Markets mixed…Courtroom showdown
TOKYO (AP) – European benchmarks are little changed today after a mixed close in Asia that echoed a similar end to last week on Wall Street. In early trading, France’s CAC 40 inched up 0.1%, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2%. In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei closed 0.2% higher, South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.3%. U.S. shares are set to drift higher with Dow futures adding 0.4% and S&P 500 futures adding 0.5%.
BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Commission will try this week to persuade a Belgian court to order the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company to deliver millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccines to EU countries. The EU accuses the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker of failing to deliver the number of shots it agreed. AstraZeneca’s contract signed with the Commission on behalf of all 27 EU member states foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among member countries, with an option for a further 100 million. The doses were expected to be delivered throughout 2021, but only 30 million were sent during the first quarter.
UNDATED (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those rallying around efforts to strengthen the World Health Organization and the fight against pandemics. The U.N. agency opened its annual assembly today with a draft resolution in the works that acknowledges missteps in the response to COVID-19. The European Union and Vanuatu are behind the resolution that would create a working group on strengthening WHO’s readiness and response to health emergencies. The text acknowledges “serious shortcomings” in the world’s ability to prepare, prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies.
HUFFMAN, Texas (AP) – Earmarks were banished from Congress over a decade ago, but the funding for lawmakers’ pet projects is marking a sudden return. About $14 billion, or 1% of discretionary spending, will be devoted to earmarks in this year’s spending bills. Aiming to avoid scandal, lawmakers have revamped and renamed the process, requiring that earmark requests be made public and that lawmakers attest to having no conflicts of interest. The process is now being called “community project funding.” The experiment could rise or fall on the reaction from voters, especially those skeptical of federal spending. Many Republicans are refusing to join in, characterizing earmarks as a kind of graft.
VIENNA (AP) – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has agreed to a one-month extension to the deal on surveillance cameras at its nuclear sites. IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told journalists at a news conference in Vienna today that this came after a discussion with the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Under a confidential agreement called an “Additional Protocol” with Iran, the IAEA collects and analyzes images from a series of surveillance cameras installed at Iranian nuclear sites. Those cameras helped it monitor Tehran’s program to see if it is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal.