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The global economy is increasingly out of sync

Jacob Scott

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But this divergence could be about to get worse, creating headaches for the policymakers who have to manage what happens next.

What’s happening: The biggest central banks in the world will all make highly-anticipated announcements on policy this week. But unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, when their action to avert a global depression was highly synchronized, the responses to inflation and the Omicron variant are expected to vary widely.

The Fed doesn’t appear deterred by concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, since the United States has so far avoided rolling out fresh restrictions. Consumer spending still looks strong, and unemployment claims recently fell to their lowest level in 52 years.

“The activity story is still very good. The early evidence is Omicron isn’t really having a major impact on consumer behavior,” James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, told me.

In Europe, meanwhile, governments have quickly reimposed some restrictions. Germany has announced a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, barring them from accessing all but the most essential businesses, while England is once again directing people to work from home if they can.

Even before the arrival of Omicron, the economic recovery in Europe was losing momentum due to supply chain woes and a high number of coronavirus cases. The UK economy grew just 0.1% in October.

That puts the Bank of England and the European Central Bank in a difficult spot as they also attempt to fight inflation. If they move too fast to withdraw support and try to control prices, they risk reversing hard-won gains in activity and jobs.

Knightley expects the Bank of England to refrain from raising interest rates this month, as had been previously expected. The ECB, he added, could announce a transition bond-buying program to avert a cliff-edge in March, when pandemic-era purchases are due to end.

Eye on China: China, meanwhile, isn’t thinking about when to tighten policy at all, and is back in easing mode as its economy slows and real estate developers default on their debts. Last week, it announced it would cut the amount of money that banks have to keep in reserve for the second time this year, unleashing an extra $188 billion for business and household loans.

“The need is higher,” said Jeffrey Sacks, head of investment strategy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Citi Private Bank. “The economic data over the early summer through to now has been weakening.”

China’s recovery started sooner than in Europe and the United States, so it wrapped up faster. The government’s crackdown on excessive borrowing in the country’s real estate sector has also contributed to the slowdown. But Beijing has to worry about high producer prices, too, Knightley noted.

Why it matters: In March 2020, it was clear what central banks had to do to avoid catastrophe. But reversing course now won’t be easy. The task is made even harder by regional differences that can obscure the direction of travel.

“It’s a very, very difficult path for central banks to tread right now,” Knightley said. “You’ve got risks operating on both sides.”

Glimmers of hope emerge in the supply chain nightmare

Epic port congestion is easing. Shipping prices are falling from sky-high levels. Deliveries are speeding up slightly.

More and more, there are signs that the supply chain mess is finally starting to get cleaned up, my CNN Business colleague Matt Egan reports.

That’s not to say the supply chain nightmare is over. It’s not. And the situation may not get anywhere near back to normal anytime soon.

Businesses are still grappling with a troubling shortage of truck drivers. Critical components, including computer chips, remain scarce. And the Omicron variant threatens to put renewed pressure on supply chains.

Still, there’s evidence that bottlenecks are beginning to unclog. That’s encouraging given that the unprecedented stress on supply chains has contributed significantly to historic levels of inflation in the United States.

“I’m increasingly confident that the worst appears to be over,” said Matt Colyar, economist at Moody’s Analytics. “There is data suggesting that things are improving. But there’s still a ton of uncertainty.”

Remember: Logistics networks came under enormous strain when the world economy shut down at the onset of Covid — and then rapidly reopened. Demand for goods skyrocketed and just-in-time supply chains buckled under the pressure. Coronavirus outbreaks and inconsistent health protocols around the world added to the mess.

But reason for optimism can be found in recent economic reports.

For instance, the backlog of orders index in the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing survey fell to 61.9 in November, down from a record high of 70.6 in May. Backlogs are still growing, but at a slower pace. And supplier delivery rates appear to be improving, albeit from very poor levels.

The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank’s manufacturing index showed the level of unfilled orders ticked lower in November and the amount of time to deliver goods fell.

“It is still going to take a long time for the supply chains across the country to be fully restored, but at least the first steps appear to be in place towards normalcy,” Thomas Simons, economist at Jefferies, wrote in a recent note to clients.

Up next

Monday: India inflation data

Tuesday: US Producer Price Index; UK unemployment data

Wednesday: Federal Reserve policy decision; US and China retail sales; UK inflation data

Thursday: Bank of England and European Central Bank policy decisions; US housing starts and jobless claims; Adobe (ADBE) and FedEx (FDX) earnings; Flash PMI data
Friday: Bank of Japan policy decision; Darden Restaurants (DRI) earnings

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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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