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Opposition corners Nitish Kumar over ‘ineffective’ alcohol ban after 24 die of ‘spurious liquor’ consumption in Bihar

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Bihar minister Janak Chamar termed the incident unfortunate, saying that only the poor perish in such incidents.

At least 24 people died in Bihar after allegedly consuming illegal liquor in the last two days in two separate incidents. While various media reports have pegged the death toll at 24, Bihar Minister Sunil Kumar had yesterday confirmed the death of 21 people. The incident happened in Bettiah and Gopalganj districts.

Bihar minister Janak Chamar termed the incident unfortunate, saying that only the poor perish in such incidents. “Conspiracy on the pretext of spurious liquor can be seen. Those who consume it are poor. When action is taken and raids are done, the weak get nabbed, the weak die. It’s unfortunate,” said Janak Chamar.

Chamar said that he has visited every bereaved family and is in touch with the officials. “We visited every bereaved family, the deceased can’t be brought back but people are praying for those who are fighting for their lives in hospitals. I’m in touch with DM, SP and officers concerned. Such things are happening, fear of police is not being seen,” said Chamar.

Kundan Kumar, District Magistrate, West Champaran, said that the police have verified the information of the death of 8 people in Bettiah and prima facie it appears to be due to consumption of spurious liquor.

Over 40 people have lost their lives in Bihar due to the consumption of spurious liquid since January this year.

Leader of Opposition in Bihar assembly, Tejashwi Yadav, however, claimed that over 50 people had died in the last three days. “When you drink the wrong thing, you will die – Nitish ji. More than 50 deaths have occurred due to spurious liquor in the last 3 days only under the rule of those who speak about prohibition. The Chief Minister himself keeps threatening to teach a hard lesson to the drunkards instead of taking action against the administration, the mafia and the smuggler police,” said Tejashwi Yadav.

Sharing the video on Twitter, Tejashwi Yadav said, “When the Chief Minister was giving a lecture on the incident, two trucks of liquor were recovered from the school of the BJP minister who was standing next to him (CM). It is also mentioned in the police FIR. Bihar Police has not been able to arrest the minister’s accused brother till date. This is the truth of their alleged alcohol ban.”

Yadav claimed that over 35 people were killed yesterday. “Due to someone’s madness, there is a liquor ban on paper in Bihar, otherwise it is available in black and there is loot,” said Yadav.

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Oil drops 13% in worst day of 2021, breaks below $70 as new Covid variant sparks global demand concerns

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Working oil pumps against a sunset sky.

Imaginima | E+ | Getty Images

Oil posted its worst day of the year on Friday, tumbling to the lowest level in more than two months as the new Covid-19 strain sparked fears about a demand slowdown just as supply increases.

The leg lower came amid a broad sell-off in the market with the Dow dropping more than 900 points. The World Health Organization warned Thursday of a new Covid variant detected in South Africa. It could be more resistant to vaccines thanks to its mutations, although the WHO said further investigation is needed.

U.S. oil settled 13.06%, or $10.24, lower at $68.15 per barrel, falling below the key $70 level. It was the contract’s worst day since April 2020. WTI also closed below its 200-day moving average a key technical indicator for the first time since November 2020.

International benchmark Brent crude futures slid 11.55% to settle at $72.72 per barrel.

Both contracts registered their fifth straight week of losses for the longest weekly losing streak since March 2020.

A decrease in travel and potential new lockdowns, both of which could hit demand, come just as supply is about to increase.

“It appears that the discovery of a Covid-19 variant in southern Africa is spooking markets across the board. Germany is already limiting travel from several nations in the affected region,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital. “The last thing that the oil complex needs is another threat to the air travel recovery,” he added.

On Tuesday the Biden Administration announced plans to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The move is part of a global effort by energy-consuming nations to calm 2021s rapid rise in fuel prices. India, China, Japan, South Korea and the U.K. will also release some of their reserves.

“This [the sell-off] is attributable to concerns about a sizeable oversupply in early 2022 that is set to be brought about by the upcoming release of strategic oil reserves in the US and other major consumer countries, plus the ongoing steep rise in new coronavirus cases,” noted analysts at Commerzbank. “Furthermore, an even more transmissible variant of the virus has been discovered in South Africa, prompting a noticeable increase in risk aversion on the financial markets today.”

OPEC and its oil-producing allies are set to meet on Dec. 2 to discuss production policy for January and beyond. The group has slowly eased the historic output cuts it agreed to in April 2020 as the coronavirus sapped demand for petroleum products. Since August the group, known as OPEC+, has returned 400,000 barrels per day to the market each month.

