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Fall in jobless rate sets stage for swifter taper of Fed stimulus

Jacob Scott

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A sharp drop in the US unemployment rate has set the stage for the Federal Reserve to accelerate the scaling back of its stimulus programme this month, economists said, giving it greater flexibility to raise interest rates sooner next year if necessary.

The world’s largest economy added 210,000 jobs in November, roughly half the pace that economists expected and well below the previous month.

But significant improvements in the rate of unemployment, which dropped 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 per cent, as well as the number of Americans re-entering the workforce, affirmed expectations that the Fed will proceed in less than two weeks’ time with a more aggressive timeline for withdrawing its support.

“This employment report gives them cover to announce a speedier taper,” said Margaret Kerins, global head of fixed income strategy at BMO Capital Markets. “They need to taper faster so that they can be prepared to lift-off sooner in order to maintain price stability and prevent inflation from becoming entrenched.”

“It’s a risk management approach, and the upside risk of inflation now outweighs the risk to employment,” she added.

Jay Powell, the newly reappointed Fed chair, said in congressional testimony this week that he would support the central bank considering an earlier end to its asset purchase programme than the pace unveiled just last month.

At the last policy meeting in November, the Federal Open Market Committee announced a $15bn reduction or “taper” of the $120bn bond-buying programme, meaning the Fed would cease adding to the size of its balance sheet in June.

Powell expressed his support for possibly ending that process “perhaps a few months sooner” — a sea-change that has clear backing from other Fed officials.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Fed and a voting member on the FOMC next year, said she supports a faster taper so that the central bank has “optionality” to raise interest rates more swiftly to tame inflation.

The Fed has said it will not raise interest rates until it achieves inflation that sustainably averages 2 per cent, and maximum employment.

November’s jobs report showed progress towards the latter goal, said Sarah House, chief economist at Wells Fargo.

“The labour market continues to tighten rapidly,” she said. “Yes, we saw a disappointing increase in the payrolls number . . . but the fact that the unemployment rate continues to decline and participation is increasing does show that we are continuing to move towards maximum employment.”

The so-called labour force participation rate “bounced noticeably”, according to economists at Morgan Stanley, ticking up to 61.8 per cent from 61.6 per cent the previous month. While it is still 1.5 percentage points lower than its pre-pandemic level, it was a welcome development after many months of stagnation as workers were held back by Covid-related concerns and other issues.

The employment-to-population ratio for “prime age” workers, which tracks the percentage of Americans in the 24-to-54 age bracket who have jobs, also made significant headway, rising to 78.8 per cent. That is the highest level since early 2020 and a jump from October’s 78.3 per cent level.

Economists also pointed to the household survey portion of November’s jobs report, which indicated the number of employed rose 1.1m as 594,000 more people joined the labour force. The household survey is often seen as more volatile than the “establishment” survey, which registered much more muted gains, however.

Taken together with the moderate wage gains and the shrinking gap in the unemployment rate between white and black workers, Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, said the “fairly positive” jobs report keeps the Fed on track to push forward with its plans.

“We will get an accelerated taper in December, especially since the very preliminary anecdotal evidence we are getting about Omicron is that it’s mild,” she said.

“The big part of the Powell pivot is not so much that we have an accelerated taper, but that it [may mean] interest rate hikes sooner than expected especially in light of the Omicron variant.”

Market measures of interest rate expectations, as estimated by Fed funds futures, suggest the central bank will raise rates roughly three times next year. Barclays has pencilled in an adjustment as early as May, while Evercore ISI and Goldman Sachs expect it in June.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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