‘We are like captives’: life in Britain’s quarantine hotels

By Hannah McKay and Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Mohamed Noor faces 10 days in COVID-19 quarantine in a hotel room near London’s Heathrow Airport after falling foul of new border controls because of a flight delay.

“I don’t have a book. I don’t have a Koran. I don’t have nothing here,” Noor, a 55-year-old Muslim, said by phone after his arrival on Monday, a day later than planned, landed him with a 1,750-pound ($2,400) bill.

In another hotel nearby, 61-year-old Sole, who declined to give her surname, said she realised too late that the new rules would kick in before she returned from visiting friends in Chile.

“We are like captives in these rooms,” she said.

Britain says the measures, effective since Monday, are needed to protect its COVID-19 vaccination programme and guard against new coronavirus variants.

People returning from any of 33 “high-risk” countries where travel to Britain is banned must pay 1,750 pounds for a 10-day quarantine hotel package.

After being taken by bus to government-contracted hotels, they must spend most of the time in their rooms and have meals delivered to their door.

Noor, a postal driver, was visiting Somalia after his brother died and feels he is being punished for going to look after his mother. He spent four hours at the airport arguing his case and says he will refuse to pay.

“My family was waiting outside the airport and you can’t see them. My 11-year old son was waiting,” he said.

Sole plans to spend the time talking to friends, watching television and doing online classes and yoga.

She also feels she is being punished after taking a holiday following a stressful year working in a hospital where she has treated COVID-19 patients.

“Why has this happened? The new variant is in South Africa and it’s going to spread anyway,” she said.

($1 = 0.7199 pounds)

(Reporting by Hannah McKay, Dylan Martinez and Sarah Young, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

BoE’s Hauser calls for new central bank tools to tackle market upheavals

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – Financial markets are likely to be hit more often by the kind of upheaval unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic and central banks need new tools to deal with powerful investment firms at the heart of such events, a Bank of England official said.

Non-bank companies, which include pension managers, money market funds and hedge funds, now account for about half of the world’s financial assets.

“Last year’s COVID ‘dash for cash’ was a wake-up call as to the scale and urgency of this work,” Andrew Hauser, the Bank of England’s (BoE) executive director for markets, said in a speech hosted by Reuters on Thursday.

Non-banks have helped savers and businesses as banks were reined in by reforms after their risk-taking brought about the 2007-09 financial crisis. But they failed to withstand the coronavirus shock in March and reforms are needed to prevent future liquidity problems threatening the economy, Hauser said.

Central banks should consider a formal role as “market makers of last resort” – trading securities at times of financial panic – in return for tougher regulation of financial businesses other than banks, he said.

This would mirror the role of “lender of last resort” which the BoE provides to the heavily regulated banking sector.

Last March’s surge in demand for cash, as economies around the world went into lockdown, was exacerbated by chaos in normally stable debt markets.

Non-bank firms – some over-indebted – scrambled to get money out of funds which in turn struggled to raise the cash.

That helped cause a spike in government and corporate bond yields that threatened to deepen the hit to the global economy and forced central banks into huge emergency action, chiefly by ramping up their bond-buying programmes.

Non-banks also failed to function as intermediaries for government bond markets, which have soared in size since the 2007-09 financial crisis, Hauser said.

Since March, the central banks of the Group of 10 (G10) nations have added $8 trillion to their balance sheets, mostly by buying government bonds.

That has helped to bring down borrowing costs and allowed huge government spending to slow the economic slide, but adds urgency to the case for reform of non-banks, Hauser said.

“We should certainly be wary of drawing overly direct conclusions from the COVID pandemic, given how truly unique the circumstances have been,” Hauser said.

“But many of the vulnerabilities in financial markets exposed last spring have been staring us in the face for some time – and will only grow in importance in the years ahead, as households and firms come to rely ever more closely on such markets to care for their savings, and fund investment.”

The Financial Stability Board, grouping regulators from around the world, is considering ways to make non-banks safer.

But new central bank tools to deal with problems will be needed too, Hauser said.

Offering permanent or ‘standing’ facilities would be a way to reduce the impact of market turmoil on well-run businesses, while allowing a broader framework of rules and a way to reverse asset purchases that were meant to be temporary, Hauser said.

But deciding which assets the BoE should buy, and what it should charge to businesses that needed to use the facility – sometimes through no fault of their own – would be tricky.

“The public authorities cannot afford to ignore such dysfunction if it reaches a scale that threatens financial stability,” he said.

“But equally we cannot rely on central bank medicine of the scale and duration seen in 2020 every time we see an inflammation.”

(Editing by David Milliken and Alexander Smith)

Kamara fined $5K for wearing Christmas-themed cleats

New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara has been fined $5,000 by the NFL for wearing red and green cleats during the Saints’ Christmas Day win.

Though the league allowed Kamara to wear the cleats for the duration of the game, he was fined for non-conforming footwear.

