Live news updates: South Korean agency behind BTS sinks after band announces hiatus

Asian shares down ahead of Fed’s predicted rate hike

Most Asian shares fell on Wednesday, ahead of a decision from the US Federal Reserve that markets are betting will see the central bank raise its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and Japan’s Topix both declined as much as 0.8 per cent. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.3 per cent, but later pared some losses following news that a strike by truckers in the country, which had affected supply chains, was ending. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and China’s CSI 300 opened 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent higher, respectively.

In the US on Tuesday, ​​the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield, which moves with growth and inflation expectations, rose by as much as 0.14 percentage points to an 11-year high of 3.5 per cent, while the S&P 500 share index fell 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite edged 0.2 per cent higher.

Economists have begun to increase their expectations for a rate increase from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, with some now predicting the central bank will raise rates by 0.75 percentage points at the conclusion of its two-day policy-setting meeting.

Oil prices were broadly flat, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, trading at $121.23 a barrel.

South Korean agency behind BTS sinks after band announces hiatus

BTS visited the White House last month to discuss with President Joe Biden ways to prevent hate crimes against Asians in the US © REUTERS

Shares in Hybe, the South Korean entertainment and talent agency behind global pop superstars BTS, sank on Wednesday after the seven-member boy band said they were taking a hiatus as a group to pursue solo projects.

Hybe shares dropped 26.4 per cent on Wednesday morning, underperforming a 1.2 per cent fall on the country’s benchmark Kospi. Uncertainty over the group’s future has grown, with some members facing the prospect of military conscriptions in the coming years.

Frontman RM and his fellow band members said at a group dinner on Tuesday that a break was needed for them to continue over the long haul. “The problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is that they don’t give you time to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep doing something,” RM said in a video posted on YouTube.

BTS have become a global sensation, spearheading a global K-pop craze and releasing hit songs such as “Dynamite” and “Butter” since their debut in June 2013. They were the first K-pop act to top the Billboard album charts in 2018 and the first Asian band named “artists of the year” at the American Music Awards.

BTS recently addressed the UN General Assembly and visited the White House last month to discuss with President Joe Biden ways to prevent hate crimes against Asians in the US.

What to watch in Asia today

China: The world’s second-largest economy releases figures for May retail sales and industrial production. Both measures declined by their most since the early days of the pandemic in April. China also releases unemployment data.

Markets: A global sell-off abated late on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 closing 0.4 per cent lower and the Nasdaq managing gains of 0.2 per cent. Asian stock market indices, including Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and China’s CSI 300, also closed broadly flat after losses earlier in the day. On Wednesday morning, Japanese and Australian equities declined, while futures in Hong Kong were flat.

Apple scores deal for Major League Soccer streaming rights worth $2.5bn

Real Salt Lake’s Sergio Córdova, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps’ Erik Godoy vie for the ball during a Major League Soccer match
Real Salt Lake’s Sergio Córdova, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps’ Erik Godoy vie for the ball during a Major League Soccer match © AP

Apple and Major League Soccer have agreed to a broadcasting rights package worth $2.5bn over 10 years, according to people familiar with the matter, a big investment in live sports by the tech group that will put the North American football league’s matches on its streaming service.

Beginning next year, all live fixtures will air on a dedicated MLS streaming service available on the Apple TV app. The price of the subscription for consumers was not immediately available.

MLS commissioner Don Garber declined to comment on the dollar value of the agreement. He said it was structured as a “minimum guarantee” with Apple to form a streaming service, with the potential for additional revenue sharing and sale of some traditional television rights.

Moving the league’s live broadcasts to streaming will allow MLS to expand its appeal overseas as opposed to “being the North American version of the global game”, Garber said.

The deal between Apple and MLS is the second live sports rights deal for the tech group and its first comprehensive rights package with a league. Earlier this year, it struck an agreement with Major League Baseball to broadcast Friday night games.

“Sports clearly represents the next battleground for ownership of the living room among the big tech companies,” said Paolo Pescatore, tech and media analyst for PP Foresight. “This is a statement of intent by Apple. While it’s late to the party, it must now be considered a serious player for sports rights in key markets for its products.”

Read more about Apple’s MLS deal here

Canada suspends vaccine mandate for air travel

Canadian travellers will no longer need to be vaccinated to travel by plane within the country or on outbound flights, according to new policy announced on Tuesday by the federal government.

“Suspending this requirement is possible thanks to the tens of millions of Canadians who did the right thing,” transportation minister Omar Alghabara said, referring to the 86 per cent of Canadians above the age of five who have at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“This action will support Canada’s transportation system as we recover from the pandemic.”

The new policy, which maintains a mask-wearing requirement, will come into effect on June 20 and will also apply to train travel. It removes the vaccination requirement for employees at federally regulated transportation companies.

The announcement came days after Ottawa suspended randomised Covid-19 testing at Canadian airports. Travellers in Canada and abroad have experienced long delays at airports in recent weeks, caused in part by staff shortages.

A vaccine mandate will remain in place for cruise ship passengers and crew members.

Double blow to Europe’s gas supplies sparks price surge

Smoke billows from the Freeport LNG plant in Quintana, Texas, last week
Smoke billows from the Freeport LNG plant in Quintana, Texas, last week © Maribel Hill via REUTERS

Europe’s gas supplies suffered a double blow on Tuesday after a major US liquefied natural gas export terminal said it would be offline for at least three months and Russia said it would cut flows through a key route to Germany.

Freeport LNG, which accounts for about a fifth of US LNG exports and about 10 per cent of Europe’s imports this year, said on Tuesday that repairs following an explosion at its plant last week could take until the end of the year, with only partial activity set to resume after 90 days. Last week Freeport had indicated the terminal would resume operations in early July.

At the same time Russia said it would reduce capacity on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by about 40 per cent, blaming the reduction on the delayed return of a key piece of technical equipment that Siemens Energy said has been blocked by Canadian sanctions against Moscow.

The twin threat to European gas imports illustrates the vulnerability of the continent to supply disruptions as it tries to reduce its reliance on Russian gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Gas prices in Europe have soared in the last year after Russia squeezed supplies ahead of the invasion and as fears of supply disruptions grew, stoking inflation and a cost of living crisis for many countries.

The EU has tried to avoid directly targeting Russian gas flows with sanctions, which prior to the invasion made up as much as 40 per cent of all of its supplies, even as it has moved to cut its dependence.

Read more about Europe’s gas woes here

US government debt falls on expectations of sharper rate rises

US government debt was under pressure on Tuesday as markets bet that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates by 0.75 percentage points at the conclusion of its two-day policy-setting meeting on Wednesday.

The yield on the two-year Treasury note, which moves with interest rate expectations, rose as much as 0.1 percentage points to a 15-year high of 3.45 per cent, reflecting a fall in the debt instrument’s price.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield, which moves with growth and inflation expectations, rose by as much as 0.14 percentage points to an 11-year high of 3.5 per cent.

The $23tn US Treasury market is the world’s largest financial market and the bedrock of investment and loan pricing decisions.

Until Friday, futures markets were betting that the Fed would raise interest rates by 0.5 percentage points in June and July — as indicated by chair Jay Powell at the US central bank’s most recent meeting — to combat inflation that has been running at 40-year highs.

But analysts began ratcheting up their rate rise forecasts after data last Friday showed the annual pace of US consumer price inflation for May had exceeded expectations to hit 8.6 per cent, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed up food and fuel costs.

Read more about the day’s market moves here

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