Suspicious package closes central Canberra, bomb robot sent into Civic Library


A bomb disposal robot has been sent into Civic Library amid a suspicious package scare that has shut down parts of central Canberra.

Civic Square was adorned with police tape and several buildings along London Circuit were evacuated shortly after 12:00pm.

London Circuit is closed to traffic between Northbourne Avenue and Akuna Street, and pedestrians have been told to avoid the area.

Fire crews were seen running into the library end evacuating people inside before taping off and the square next to Canberra Museum and Gallery.

Police then arrived and moved evacuated workers across the road.

After 30 minutes London Circuit was shut down and people were moved further away.

The Legislative Assembly’s main entrance was closed with politicians forced to enter from the back of the building.

At 1:30pm a bomb disposal robot slowly moved through the square and disappeared into the library.

A police spokesman said there was no threat to the wider community.

London Circuit is closed and pedestrians are advised to avoid the area.(ABC News: Andrew Kennedy)



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No new coronavirus cases in South Australia as Victoria closes border for 48 hours


South Australia has reported no new coronavirus cases as the state begins a six-day hard lockdown to contain a dangerous COVID-19 cluster and Victoria announces border restrictions.

The so-called Parafield cluster remained at 23 confirmed infections on Thursday with three people in hospital in a stable condition.

However Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said there were 17 more suspected cases.

She said as a result of contact tracing and testing, 3,200 close contacts of known cases were in quarantine and thousands more were self-isolating.

“With all of the 23 cases and the 17 suspected cases, what we are doing is putting a double ring fence around all of those people,” Professor Spurrier said.

“So if you imagine all of those people have had close contacts and then those people have had a close contact, that’s where we’re up to.”

Premier Steven Marshall praised the thousands of South Australians who flocked to testing stations over the past two days with more than 20,000 swabs taken.

He said the statewide shutdown remained absolutely necessary to prevent more widespread community transmission.

“The lessons of surging infections in Victoria and other parts of the world have been learnt,” Mr Marshall said.

“COVID-19 is highly infectious, extremely dangerous and very difficult to eradicate once it gets a foothold in a community.

“So we need this circuit-breaker, this breathing space for a contact tracing blitz.”

Under the lockdown, people who aren’t essential workers are only allowed to leave their homes once each day to buy groceries or to seek a COVID-19 test or other medical treatment. Face masks are required outside the home.

All schools are closed along with universities, pubs, cafes, retail stores, food courts and takeaway food outlets. Regional travel is banned and aged care centres are in lockdown.

Weddings and funerals are also banned along with all outdoor sport and exercise. 

Supermarkets, petrol stations, medical centres, critical infrastructure, public transport, airport and freight services, banks, post offices, school and childcare for essential workers and veterinary services are open.

All being well, the six-day lockdown will be followed by another eight days of heavy but less stringent restrictions.

Victoria closes its border to South Australia

The Victorian government, meanwhile, has announced it will temporarily close its border with South Australia.

The government says a 48-hour hard border will be introduced from 11.59pm on Thursday, before being replaced by a permit system from at the same time on Saturday.

More than 300 police officers will patrol the Victorian side of the border, from Mildura down to Portland.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said they knew border communities had had “an incredibly difficult” year, and the decision wasn’t made lightly.

“There’s simply no way that we can have people who ought not be leaving their home in South Australia doing so and then travelling to our state, not at this time,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“These arrangements will not be in place a moment longer than they need to be.”

The decision comes after fragments of the virus that cause COVID-19 were detected in wastewater along Victorian freight routes.

The government says the preliminary positive results at treatment plants in Portland and Benalla are concerning, given no residents in either area are known to have recently had the coronavirus.

“We’re asking all locals and visitors in Portland and Benalla with any symptoms at all to please come forward and get tested today,” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said in a statement.

Under the hard border introduced on Thursday night, only freight drivers, those with legal authorisation or medical, emergency or urgent animal welfare reasons will be able to pass through the border.

The details of the permit scheme are still being finalised ahead of Saturday, but it will allow essential and agricultural workers to cross the border, as well as those shopping for essential supplies, receiving medical care or visiting for compassionate reasons.

With reporting by Jodie Stephens.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW,VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.



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NAB closes all branches over ‘security threat’


National Australia Bank branches across Australia will reopen on Thursday after a hoax bomb threat forced the closure of hundreds of banks.

On Wednesday, NAB received an emailed threat and subsequently evacuated staff and customers from about 700 branches.

In a 6.50pm update to customers, NAB said it had been working with authorities to “assess the physical threat”.

“The latest advice from State and Federal police is that the threat is not credible and has been deemed a hoax. As a result, we are pleased to advise that it is now safe to return to all NAB locations from tomorrow morning.”

“We understand that this caused inconvenience to our customers and colleagues, however their safety and security is our absolute priority and that is why we took the action we did. We did so with the information that we had at the time.”