Kamara made history in the cleats, becoming the first player to score six touchdowns in a game since Gale Sayers did it for the Chicago Bears in 1965. He anticipated the penalty.

“Oh, they’re probably going to fine me,” Kamara said after the Saints’ 52-33 win over Minnesota. “If they fine me, whatever it is, I’ll just match it and donate it to charity. You know that the Grinch always tries to steal Christmas.”

–Field Level Media

My Response To Christianity Today – Franklin Graham

Christianity Today released an editorial stating that President Trump should be removed from office—and they invoked my father’s name (I suppose to try to bring legitimacy to their statements), so I feel it is important for me to respond. Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.

For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a totally partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable. Christianity Today failed to acknowledge that not one single Republican voted with the Democrats to impeach the President. I know a number of Republicans in Congress, and many of them are strong Christians. If the President were guilty of what the Democrats claimed, these Republicans would have joined with the Democrats to impeach him. But the Democrats were not even unanimous—two voted against impeachment and one voted present. This impeachment was politically motivated, 100% partisan. Why would Christianity Today choose to take the side of the Democrat left whose only goal is to discredit and smear the name of a sitting president? They want readers to believe the Democrat leadership rather than believe the President of the United States.

Look at all the President has accomplished in a very short time. The economy of our nation is the strongest it has been in 50 years, ISIS & the caliphate have been defeated, and the President has renegotiated trade deals to benefit all Americans. The list of accomplishments is long, but for me as a Christian, the fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history is extremely important—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that, to say it doesn’t count? The President has been a staunch defender of religious freedom at home and around the world—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that? Also the President has appointed conservative judges in record number—and Christianity today wants us to ignore that? Christianity Today feels he should be removed from office because of false accusations that the President emphatically denies.

Christianity Today said it’s time to call a spade a spade. The spade is this—Christianity Today has been used by the left for their political agenda. It’s obvious that Christianity Today has moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism.

Is President Trump guilty of sin? Of course he is, as were all past presidents and as each one of us are, including myself. Therefore, let’s pray for the President as he continues to lead the affairs of our nation.

Oil prices fall on U.S. inventory data, concerns about demand

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Oil prices fell in thin trade on Thursday, weighed down by data showing a smaller-than-expected draw on U.S. crude stockpiles and worries about the global economy.

Front-month Brent crude futures <LCOc1>, the international benchmark for oil prices, settled down 52 cents or 0.81% at $63.30 per barrel. Brent closed up 2.3% on Wednesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures <CLc1> were down 54 cents or 0.94% at $56.89 per barrel. WTI closed up 1.9% on Wednesday.

Trading volumes were light due to the July 4 holiday in the United States.

Markets appeared largely unmoved by the detention by British Royal Marines of a supertanker in Gibraltar possibly carrying Iranian crude oil bound for Syria, as tensions between Iran and the United States have flared over mysterious attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman in recent months.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported a weekly decline of 1.1 million barrels in crude stocks, much smaller than the 5 million barrel draw reported by the American Petroleum Institute earlier in the week. <USOILC=ECI>

“The inventory data by no means argue in favor of higher prices: not only did the crude oil inventory reduction prove smaller than expected – it also fell noticeably short of that reported by the API the day before,” Commerzbank wrote in a note to clients.

U.S. inventories fell less than expected as U.S. refineries last week consumed less crude than the week before and processed 2% less oil than a year ago, the EIA data showed, despite being in the midst of the summer gasoline demand season.

That suggests oil demand in the United States, the world’s biggest crude consumer, could be slowing amid signs of a weakening economy. New orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in May, government data showed on Wednesday, adding to the economic concerns.

The weak U.S. data followed a report of slow business growth in Europe last month as well.

“Tossing aside the short-term nature of fluctuations around the inventory data, it’s impossible to escape the economic reality that we are in the midst of a global manufacturing downturn,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner, Vanguard Markets.

Uncertainty over demand, however, was offset slightly by the outlook for global supply.

Output will stay limited as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers such as Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on Tuesday to extend oil production cuts until March 2020.

(Additional reporting by Noah Browning and Colin Packham; editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Alexandra Hudson and Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump to propose plan to make U.S. immigration more merit-based

By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will outline on Thursday a plan to harden border security and overhaul the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated and have job offers, senior administration officials said.

Trump’s immigration proposal, the product largely of senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and economic aide Kevin Hassett, is an effort to rally Republicans on an issue that has often divided them.

While its chances of approval by Congress seem distant, the plan will give Republicans an outline they can say they favor as Trump and lawmakers look toward the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections, where immigration will likely be a key issue.

For decades, U.S. immigration laws have given priority to family-based immigration, and about two-thirds of all people granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the United States.

