin sentiment and buoy equity markets.

Japan’s central bank unveiled a lending program to channel nearly $280 billion to small businesses hit by the coronavirus. India slashed rates for a second time this year and the European Central Bank, in the minutes from its last meeting, said it was ready to expand emergency bond purchases as early as June.

U.S. crude CLc1 fell 67 cents to settle at $33.25 a barrel, paring about half earlier losses of more than 5%. Brent LCOc1 settled at $35.13, down 93 cents on the day.

The dollar index =USD rose 0.331%, with the euro EUR= down 0.42% to $1.0903. The Japanese yen JPY= strengthened 0.01% versus the greenback at 107.62 per dollar.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields fell 0.2 basis points to 0.6574% US10YT=RR.

Spot gold XAU= added 0.5% and U.S. gold futures GCv1 settled up 0.8% at $1,735.50 an ounce.

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World News

Lethbridge residents voice concern over crime near emergency COVID-19 housing

Lethbridge residents living near the Superlodge Motel are voicing their concerns to both the city and police after months of criminal activity they believe is due to the motel’s temporary COVID-19 isolation housing.

Just a year after moving into her south-side home next to the Superlodge, Cayley Pierzchala wants to move. 

“I love the house, and we’ve made lots of upgrades to the house, but I absolutely hate the neighbourhood,” Pierzchala said.

“I just don’t feel safe here with my children.”

Like many of her neighbors, she said she’s had thefts as well as needles and drug paraphernalia on her property.

City officials said they have received numerous complaint calls, but said the few individuals they did have in emergency isolation are not to blame. 

“We needed to move people out of homeless shelters into another stage of housing as quickly as possible to reduce the numbers and make sure that we have proper physical distancing,” Tony Vanden Heuvel, the director of Community Services, explained. “There’s a number of individuals there from different agencies that have no connection with the City of Lethbridge.”

Lethbridge police said the number of calls for service to the area have increased in the last two months in comparison with last year. 

In the future, the city said it will be more careful not to over saturate housing facilities and will coordinate more with partnering agencies, but maintain the isolation efforts are a success.

Pierzchala said she understands the need for such housing, but wants to see better security and location decisions made.

“I still feel for these people because they are human. It is a tough situation. But what has happened here is just not okay,” she said. “They’re doing drugs and they’re stealing things in a residential area, across from a school, and that’s just not okay.”

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World News

China accuses Trump of ‘shirking’ responsibilities as US President threatens to leave WHO

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There has been a recent eruption of a war of words between the US and China as President Trump has accused Beijing of covering up the outbreak of COVID-19 in central China last year. President Trump has now written an open letter to WHO warning if they do not change, he will stop any US funding and reconsider the country’s membership.

More than 318,000 people have died of coronavirus since it spread across the globe with the US being the worse affected country with more than 90,000 deaths.

China has urged the US to focus on controlling the virus rather than shifting the blame.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “The US leader’s open letter you mentioned is full of hints, ‘perhaps’, and ‘maybes’, and tries to use specious methods to mislead the public, and achieve the goals of smearing China’s anti-virus efforts, and shirk responsibility for the United States’ own insufficient response.

“The US tries to use China as an issue to shirk responsibility and bargain over its international obligations to the WHO.

“This is a miscalculation and the US has picked the wrong target.”

He added the US was simply trying to deflect from how Washington has responded to the virus and its “insufficient prevention and control”.

The WHO has agreed to launch an investigation into its coronavirus response after President Trump said he would leave the organisation, which he accused of being a “puppet of China”.

SEE MORE: Australia threatens to involve the WTO in China trade dispute

President Trump has also accused WHO of not doing enough to control the disease.

He said at the White House: “They are a puppet of China, they are China-centric to put it nicer.”

Beijing has denied any allegations they have ever played down the threat of the virus and said their response has been “open, transparent and responsible”.

President Trump’s open letter to WHO has demanded it is independent from China.

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He said: “If WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding and reconsider out membership in the organisation.”

The European Union has said it backs the WHO and its efforts to fight the coronavirus after President Trump threatened to pull out of the agency.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson said: “This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation.”

WHO countries have now voted for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response of the pandemic.

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Politics

‘No consultation’: Vancouver police chief slams $8.5M budget cut amid COVID-19 crisis

Vancouver’s police chief is expressing a “fundamental concern” about an $8.5-million budget cut to the department approved by city council.

In an email sent Wednesday night and obtained by Global News, city officials notified Chief Adam Palmer of a motion that was passed that night in-camera to cut the police budget by one per cent to help offset the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police department is an essential service, Palmer wrote in reply to city manager Sadhu Johnston, and while the department works with the city, it is governed by the Vancouver Police Board and “does not take ‘direction from council.’”

“There was no consultation with the VPD on this motion nor was the VPD afforded the opportunity to address city council about the potential public safety implications/repercussions of reducing the VPD’s budget during a worldwide pandemic,” he said.

The cuts translate to about 80 fewer police officers, he added.

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“There is a lack of public transparency and accountability with this in-camera process,” Palmer said.

“This is particularly concerning regarding matters of public safety that impact all Vancouverites – decisions that have a fundamental impact on public safety should not be made in private.

