Higher European stocks…Defense contractor merges report
TOKYO (AP) – European benchmarks jumped in early trading today amid reports Russian troops may be moving away from the border with Ukraine, although Asian shares were mostly lower. Shares surged in France, Germany and Britain, while benchmarks finished lower in Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul and Hong Kong. Restrictions related to the coronavirus were briefly relaxed but infections are now rebounding with omicron outbreaks. Investors are also trying to gauge the impact of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s raising interest rates.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Pressure is building for Congress to pass legislation that would curtail lawmakers’ ability to speculate on the stock market. Public anger over congressional stock trading has mounted since the first tremors of the pandemic. That’s when lawmakers stirred outrage by collectively buying and selling millions of dollars worth of stock after receiving warnings of the coming disruption from the virus.
UNDATED (AP) – The Defense Department has released a report that says mergers and consolidation among its contractors pose risks to the U.S. economy and national security. Senior Biden administration officials previewed the report ahead of its release today. The report lays out steps to block mergers that run contrary to Defense Department interests and reduce barriers to entry for new contractors. The report also seeks to strengthen supply chains. The report is part of a broader government effort under President Joe Biden to promote competition within the U.S. economy.
TOKYO (AP) – Japan is reporting that its economy grew at a 5.4% annual pace in the last quarter, helped by improved consumer spending and exports. Data released today shows the world’s third-largest economy grew 1.7% in 2021, marking its first annual expansion in three years. In quarterly terms, the economy grew 1.3% in October-December. The economy got a boost when measures to curb the spread of coronavirus infections were lifted last year.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says it is turning its attention to growing rates of COVID-19 infection in eastern Europe. Six countries including Russia and Ukraine have seen a doubling in case counts over the last two weeks amid the omicron surge. Dr. Hans Kluge says the 53-country region has now tallied more than 165 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 1.8 million deaths linked to the pandemic including 25,000 in the last week alone. But omicron is milder than previous variants and health care systems in most countries around the world aren’t under strain.