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Stocks Waver Ahead of Fed Minutes

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U.S. stocks wavered in midday trading Wednesday with investors looking ahead to minutes from the Federal Reserve’s recent policy meeting in the hope of gleaning fresh clues about plans to wean markets off pandemic-era stimulus measures. 

The S&P 500 slipped 0.2% a day after the broad index pulled back from a record high as technology shares fell. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.85%, while the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average—which set its own record Tuesday—rose 0.2%.

Markets have largely begun 2022 on a strong footing, lifted by easing concerns about the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Signs that the variant is less likely to cause severe disease means investors are betting it won’t derail strong economic growth and corporate earnings like it did back in spring 2020.

“We essentially have been seeing earlier signs that Omicron is probably not as problematic as we initially feared,” said

Hani Redha,

a portfolio manager at PineBridge Investments. “Markets are very good at sniffing these things out, at identifying what things we should look through.”

Scientists are using automation, real-time analysis and pooling data from around the world to rapidly identify and understand new coronavirus variants before the next one spreads widely. Photo Illustration: Sharon Shi

Investors’ focus is shifting away from the new variant to moves by global central banks to tighten monetary policy as economies recover further. 

“We expect growth to deflate as we go through the year. That will happen naturally. As the monetary, fiscal support fades, markets will have to stand on their own two feet,” said Mr. Redha. “It’s not a disaster but it is a headwind at the same time that central banks are on the move.” 

In individual stocks, Beyond Meat shares rose 0.8% after the company said its plant-based alternative to fried chicken would be sold at KFC restaurants from next week.

Energy stocks rallied, with

Exxon

and Hess rising around 1.4% and 0.4% respectively. Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, advanced 1.5% to $81.20 a barrel. On Tuesday, oil prices surged after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a coalition of Russia-led oil producers agreed to continue pumping more crude.

ADP’s December employment report, which measures the change in employees on private companies’ payrolls, said that 807,000 jobs were added last month, significantly above the 375,000 expected by economists.

Minutes from the Fed’s December meeting are set to be released at 2 p.m. ET. Fed officials said in that meeting they would speed up the pace at which stimulus measures are withdrawn, and issued projections for three interest rate rises in 2022.  

The pivot from the Fed has pushed bond yields higher, which in turn has weighed on technology firms whose future earnings become less attractive when compared with bonds with rising yields.

The yield on the benchmark 10-Year U.S. Treasury note turned higher to 1.675% Wednesday from 1.666% Tuesday, remaining close to a six-week high. Bond yields rise as prices fall.

Markets have been lifted by easing concerns about the Omicron variant.



Photo:

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 index rose less than 0.1%. Asian stock markets were mostly lower, with the Shanghai Composite Index down 1%. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1%.

Hong Kong-listed Chinese tech firms fell again, with the Hang Seng Tech Index down 4.6% and the broader Hang Seng Index 1.6% lower. The drop came after Beijing passed new rules tightening controls on tech companies’ overseas listings and activities, and after Tencent sold a $3 billion stake in Sea, one of its highflying affiliates. U.S.-listed shares of Tencent fell 2.3% Wednesday, and other Tencent-backed businesses, such as food-delivery giant Meituan, posted sharp declines.  

—Hardika Singh contributed to this article.

Write to Will Horner at william.horner@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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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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