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Dow closes at a record high as hopes build for a vaccine – Long Island Business News


The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high Monday, erasing the last of its pandemic losses, after a second drug company announced encouraging progress on developing a coronavirus vaccine. The S&P 500 added to the record high it reached last Friday. The Dow rose 1.6% and the S&P 500 added 1.2% after Moderna said its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data. It comes just a week after Pfizer and BioNTech gave similarly encouraging numbers about their own vaccine candidate. Stocks of companies that would benefit the most from the economy climbing out of its recession led the way higher.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: AP’s earlier story appears below.

Stocks are rising Monday, with the S&P 500 adding more to its record high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average on track to erase the last of its pandemic losses, following another round of encouraging data on a possible coronavirus vaccine. 

Moderna said early in the morning that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data. It’s the second time this month that a company unveiled such encouraging numbers about a vaccine, boosting hopes that the global economy can return to some semblance of normal next year.

Leading the way again were stocks of companies that would benefit most from an economy busting out of its forced coma, such as airlines, movie theaters and banks. At the same time, pandemic-winning stocks that benefited from lockdown orders like Amazon and Zoom Video Communications lagged as they no longer looked like the only safe bets to play. 

The S&P 500 was 0.7% higher in afternoon trading and adding to its all-time high set on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 355 points, or 1.2%, at 29,835, as of 2:10 p.m. Eastern time, and on pace to surpass its record of 29,551.42 set in February before pandemic panic hit the market. The Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher, lagging the rest of the market amid lessened interest for tech stocks. 

Treasury yields, oil prices and stocks around the world also rallied on the shot of increased optimism. A vaccine is precisely what markets have been waiting for to pull the global economy out of its cavern, and analysts say it’s a game changer.

Of course, for all its euphoria, many risks remain for the market. It’s still not guaranteed when a vaccine could be widely available, let alone whether one ultimately will. The pandemic is continuing to worsen, meanwhile, with rising coronavirus counts across the United States and Europe pushing governments to bring back varying degrees of restrictions on businesses.

“The vaccine could help people breathe a sigh of relief, but the devil is in the details,” said Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Financial Group, referring to the need for more complete data and a eventual distribution plans.

But investors for now are focusing on the possibility of a world next year where customers are again going outside to work at offices, buying things at enclosed stores and heading on vacations. 

It was just a week ago that Pfizer sent optimism soaring with its encouraging vaccine data results. Movie-theater chain Cinemark has soared nearly 58% since just before the announcement. Stocks of smaller companies, whose prices tend to sway more with the strength of the economy, are up more than double their larger rivals over the same time: a 7.7% jump for the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks versus 3% for the S&P 500. 

Stocks of companies that had thrived amid lockdowns and vigilance about the virus, meanwhile, have lagged. Amazon, Netflix and Etsy are all down more than 5% since just before Pfizer’s announcement. Zoom has sunk 22%.

The shift in market sentiment is perhaps most clear in the stock prices of Peloton, with its at-home exercise bikes, and the Planet Fitness chain of gyms. Peloton is down nearly 20% since Nov. 6, versus a gain of more than 6% for Planet Fitness.

Investors aren’t abandoning Big Tech amid the vaccine hopes. But the ability of Apple, Microsoft and other behemoths to stand so clearly apart from the rest of the market has diminished a bit. That has many money managers looking at pulling some of the big profits made on Big Tech and plowing them into beaten-down areas of the market.

Of course, such movements could limit the gains for broad index funds. Stocks with bigger market values hold bigger sway on the S&P 500 and other indexes, which means the anticipated slowdown for Big Tech could restrain movements for the funds that have increasingly become the default investment for many 401(k) accounts. 

“That’s sometimes what happens when you get a rotation, especially into the smaller stocks,” said Barry James, portfolio manager with James Investment Research. “You don’t see it. It’s almost invisible.” 

Even before Moderna’s vaccine news, markets had been trading higher as investors welcomed the signing on Sunday of an agreement establishing the world’s biggest trade bloc, a group of 15 countries that includes China, Japan, South Korea, 10 countries in Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia. The United States, the No. 1 economy, is not a part of it. 

Called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the pact mostly will bring already low tariffs lower over a 20-year period. It is expected to have a positive but incremental impact on trade in the region. 

In Asian stock markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 2.1%, South Korea’s Kospi gained 2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.9%. Stocks in Shanghai climbed 1.1%.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 jumped 1.7%, and Germany’s DAX returned 0.5%. The FTSE 100 in London gained 1.7%.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed 3% to settle at $41.34 per barrel amid hopes that a healthier economy would burn more fuel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 2.4% to settle at $43.82 per barrel. 

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.90% from 0.87% late Friday.





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Wall Street closes higher as upbeat Cisco and Disney results help fuel optimism



FILE PHOTO: A U.S flag is seen on the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough of New York City, following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, New York, U.S., November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

November 13, 2020

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street closed higher on Friday with upbeat earnings reports helping to drive optimism about the economy along with hopes for successful COVID-19 vaccines even as investors monitored a surge in virus cases and restrictions around the country.