Councillors are grappling with a projected funding shortfall of up to $5 million per week, with permit, bylaw fine and park board revenue all in free fall.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is also the chair of the police board, has also said that as many as 25 per cent of homeowners could default on their property taxes, while the city remains beholden to other levels of government to pass those dollars on.

Palmer said the VPD has had a particularly challenging year so far, including large-scale pipeline protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oppenheimer Park decampment as well as increased calls of anti-Asian racism, arson, commercial break-ins, and violent robberies.

“Regardless of the financial climate, police have an unwavering statutory requirement to maintain public safety, prevent crime, ensure the safety of victims and witnesses, apprehend offenders, and advance investigations,” Palmer said.

He will not be taking any further action until he receives direction from the board.

The mayor has scheduled a news conference at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday on the city’s finances.

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Economy

B.C. could host all remaining NHL games, premier says

The remaining games in the NHL season could be played in B.C.

That’s according to Premier John Horgan, who spoke to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the phone on Tuesday about the province hosting games to help finish the 2019-20 year.

“We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in B.C.,” Horgan said.

“We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George. The Kootenays — Cranbrook — has an outstanding facility as well. We have hotel space. The sky’s really the limit.”

Vancouver has been floated as an ideal “hub city” where hockey teams could be housed and play games to limit travel and help finish the season.

But the idea of all of the remaining league games being played in B.C. has not been mentioned publicly before.

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“Mr. Bettman and his team recognize that B.C. has had a pretty positive response to COVID-19 in terms of flattening the curve. Mr. Bettman also knows that this is a hockey-crazy province,” Horgan said.

He acknowledged public health requirements would still be in effect, such as a 14-day isolation period, and that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry would need to give approval based on the number of cases that are confirmed as economy reopens.

The province has been working with the Vancouver Canucks to coordinate the use of Rogers Arena and potentially other arenas in the Lower Mainland and around B.C.

The league is looking for cities with appropriate facilities, enough hotel space, and a good track record dealing with COVID-19.

B.C. reported just seven new cases of the virus on Tuesday, and 16 on Wednesday.

Other issues the NHL and its players association need to work out before returning to the ice include the number of spectators and protective gear.

Concerns have been raised about the return of hockey games bringing hundreds of people into a community and increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the league won’t receive special treatment.

“As in every other case, as in every other industry, we have to assess real plans and work together to ensure that everybody is safe,” Dix said Tuesday.

“That applies to the NHL as it applies to every single other organization.”

Both the premier and provincial health officer have mentioned hockey players having to wear full face shields.

Currently, NHL players may choose to wear a visor or not, and only players recovering from injuries are required to wear a face shield.

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Economy

Small business products starting to hit the shelves in London Drugs

London Drugs customers in Western Canada will start to notice some new additions on the shelves in select stores this week.

The company has cleared some shelf space for small local businesses that have had to close or drastically reduce sales because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,200 companies so far have applied to sell their products at London Drugs, ahead of the May 15 deadline, such as Odd Society Spirits, a distillery in East Vancouver that has turned to making hand sanitizer.


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World News

Metro Vancouver celebrates a physically distant Mother’s Day amid COVID-19

Sunday’s Mother’s Day celebrations looked a little different than usual this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While B.C. is on track to begin reopening the province in just over a week, for the time being public health officials have urged people to remain physically distant from others, even moms, if they don’t already live together.

That meant a big shift for Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver, which traditionally runs a sold-out Mother’s Day high tea event.

This year, for the first time ever, owner Rosie Daykin said the business was doing high tea to go.

“That’s our role here on a day to day basis, we are here to serve the community,” she said.

“This was a tradition that I didn’t want to drop the ball on for them.”

Ironically, packing the nibbles for take-out turned out to be good business – Daykin said they packed up about 72 orders, potentially double what she could have done for dine-in service.

The icing on the Mother’s Day cake? She was serving the take-out with her daughter.

At Amica West Vancouver on the North Shore, Kate Manderson was among a group of people who decked out their vehicles with flowers, balloons and even a bag piper to perform a Mother’s Day parade.

Manderson’s 86-year-old grandmother Dorothea lives in the care home, and struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.

This year, they had to visit through a window.

“My mom really wanted us to come around the corner and come in, but we weren’t allowed,” she told Global News.

“I’m looking forward to this all being over so we can actually give her a hug and kiss her.”

Health officials say the rules around visiting seniors in care homes are likely to remain in place for the time being.

“We recognize absolutely family members are for providing care in our long-term care and assisted living facilities, and we are working, absolutely on plans to make sure that we can let families back in to support our seniors and elders, but in a safe way,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Saturday.

For other mothers, those hugs may just be around the corner.

The province has said people can begin cautiously expanding their social circles after the May long weekend.

-With files from Grace Ke

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World News

Coronavirus: Flight into Kelowna this week carried possibly exposed passenger, says B.C. CDC

For the second time in less than a week, a flight into the Okanagan had a passenger who may have been exposed to COVID-19, according to the B.C. Centre of Disease Control.

The affected domestic flight from Calgary to Kelowna was WestJet 3387 on May 5.

The B.C. CDC said the passenger sat in seat 5A.

One week earlier, the B.C. CDC said WestJet flight 3343, from Calgary to Kelowna, also had a passenger who may have been exposed to COVID-19.


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