The group has maintained its gradual taper despite calls from the White House and others to hike output as oil prices surged to multi-year highs. West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit a seven-year high in October, while Brent rose to a three-year high.

U.S. oil is now down more than $15 since its October high of $85.41.

“The coordinated SPR release is getting a second look, as well, especially with OPEC decrying it and asserting that the release will tip the global market back into surplus. The release is much more than just a drop in the bucket,” added Kilduff.

Energy stocks followed oil lower on Friday, and the group was the worst-performing S&P 500 sector, falling more than 4%. Devon Energy, APA and Occidental were among the biggest losers.

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Cybersecurity ETFs to consider amidst increasing threat from Internet crimes

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Cybersecurity ETFs, Internet crimes, Cyber ETFs, thematic ETFs, First Trusts CIBR, ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF HACKCybersecurity ETFs, Internet crimes, Cyber ETFs, thematic ETFs, First Trusts CIBR, ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF HACKThe largest cyber ETF, First Trusts CIBR (CIBR) trades around $45 million per day.

Investing in the stocks of a specific industry or a particular theme may be highly rewarding, but can be an equally risky proposition. The volatility in such stocks may be high in the short to medium term as they are more prone to the news flow impacting their fortunes. One is related to cyber security and those looking to invest in the stocks of companies in the sector may consider buying cybersecurity-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Cyber security ETFs are expected to thrive in the virus-hit economy worldwide.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a record number of complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790 were received, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. This represents a 69% increase in total complaints from 2019.

Cyber ETFs are thematic ETFs giving investors an access to a diversified basket of stocks with exposure to a specific investment or economic theme.

The largest cyber ETF, First Trusts CIBR (CIBR), which tracks an index jointly created by Nasdaq and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) trades around $45 million per day and has a total AUM of over $4.8 billion.

The ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF (HACK) is the other ETF that has a portfolio of companies providing cyber security solutions that include hardware, software and services.

Recently, in a report on the Nasdaq website, Phil Mackintosh takes a deep dive into the cybersecurity ETFs. Here are some excerpts:

As far as the growth and the potential is concerned, the report says – Its probably not surprising that cyber ETFs have seen strong growth, as data shows that cybercrime is increasing, and with that, losses from companies affected by breaches are also growing. Furthermore, other studies show that not only is the global cybersecurity market growing but also that a majority of Chief Information Officers are prioritizing cybersecurity spending for this year, with 61% of the more than 2,000 CIOs surveyed increasing investment in cyber/information security in 2021. This positions cyber as an industry with potential long-term growth and persistent recurring revenues.

A look at the performance shows that more recently (during the pandemic), CIBR has started to outperform the broader market. The study also found that Nasdaqs Cyber Index outperforms the broader market when data breaches occur.

The threat of cyber crimes doesn’t look to fade away in a hurry and as the world goes more digital, the need and demand for newer cyber security products will rise. Some portion of your portfolio may be considered in Cyber ETFs keeping your risk profile in context.

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Sticker shock could change retailers’ approach to sales

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Shoppers looking at Macy’s Black Friday specials in Maumee, Ohio, November 27, 2020.

Stephen Zenner | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Keith Fitzgerald has gone to extreme lengths this holiday season to make sure he gets the perfect gift.

Fitzgerald, a 40-year-old hairstylist, searched online and at stores for a special edition Lego: a nearly 4,000-piece set that resembles the house in the Christmas classic, “Home Alone” complete with booby traps and a zipline to the backyard treehouse. He knew the $250 set would delight his boyfriend on the final night of Hanukkah.

Yet when he logged onto the Lego website, the set was sold out. No nearby stores had any in stock. He reached out to family and friends across the country and enlisted the help of a friend who stood in line at a New York City store, bought it for him and agreed to mail the giant box to his home that’s near Richmond, Virginia.

“The shipping, that’s a little extra, but he’s worth it,” Fitzgerald said.

Consumers’ huge appetite to spend and the global supply chain crunch are colliding this holiday season. For shoppers, that is making some desired toys, clothes and other items hard-to-find, even as retailers like Walmart and Target say there will be plenty of merchandise to choose from on shelves. It is also driving up prices and flipping the script for shoppers who used to get motivated by a deal.

