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How a Ban Russian Oil Imports Could Affect the U.S. Economy

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The ban on Russian oil imports announced by President Biden on Tuesday could have meaningful consequences for the U.S. economy, pushing prices at the gas pump higher when inflation is already rapid, although how long-lasting that impact might be remains uncertain.

“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” Mr. Biden said, speaking at a White House briefing. He said the plan would target the “main artery” of the Russian economy. While he acknowledged that the move would likely push gas prices up, he blamed Russian aggression for that reality.

The ban applies to imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. It also prohibits new U.S. investments in Russia’s energy sector. And it blocks Americans from financing or enabling foreign companies that are making investments to produce energy in Russia.

Europe imports far more of its supply from Russia than the United States, but energy markets are global, and the mere threat of a ban has pushed commodity prices higher in recent days.

“Things have been so volatile,” said Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, noting that it was difficult to tell how much of the rise in oil prices in recent days traces back to this specific ban. But the conflict in Ukraine is clearly pushing commodity gas prices higher — so much so that the national average gas price could rise to nearly $4.50 this month, he said, “assuming we don’t move any more.”

While the oil and gas ban is almost sure to push inflation higher in the United States, economists have said that the scale of the economic consequences would depend in large part on how it was structured. For instance, it would likely make a big difference globally and in markets if Europeans also ban Russian oil and gas imports, and it is not yet clear whether or to what extent that will happen.

A ban across many countries “would severely reduce and disrupt energy supply on a global scale and already high commodity prices would rise,” Caroline Bain, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note ahead of the announcement, estimating that the price of the global oil benchmark, Brent crude, would settle in at about $160 per barrel in that case.

The Brent crude price jumped by about 6 percent to roughly $130 per barrel by the middle of the day Tuesday. By comparison, it was about $78 per barrel at the end of 2021.

It is not yet clear how many countries will adopt a similar ban: The White House signaled this week that the United States could act separately in blocking imports of Russian oil, noting that countries in Europe are more reliant on Russian energy, something Mr. Biden also alluded to on Tuesday.

“Many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us,” he said, but added that allies “remain united in our purpose” to inflict pain on Russia’s war effort. That includes efforts by the European Union to lessen its dependence on Russian energy.

Britain indicated on Tuesday that it would take its own steps to ban imports of Russian energy products. Kwasi Kwarteng, the country’s business and energy secretary, said that it would phase out imports of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.

Other European countries are under increasing pressure to follow suit.

“Everything’s on the table,” Franck Riester, the French minister for foreign trade, told the franceinfo radio station on Monday, adding that France had to look at potential bans on oil and gas imports from Russia with regard to “consequences in terms of pressure on Russia and in terms of economic, financial and social impacts in Europe.”

The office of President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Tuesday evening that the country had to coordinate with the European Union before taking any further steps, but acknowledged Europe’s need to reduce its reliance on Russia.

“The United States is not dependent on Russian oil and gas, but the European partners are,” Mr. Macron’s office said in a statement. “We have a long-term policy of getting rid of the dependence on Russian oil and gas, but in the immediate future we need to discuss this with our European partners.”

While Italy is very dependent on Russian gas, the nation’s government has said that if the European Union decided to cut off its consumption of Russian gas and oil, Italy would not oppose the effort.

The direct U.S. economic impact from the loss of Russian oil is likely to be notable, though less severe than what would happen in Europe. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States imported less than 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Russia in 2021. That represents less than 10 percent of what the United States imports globally.

Higher global oil and gas commodity prices and rising prices at the pump will add to the inflationary pain that is already dogging consumers. Prices are climbing at the fastest pace in 40 years, and data this week is expected to show that the annual increase climbed higher in February.

Rising gas prices will exacerbate that trend. The national average price hit $4.17 on Tuesday, according to AAA, a new high for regular unleaded gas.

“There will be costs as well, here in the United States,” Mr. Biden said. “Republicans and Democrats alike understand that.”

Mr. Sharif said U.S. inflation could peak at 8.3 percent in March, given the jump in gas prices. Before the conflict, he had expected it to ease down to 2.7 percent by the end of the year, but now he is expecting a rate closer to 4.5 percent.

Higher gas prices also eat into consumers’ budgets, preventing them from spending on other things — so a ban could also have consequences for overall economic growth.

But consumers are sitting on big cash piles amassed over the course of the pandemic, and because the United States produces gas domestically, higher prices could also incentivize companies to invest and supply more in the United States.

“It is risky to assume that the old rule about higher prices depress overall U.S. economic growth still applies,” Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Economics, wrote in a recent note.

High gas prices could be a liability for Democrats during a midterm election year, given they hit voters right in the wallet. Republicans have already seized on gas prices as a talking point.

“Under Joe Biden, families are paying more for gas than ever before,” Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.

But the White House is emphasizing that the price increases are the result of the actions of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Mr. Biden pointed out that the United States and its partners are releasing global petroleum reserves.

The president also seemed prepared to shift some blame to companies.

“To the oil and gas companies, and to the finance firms — we understand that Putin’s war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise, we get that, that’s self-evident,” he said. He added, “It’s no excuse to exercise excessive price increases, or padding profits, or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or American consumers.”

Jason Horowitz and Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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