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New coronavirus variant Omicron triggers market sell-off

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New concerns over the variant pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron has triggered global alarm as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday Omicron may spread more quickly than other forms, and preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection.

Those worries pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.5 percent, its worst day since late October 2020, and European stocks had their worst day in 17 months.

Cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line plunged more than 10 percent each, while shares in United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines slumped almost as much.

READ MORE: Global remittances to drop 20 percent amid coronavirus – World Bank

Too late for travel curbs?

Epidemiologists warned travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.

The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and neighbouring countries effective Monday, a senior Biden administration official said.

Going further, Canada said it was closing its borders to those countries, following bans on flights announced by Britain, the European Union and others.

But it could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO.

The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different than the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

Scientists issued similar warnings.

“This new variant of the Covid-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Britain’s University of Warwick.

“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection.”

Several other countries including India, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates also toughened travel curbs.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Economic Watch: China’s mushrooming high-tech industries create demand for talents

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Significant shifts are underway in the employment situation of the Chinese workforce, fueled by the country’s rapid development of innovative and high-tech industries.

Latest data from a research unit under Liepin, a job-hunting website, shows that industries including intelligent manufacturing, integrated circuits, artificial intelligence and biomedicine are short on talent.

To be more specific, the Talent Shortage Index (TSI) of the semiconductor industry is 1.91, a new high in the past two years, and the index of biomedicine has reached as high as 4.4.

The TSI reflects the supply and demand of talents. An index above one indicates short supply, while a reading below one means excessive supply.

“Changes in the country’s industrial structure have led to shifts in the employment structure, which is shown by the TSI,” said Xing Zhenkai, deputy head of the research unit under Liepin.

On the one hand, with the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, the demand for digital talents has become more urgent.

From April 2021 to March 2022, demand for digital talents in finance, auto machinery manufacturing, and pharmaceutical and medical industries increased by 44.04 percent, 39.03 percent and 32.96 percent, respectively, according to Xing.

On the other hand, the rapidly-expanding emerging industries such as AI and metaverse create huge demand for highly skilled employees.

For example, the number of job openings in metaverse surged 37.07 percent year on year last year, following a 13.59-percent increase in 2019 and a 14.6-percent rise in 2020.

Founded in 2017, Beijing Huanqing Environment Technology Co., Ltd. focuses on energy conversion of rural waste, resource recovery from agricultural waste and the manufacturing of high

“We need talents in agriculture, machinery, intelligent manufacturing, and project management, among others,” said Chen Xin, manager of the environment technology firm.

“The company will provide about 200 jobs for college graduates this year, and some positions remain unfilled so far,” Chen said.

As China moves up the industrial value chain, business needs and job requirements change accordingly, and employees, therefore, have to strengthen their skills to stay competitive in a fast-changing world, analysts said.

China aims to create over 11 million new urban jobs and keep a surveyed urban unemployment rate of no more than 5.5 percent in 2022.

“We should step up efforts to broaden employment channels and provide a high-quality workforce to drive the country’s high-quality economic development,” said Yao Kai, director of a research center under the Fudan University.

Source: Xinhua 

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Chinese customers more satisfied with express delivery services: survey

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Customers were more satisfied with China’s express delivery services in the first quarter of this year, an official survey showed.

During the period, the customer satisfaction index for express delivery came in at 80 points, up 1.2 points from a year earlier, according to an online survey conducted by the State Post Bureau

In terms of region-wise figures, Shaanxi, Ningxia, Beijing, Liaoning, Sichuan and Shandong stood above 80 points, which indicates good service.

Some 69.4 percent of express deliveries were completed within 72 hours, a national standard for cross-region services. Hit by COVID-19 resurgences in the period, the figure shrank 2.83 percentage points year on year, the bureau’s data showed.

The survey covered nine major express delivery services providers and 31 provincial-level regions nationwide.

 

Source: Xinhua 

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Hyundai to build $5.5B electric vehicle plant in US

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Hyundai will soon begin construction of an electric vehicle and battery plant in the state of Georgia, aiming to be the third-largest provider of electric vehicles in the US by 2026.

South Korean automaker Hyundai will build a $5.5 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in the southern US state of Georgia, its governor has announced, as President Joe Biden pursues his trip to Seoul.

Brian Kemp made the announcement on Friday alongside Hyundai Motor Company president Jay Chang at the future factory site near Savannah, hailing the more than 8,000 jobs the venture is expected to create.

“We are proud to welcome Hyundai Motor Group to Georgia as we forge an innovative future together,” Kemp said, according to a statement released by his office.

He called the plant “the largest economic development project in our state’s history.”

Hyundai suppliers are expected to invest an additional $1 billion in the factory, which will have an annual capacity of 300,000 units, according to the statement.

The automaker said it plans to begin construction in January 2023 and to complete the plant in the first half of 2025. It did not yet give any details on which of its electric models will be produced at the Georgia location.

READ MORE: Can electric cars dominate developing countries?

Stiff competition

Hyundai has projected that 27 percent of its global fleet will be electric within seven years.

By building battery production into the new factory, Hyundai “aims to establish a stable supply chain for EV battery and other EV components in the US market,” the statement said.

Biden arrived on Friday in South Korea, on a trip aimed at cementing economic ties with Seoul. He is due to meet with Chang on Sunday, according to the White House.

The Hyundai plant will be the second electric vehicle factory in Georgia: electric truck maker Rivian announced in December that it will invest $5 billion to build its second US assembly plant there.

Hyundai aims to be the third-largest provider of electric vehicles in the United States by 2026, but it faces stiff competition.

The sector is currently dominated by Tesla, but traditional automakers General Motors and Ford plan to invest tens of billions of dollars to increase their electric offerings in the coming years, and many start-ups are also trying to break into the industry.

READ MORE: Volkswagen to stop producing cars with combustion engines in EU by 2035

Source: TRT World

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