U.S. consumers will see smaller discounts across all major gifting categories, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks retailers’ websites. Electronics, for instance, are expected to peak at 22% discounts during the holiday season versus 27% in 2020. Discounts on toys will peak at 16% compared with 19% a year ago. And apparel will peak at 15% instead of 20% in 2020, the company projected.

Shoppers will still see the biggest discounts around key retail holidays, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Adobe. Even those prices won’t be as low, though. On average, it estimated shoppers will pay 9% more during Cyber Week compared with a year ago, Adobe said.

‘Lucky it’s there on the shelf’

With consumer demand so high and inventory of some items low, some retailers have found themselves with the upper hand. Shares of Macy’s and Kohl’s rose after the retailers reported quarterly results that benefited from lean inventory and few markdowns.

On third-quarter earnings calls, leaders of the department stores said that they have been able to pass on higher costs from shipping and cut back on huge price cuts when selling clothes, shoes and home goods. Fewer items are also winding up on the department stores’ clearance racks, too. That is resulting in higher profits.

Luc Wathieu, a professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said retailers don’t need to dangle discounts in the same way this holiday. In fact, he said, retailers would be silly to do so. Fear of not finding a much-wanted item is enough motivation for people to rush to the store or a retailer’s website and to get them to pay more.

Retailers no longer need to message to shoppers the same way with sales, he said.

“They tell them ‘Look, the toy you want to give your kid may not be there later,'” he said. “‘Shop early. Don’t go for the discounts. You’re already lucky it’s there on the shelf.'”

Retraining shoppers

For retailers, a shift away from dramatically slashed prices and going head-to-head with competitors on price alone could create an opportunity, said Katie Thomas, lead for the Kearney Consumer Institute. In the short term, companies can pass on inflated costs of materials and shipping and have fewer items that get marked down and added to the clearance rack.

Over the long term, she said, it could provide a chance to retrain American shoppers who have long been hooked on deals.

“Other countries do not discount like we do,” she said. “We’ve trained American consumers to just wait for everything to be on deal.”

That could have big implications for companies’ operating margins and could drive up profits.

She said retailers can test and learn how to price appropriately or stand out in other ways. For instance, direct-to-consumer companies, such as luggage company Away and apparel seller Everlane, rarely discount and tout their exclusive products or customer service instead. Some like Apple have such a loyal fan following that people will stand in line for hours just to buy an item at full price.

“I think of it from the simplest consumer point of view, which is ‘If everybody is waiting to buy everything on deal, then you’re just not priced right or your quality is not good enough,'” she said.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said in an interview that the department store has tested its pricing approach. It has learned there’s a “price ceiling” for commodity items such as a basic T-shirt or a pair of denim jeans but not as much on a fashion-forward top.

Other retailers have spoken about seeing less price-sensitive shoppers, too.

Tapestry, which owns Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, has noticed customers are more willing to pay for handbags, even when the products are full price. The company’s CEOJoanne Crevoiserat said style, not just low price, is inspiring customers to buy.

“We’re seeing little price resistance,” she said in an interview. “And you know, I think that’s a signal that our brands have pricing power.”

And Newell Brands, the owner of home brands like Calphalon, said consumers have been buying premium versions of cookware and even food storage, according to Kris Malkoski, the company’s CEO of home solutions.

The question, however, is whether that willingness to splurge is a short-term change to consumer mindset or a lasting shift in people buying the goods they want, with less of a focus on price.

Walmart and Target have swung the other direction, vowing to hold down price and emphasize value in an inflationary environment.

Holiday sales are expected to hit a record of between $843.4 billion and $859 billion of sales, which represents an increase of 8.5% to 10.5%, according to the National Retail Federation.

Thomas said if holiday sales meet or exceed those expectations even during a period when inflation has hit a more than 30-year high retailers may feel emboldened to keep prices higher in the future.

Fitzgerald, who bought the Lego set, said he has seen supply chain challenges play out in recent months. At his hair salon, some hair colors, shampoos and other items have been backordered. He struggled to find a shower curtain liner at the store recently when getting ready host an out-of-town guest.

He said he was thrilled to find the Home Alone Lego set and is eager to give it to his boyfriend, Will. It is their first holiday season together and this year, they plan to get engaged. That made the high price and hassle of getting the set mailed by a friend to Virginia worthwhile, he said.

“I laid the groundwork to tell him that he wasn’t getting it,” he said. “So I think he’ll be really surprised. I don’t think I’ll always be able to surprise him this much, but we’re getting engaged this year and it’s our first big holiday season together, so I wanted to make sure it was going to be a memorable holiday season from beginning to end.”

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