1. U.S. Stocks Fluctuate; Crude Oil Declines

U.S. stocks fluctuated as investors weighed the budding economic recovery and progress on vaccines against the risks of rising inflation. The benchmark Treasury yield was little changed. The benchmark S&P 500 swung between gains and losses, with utilities and consumer staples higher, while the energy sector declined. The Dow Jones Industrial Average pushed higher. Travel companies and automakers led the Stoxx 600 Index higher. Concerns about tightening liquidity weighed on Chinese shares, with the CSI 300 Index closing down 2.2%.

The S&P 500 Index was little changed as of 9:44 a.m. New York time.

The Nasdaq Composite Index fell.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index increased by 0.4%, the highest in about 13 months.

The MSCI All-Country World Index was little changed.

2. China Asks Alibaba to Sell Media Assets Amid Rising Clampdown

The Chinese government has asked Alibaba Group to sell its media assets as officials are increasingly concerned about the technology giant’s growing influence over public opinion in the country. Regulators have reviewed a list of Alibaba’s media assets and were shocked at how expansive the company’s interests have become and asked it to come up with a plan to substantially curtail the holdings. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, has built up a sprawling portfolio of media assets over the years, spanning BuzzFeed-style online outlets, newspapers, television-production companies, social media and advertising assets. Alibaba has a major stake in Twitter-like Weibo, as well as other online and print news outlets, including the leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, The South China Morning Post.

3. First Major Tax Hike Since 1993 in Next Economic Plan: Biden

President Joe Biden is planning the first major federal tax hike since 1993 to help pay for the long-term economic program designed as a follow-up to his pandemic-relief bill, according to people familiar with the matter. Unlike the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus act, the next initiative, which is expected to be even bigger, won’t rely just on government debt as a funding source. While it’s been increasingly clear that tax hikes will be a component — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said at least part of the next bill will have to be paid for and pointed to higher rates — key advisers are now making preparations for a package of measures that could include an increase in both the corporate tax rate and the individual rate for high earners.

4. Stripe’s Value Jumps to $95 Billion, Becomes Top U.S. Startup

Stripe’s valuation almost tripled in less than a year to $95 billion with its latest funding round, making it the most valuable U.S. startup. The online payments processing company drew $600 million in its latest fundraising. The valuation also overtook billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Instacart. Stripe was founded in 2010 by two Irish siblings: 32-year-old Patrick Collison and his younger brother John, 30. Their net worth surged to $11.4 billion each with the latest valuation. The company’s software, which competes with Square and Paypal Holdings, is used by businesses to accept payments. Customers include Amazon.com, Salesforce.com, and Lyft.

5. Tencent Loses $62 Billion, Wiping Out Value of Fintech Business

Tencent Holdings shares fell a second day on concern regulators are now turning their sights to Pony Ma’s business empire, fueling a $62 billion wipe-out that one brokerage says obliterated most of the value of its online finance business. The stock fell more than 4% in Hong Kong on Monday, following a 4.4.% drop on Friday. China’s top financial regulators see Tencent as the next target for increased supervision after the clampdown on Jack Ma’s Ant Group. Like Ant, Tencent will probably be required to establish a financial holding company to include its banking, insurance and payments services.

6. Better Covid Vaccines Are Coming, WHO’s Chief Scientist Says

New Covid-19 vaccines, including ones that don’t require needles and can be stored at room temperature, maybe ready for use later this year or next year, the World Health Organization’s top scientist said. Six-to-eight new immunizations may complete clinical studies and undergo regulatory review by the end of the year, Soumya Swaminathan, the Geneva-based agency’s chief scientist, said in an interview Saturday. The world needs more immunizations, especially as the virus’s continuous circulation spawns dangerous new variants and drugmakers struggle to meet orders. Only 122 countries have started immunizing people.

7. China’s Soaring Economic Activity Masks Uneven Recovery

China’s economic activity surged in the first two months of the year compared with a year ago, though the figures showed an uneven recovery with strong industrial output fueled by exports but lagging consumer spending. The official data released Monday show unprecedented growth rates of more than 30% for key indicators, largely due to distortions when compared to last year’s shutdowns. Industrial production growth of 35.1% beat economist’s expectations of 32.2%, reflecting a shorter Lunar New Year holiday this year as the government encouraged workers to remain in factories rather than return to their hometowns. Combined with strong export data for January and February, the statistics show that China has largely continued the pattern established last year of a recovery based on the growth of industrial production for export and investment in sectors such as real estate, delaying Beijing’s efforts to re-balance the economy toward domestic consumer demand.

8. EU Begins Legal Action Against U.K. Over Brexit Violation

The European Union launched legal action against the U.K. in a major escalation of tensions between the two sides less than three months after Brexit was formally completed. It follows Britain’s unilateral decision to delay implementing a key part of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. The move could ultimately lead to financial penalties or trade tariffs being imposed on the U.K. The dispute is likely to worsen the already fraught relationship between the two sides that has led to disagreements over the export of Covid vaccines and the U.K. refusing to grant full rights to the bloc’s ambassador in London. The EU is still smarting from the U.K.’s threat — later withdrawn — to break international law last year and rewrite the Brexit agreement.

9. VW Plans Europe’s Biggest Battery Push in Electric Offensive

Volkswagen is stepping up its game to become the world’s biggest electric-car maker with a plan to build six battery factories in Europe and global investments in charging stations. The manufacturer, which already has agreements for two sites, is exploring options for another four plants for a total capacity of 240 gigawatt-hours by the end of the decade. VW has the most comprehensive EV plan in the industry that’ll add about 50 purely battery-powered vehicles to its lineup by 2030.

10. Templeton Joins Funding for Agritech Firmin UAE

United Arab Emirates-based agricultural technology firm Pure Harvest Smart Farms raised $60 million as it looks to expand across the Gulf at a time when the pandemic has exposed risks to food security in the region. The company’s latest funding consists of a $50 million structured Islamic bond led by Dubai-based finance firm Shuaa Capital, alternative investment manager Sancta Capital Group and Franklin Templeton Investments (ME) Ltd. Supply disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the potential food security risks for countries like the UAE, whose desert climate with soaring summer temperatures means it has to import most of its food from abroad. The country has lately been supporting local food production and investing in greenhouses, aquaculture and vertical farms.

Curated from Bloomberg.com