After a volatile trading week where the market was whipsawed between hopes and fears around the virus, Cisco Systems Inc provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 after its quarterly report showed a work-from-home driven surge in demand.

Walt Disney Co also rose as its rapidly growing streaming video business, and a partial recovery at its theme parks tempered its quarterly loss.

“At least for today it looks like sentiment regarding the potential for vaccines combined with very strong earnings announcements from a number of companies has investors hopeful that the economy can continue to recover,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 378.85 points, or 1.3%, to 29,459.02, the S&P 500 gained 46.99 points, or 1.33%, to 3,584 and the Nasdaq Composite added 113.97 points, or 0.97%, to 11,823.55.

Friday’s outperformance of more economically sensitive sectors including energy, and industrials over growth sectors like technology was a clear indication of “optimism around the economy getting back on its footing,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta.

The three major U.S. stock indexes had fallen on Thursday as more than a dozen U.S. states reported a doubling of new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, with Chicago’s mayor issuing a month-long stay-at-home advisory.

But a senior adviser to President-elect Joe Biden said there were no plans for nationwide lockdowns next year and instead talked about restrictions for specific regions when the virus spread is bad there.

State Street’s Arone said the aversion to a full lockdown likely cheered up some investors. But he was concerned that investor optimism may be overdone, particularly as Fed officials have been warning about the potential damage rising virus cases could do to the economy without a fresh economic stimulus package in sight.

“The market is underestimating some of the impact that rising cases and no stimulus will have on the economy and earnings and they’re over estimating the potential timeline and breadth of a vaccine distribution,” Arone said.

“In the spring folks were bracing for the worst and the worst didn’t happen. Now they’re expecting the best and they may be a little too rosy.”

Positive data from Pfizer’s vaccine study earlier this week had prompted a rotation into the cyclical sectors, boosting the S&P 500 and Dow.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, however, underperformed as investors booked profits in technology stocks, which have benefited from a stay-at-home environment.

Globalt’s Martin also pointed to hopes for news of more coronavirus vaccine progress, after Moderna Inc said earlier this week that it had enough data for a first interim analysis of its late-stage trial.

With third-quarter reports released from about 90% of S&P 500 companies Refinitiv IBES estimates now show profits falling 7.8% from last year compared with an Oct. 1 expectation for a 21.4% slump.

Meanwhile, Biden’s victory in the battleground state of Arizona expanded his electoral vote margin, but the official transition remains in limbo as President Donald Trump refuses to concede.

Value stocks, which include mostly cyclical sectors such as banks and energy, outperformed the growth index, which is largely comprised of tech companies.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Culp in New York, Medha Singh and Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Shounak Dasgupta and Tom Brown)





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FA faces claim of gender bias as it only closes girls’ academies during lockdown | UK News



A gender inequality row has erupted in football after the FA doubled down on their decision to close girls’ academies during lockdown while boys’ academies have been allowed to remain open.

The move has sparked anger and concern in the women’s game, particularly as it closely follows the decision to halt the women’s FA Cup until after lockdown is over, while the equivalent men’s competition has been given the green light to continue, despite also involving non-elite teams.

“I don’t know who makes these decisions but they clearly don’t realise how far the women’s game has come,” Helen Ward, a footballer for Watford FC Women, told Sky News.

“I can’t get my head around it, it sends a really bad message and instils the belief in the next generation that boys’ football is more important than girls’.”

The FA said in a statement after the controversy erupted that all academies belonging to Womens’ Super League clubs would have to remain closed until at least the end of the national lockdown on 2 December, because they deemed their resources “do not meet the necessary ‘elite’ protocols.”

But boys’ academies, some of them based within the same facilities, will be allowed to remain open.

“I think it is hard to say it’s anything other than gender inequality,” said Ward.

“It shows a total lack of regard for the women’s game and we risk losing young girls to the sport forever because four weeks is a long time off.”

It is understood that the government would have allowed girls academies to remain open, as per their guidance which stipulates that an elite athlete is any person “aged 16 or above on an elite development pathway.”

Alex Culvin, a former professional footballer and now a lecturer in sport business at the University of Salford, told Sky News the decision was “ridiculous and separatist and indicative of the FA’s interpretation of women’s football.”

Leading football pundit and former player Alex Scott also said she would work to get answers about the FA’s decision.

“We must do everything to stop inequality like this,” she wrote on social media.

Sky News has contacted the FA for further comment.



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Biden closes in on presidency Trump’s threats grow


The 2020 US election has already been a rollercoaster, and it’s not over yet. Here’s what’s happened so far.

Protesters denounce Trump’s attempts to stop vote counting (Image: PA/Charles Guerin)

The past 48 hours have been rollercoaster of emotions as US polls closed and presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Donald Trump began gaining and losing leads in battleground states across the US.

It continues to be a tense race, with Trump supporters swarming voting centres in Arizona and Michigan.

The fight for the key states of Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania continues — though Biden has made slight gains on Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia in the last few hours. Nevada is also yet to be called.

Read Crikey’s full election coverage.

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