Tokyo marks one year to go until Olympics… again

July 23, 2020

By Jack Tarrant and Akira Tomoshige

TOKYO (Reuters) – As Tokyo marked one year to go until the Olympics for the second time on Thursday, it was perhaps fitting that the newly-built National Stadium, intended to be the iconic symbol of the Games, was hit by a torrential downpour for most of the day.

The Olympics were due to begin on Friday with an extravagant opening ceremony in the National Stadium but the Games have instead been delayed until July 23, 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach presided over a glitzy ceremony to mark the occasion in the Japanese capital and declared Tokyo the best prepared host city he had ever seen.

This time around the atmosphere is much more subdued, with Tokyo 2020 set to host a minor 15-minute event in the National Stadium without fans later on Thursday, where they will launch a commemorative video.

It will take place at 8 pm local time (1100 GMT), the start time of next year’s opening ceremony.

People gathering around the countdown clock at Tokyo station were optimistic about the Games next year.

“I think it would be nice to be able to spread the word to the world at the Olympics, that you can be excited even with the (coronavirus) present,” said Tokyo resident Makoto Yamamori.

Others were less sure.

“Originally, I thought it would be wonderful if people gathered from the world to purely play sports and achieve results,” said 27-year-old Yuma Okazaki.

“But the negative image of the Olympics is going to get stronger amid the coronavirus spread.”

Thursday’s small ceremony is a sign of things to come in the lead-up to the Games next year.

The head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission John Coates has said rearranging the Games meant focusing on the “must haves” in a simplified event.

In response, Tokyo 2020 Chief Executive Toshiro Muto said over 200 simplification measures were under consideration. [M1L5N2ER2AO]

Thursday’s landmark comes as the Japanese capital reported 366 new coronavirus cases, a new daily record, fuelling fears of a second round of infections.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Akira Tomoshige; writing by Jack Tarrant; editing by Toby Davis)

UK online job adverts edge up from lockdown lows

July 23, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – The total volume of online job adverts in Britain increased to just over 50% of their 2019 average in the week to July 17, edging up from recent lows, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

“The current level is higher than the lockdown low point of 42%, reached on May 1,” the ONS said, citing figures provided by Adzuna, an online job search engine.

The ONS said last week that the number of employees on company payrolls slumped by 649,000 between March and June, but the pace of decline slowed sharply in recent weeks. Britain’s budget forecasters say the jobless rate could go above 10% later this year as the government pares back its job retention scheme.

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)

Singapore financial district vulnerable to rising sea levels: CBRE

July 23, 2020

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Prime office real estate in Singapore’s central business district (CBD) is highly susceptible to the risk of flooding as sea levels rise due to global warming, property consultants CBRE said in a report on Thursday.

It said 51 buildings with about 20.8 million square feet (1.9 million sq m) of office space are in high flood risk areas, assuming that average global temperatures rise 1.5 degree Celsius as a U.N. panel has estimated may happen between 2030 and 2052.

The city-state’s Marina Bay area with soaring office towers worth billions of dollars is the most vulnerable, CBRE said.

Much of Singapore’s financial district, where numerous multi-national companies and banks have offices, is built on reclaimed land and is less than 5 metres above sea level.

Assuming global temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an additional 4 million square feet of office area across 13 buildings in the CBD may be under threat, CBRE said.

“Singapore is vulnerable to prolonged heat waves, increased flash floods and rising sea levels as a result of climate change,” CBRE analysts said in their report.

“While the government has adopted several pre-emptive policies to mitigate the impact, the measures do not completely eradicate the risks.”

Protecting Singapore against rising sea levels could cost S$100 billion ($72 billion) or more over 100 years, according to the government.

In 2019, it said it would spend S$400 million to upgrade and maintain the country’s drains and strengthen its flood resilience.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty)

Barclays sees near-tem oil price correction if demand recovery slows

July 23, 2020

(Reuters) – Barclays Commodities Research said on Thursday oil prices could see a correction in the near-term if a recovery in fuel demand slows further, especially in the United States.

While a recent rally has been supported by faster-than-expected rebalancing of supply and demand as countries reopen their economies, producers cut production and the U.S. dollar weakens, “we are not there yet in terms of fundamentals for the next leg higher,” analysts at the bank said in a note.

Benchmark Brent crude prices <LCOc1> have rebounded to around $44.50 a barrel, after plunging in April to $15.98, the lowest since 1999. [O/R}

However, gains have been tempered over the past couple of days by a surprise build in U.S. crude oil stocks, while a surge in new coronavirus cases continued to dampen a recovery in fuel demand.

The bank lowered its oil market surplus forecast for 2020 to an average 2.5 million barrels-per-day (bpd), from 3.5 million bpd previously.

“We expect a continued supply deficit in oil markets to normalize inventory levels by the end of next year,” the bank said, adding, prices could potentially spike if demand recovers more quickly than expected.

The bank also said that it remains constructive on prices for 2021, forecasting $53 and $50 for Brent and WTI, respectively.

Barclays expects Brent to average $41 in 2020 and WTI to average $37.

The bank lowered its demand estimates for next year, citing the continued spread of the coronavirus in key consuming countries, especially the United States.

(Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

New revenues agreed for EU a historic feat: EU Commission head

July 23, 2020

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – An agreement by European Union leaders to assign new revenue streams to finance the recovery package is a huge, historic step for the 27-nation bloc, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Thursday.

EU leaders agreed on Tuesday after a four-day summit to impose a tax on non-recycled plastic and pass the money on to the EU and to have a tax on digital services and on goods important into the EU from countries with lower CO2 emission standards, among others.

“The big winner of this summit are the new own resources” von der Leyen said in presenting the summit agreement to parliamentarians, who will have to approve it over the coming months.

“We have now a unanimous agreement on the need for new own resources. And this is a huge and historic step forward for our union, which both the Commission and the parliament have long been pushing for,” she said.

Von der Leyen also stressed that the disbursement of cash from the 750 billion euro recovery package to EU countries was linked to governments observing the rule of law.

The link, albeit not clearly formulated in the conclusions of the summit, is a means of pressure on Poland and Hungary to heed EU calls for them not to undermine the independence of the courts, non-governmental organisations and media.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Kate Abnett)

China to launch new campaign to regulate social media news sites

July 23, 2020

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s top internet watchdog will launch a new campaign to crack down on the social media accounts of independent news providers, it said Thursday.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) will target commercial websites and social media accounts that illegally write and edit news items, and repost news articles from non-compliant sources, the CAC said in a statement on its website.

It would also deal with click bait stories, misinformation, and other sensationlised online content, it added.

The CAC said it would also regulate online forums and livestreamed lectures, and push media sites to propagate more positive energy.

China’s strict online censorship rules have tightened in recent years with new legislation to restrict media outlets, surveillance measures for media sites and rolling campaigns to remove content deemed unacceptable.

In June, CAC penalised several of the country’s leading livestreaming and video platforms for spreading “low taste” content, reprimanding women wearing low cut clothes and men for indecent dancing and using foul language.

(Reporting by Pei Li; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

France expects economic growth of 8% for 2021: minister

July 23, 2020

PARIS (Reuters) – France expects economic growth of 8% for 2021, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.

Le Maire told the National Assembly that the government wants economic activity to return to pre-crisis levels from 2022.

He also said that recent data was “satisfying but too fragile” to change forecasts for an economic contraction of 11% this year.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Alex Richardson)