Trump’s plan would keep legal immigration steady at 1.1 million people a year, but family-based immigration would account for only a third of that. Instead, high-skilled people with jobs would be given priority, and could bring with them their spouses and children, the officials told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

It would harden the border by building more of Trump’s coveted southern border wall and improve inspections of goods and people at ports of entry to fight drug smuggling. It would propose an increase in fees collected at the border to pay for border security infrastructure.

“Our goal in the short term is to make sure that we are laying out what the president’s policy is in terms of what he’s looking for from immigration reform, and we would like to see if we could get the Republican Party to come together on these two pillars, which we think is a very, very logical, very mainstream point of view,” said one official.

Trump will present an overview of the plan, with details of the “very large document” to be released in coming weeks, the official said.

SHIFT TO SKILLED WORKERS

It does not address some of the hot-button issues in the immigration debate, such as what to do about the surge of people crossing the southern border from Mexico.

Nor does it deal with the “Dreamer” children of immigrants in the country illegally or immigrants in the country under Temporary Protected Status, both of whom are priorities of Democratic lawmakers. The plan also does not include provisions to help farmers and other seasonal employers obtain more guest workers.

Instead, Kushner and others looked at the legal migration systems of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for clues on how to shift U.S. policy more toward attracting skilled workers and less on uniting extended families.

After studying the systems of the other countries, they found that 12% of migration to the United States was based on employment and skill, compared with 63% for Canada, 57% for New Zealand, 68% for Australia and 52% for Japan.

By giving a preference to immigrants proficient in English and with degrees or training and job offers, the officials said the plan would allow 57% of green cards, which grant permanent legal residency, to be based on employment.

Trump will propose ending the diversity lottery system, which offers applicants from countries with low immigration rates the chance to move to the United States.

The plan also proposes changes to the asylum process, which the Trump administration says is abused. It would result in 10 percent of green cards being given to immigration for humanitarian reasons, down from 22 percent currently.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham proposed legislation on Wednesday to deal with the surge of migrants from Central America at the southern U.S. border, changes the administration officials described as needed to address the immediate crisis.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

Wall St. ends higher as trade worries ease

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday as reports that U.S. President Donald Trump would hold off on imposing tariffs on imported cars and parts eased growth concerns even as economic data disappointed investors.

All three major U.S. indexes saw their second straight day of gains following Monday’s steep sell-off, but the S&P 500 remained more than 3% below its all-time high reached just over two weeks ago.

The prospect of a six-month postponement of tariffs on imported autos and auto parts, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s remarks that he expects trade talks to resume soon in China, was welcome news to investors, who started the session in a selling mood after the underwhelming economic reports.

Retail sales posted a surprise drop in April as consumers pulled back on their spending, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. A separate report from the Labor Department showed U.S. industrial production also unexpectedly dipped in April.

“(Investors are) taking their cues from the president and the treasury secretary as a bit of a softening on trade negotiations,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist, senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. “That’s giving the market reason to believe that a trade deal is somewhere in the offing.”

“Investors have gotten into this pattern of knee-jerk reactions,” Pavlik continued. “It’s almost as if you light a fire cracker and the dog goes running off and then realizes it’s not so bad and starts to come back in.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115.97 points, or 0.45%, to 25,648.02, the S&P 500 gained 16.55 points, or 0.58%, to 2,850.96 and the Nasdaq Composite added 87.65 points, or 1.13%, to 7,822.15.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, eight ended the session in positive territory, with communications services enjoying the largest percentage gain, led by Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc.

With 455 of S&P 500 companies having posted results, first-quarter earnings season is winding down. Of those who have reported, 75.2% have bested expectations.

Analysts now see first-quarter earnings growth of 1.2%, a significant turnaround from the 2% loss seen on April 1.

Macy’s Inc dipped 0.5% after the department store beat quarterly expectations but said the recent tariff hikes on Chinese goods will hurt its furniture business.

Agilent Technologies Inc was the worst performer of the S&P 500, falling 11.0% after the medical equipment maker reported quarterly profit that fell short of consensus estimates.

Ride-hailing rivals Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc saw their second straight day of gains following their underwhelming post-debut performances. Their shares advanced 3.3% and 7.0%, respectively.

Cisco Systems Inc shares rose more than 3% in after-market trading following the company’s earnings release.

Walmart Inc is expected report before the market opens on Thursday.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.05-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.48-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 23 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 64 new highs and 76 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.29 billion shares, compared to the 7.00 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Trump to meet with Moon in South Korea in late June: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in South Korea as part of his trip to the region in late June for the G20 summit in Japan, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said the two leaders “will continue their close coordination on efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea.

Pelosi: Attorney General Barr ‘off the rails’ on Mueller report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigated Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday for comments he made during congressional hearings this week about the federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Let me just say, I’m very, very dismayed and disappointed that the chief law enforcement officer of our country is going off the rails yesterday and today,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference in Virginia.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell)