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Covid’s post-Lunar New Year surge

Global covid cases hit the 400 million infection mark.

People wearing protective face masks while walking at a train station in Tokyo.
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  • Morgan Haefner
By Morgan Haefner

Deputy email editor


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Here’s what you need to know

Covid cases hit a milestone. Worldwide, 400 million infections have been counted, as South Korea and other Asian countries face a post-Lunar New Year surge. Elsewhere, a covid lockdown was extended in Tonga, and the US will roll out jabs to kids younger than age 5.

An Indian state shut down schools because of hijab protests. The three-day closure in Karnataka came after rows over the right of female students to wear the hijab turned violent.

Evergrande promised 600,000 apartments this year. The indebted Chinese property developer said cheap sales of its assets aren’t going to fix its problems.

A plan for American evacuation from Ukraine was approved. Should Russia invade, US troops will assist fleeing Americans. Meanwhile, the UK is getting closer to figuring out sanctions.

Demonstrators in Canada blocked a US border crossing. Transit via the Ambassador Bridge in Ontario—where 30% of annual trade between the two countries takes place—has been disrupted by covid vaccine and restriction protesters.

The Olympic medal ceremony for team figure skating was delayed. The Russian Olympic Committee took gold, but officially undisclosed legal issues—reported to be related to a failed drug test—have halted the awards.

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What to watch for

Today, US economists expect to see inflation numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that would imply a 7.3% increase on an annual basis and 0.5% increase on a monthly basis.

The data will come from the BLS’s Consumer Price Index report and will be the first economic look at the beginning of 2022, indicating how much omicron affected inflation after throwing a wrench in the gears of manufacturing.

A line chart showing the monthly change in US prices from January 2020 to January 2022. Prices dip drastically in April 2020, but then increase until a slight dip in August 2021, but then are back up.

Even though the Federal Reserve uses a different inflation report (Personal Consumption Expenditure) to make its interest rate decisions, the rate of inflation in January will influence how many times the central bank hikes interest rates this year.

The report may also affect how the White House tries to cool gas prices as president Joe Biden considers another release of oil from the strategic reserve.

Activist shareholders are going to have a productive year

Investors in the US bulk retailer Costco are mad as hell about the company being a laggard on climate change, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Recently, 70% of them voted to call on the company to set a strategy for eliminating carbon emissions from its value chain by 2050. According to investor advocacy group Ceres, it was the first time for such a net-zero proposal to pass at any company.

A bar chart showing the increasing average shareholder support for climate-related resolutions at US-based companies, which in 2021 was up to 40% compared to 20% in 2014.

2022 will likely be a historic year for climate-focused activist shareholders, who have long lingered on the sidelines of companies’ annual general meetings, but are now gaining support for their proposals, and racking up wins. In the US, shareholder resolutions aren’t binding, but a company could very well lose support from its board if it doesn’t pay attention.

You’re going to have a productive day

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The way we work is changing. The pandemic has ushered in a new era of remote work—which India’s startups are nailing—and the metaverse could further shake up office dress codes.

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