Capital One says it won't use CFTC waiver related to oil lending

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lender Capital One Financial Corp (COF.N) said on Saturday it would not use a U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) waiver after commodity price volatility lifted the bank’s derivatives exposure toward a key regulatory threshold.

The exemption relieved the firm from a requirement to register as a “Major Swap Participant,” or MSP, even though its growing energy swaps exposure was expected to require that by the end of the next quarter. The CFTC had announced the relief for an unnamed lender two weeks ago, and Reuters later reported Capital One was the bank.

“We are not an MSP,” a spokesperson for the bank said in an emailed statement on Saturday.

The bank has “notified the CFTC that we will not rely on the waiver and will register if derivative volumes reach the MSP threshold.”

The registration is related to Capital One’s commercial lending to the oil and gas industry, a relatively small part of its overall business. The bank enters into commodity swaps with energy clients to help them mitigate the risk of energy price swings and the related borrowing risks.

While those trades typically do not bring the lender’s swaps exposure anywhere close to the CFTC’s registration threshold, a huge plunge in energy prices put it on track to hit the threshold by the end of the next quarter, the agency said in a letter on March 20.

The temporary waiver sparked worries that regulators are going too easy on banks in a bid to prop up lending, potentially exposing them to more risk down the road if energy prices do not rebound.

Following the 2007-2009 financial crisis during which several major institutions were toppled by their derivatives exposure, Congress created a slew of swap trading laws to reduce systemic risk and increase the visibility of the market.

Capital One’s commercial bank “does not engage in speculative derivatives trading” and its normal hedging activity has not changed, the bank spokesperson said on Saturday.

The bank enters into hedges with other banks to reduce exposure to commodity risk from its hedges with oil and gas clients, reducing exposure to commodity risk to “essentially zero, and we are subject to no outstanding margin calls,” the spokesperson said.

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Capital One says it won't use CFTC waiver related to its oil lending

WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) – U.S. lender Capital One Financial Corp said on Saturday it will not use a waiver granted by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) after commodity price volatility lifted the bank’s derivatives exposure toward a key regulatory threshold.

The regulatory exemption relieved the firm from a requirement to register as a “Major Swap Participant”, or MSP, even though its growing energy swaps exposure was expected to require it to do so by the end of the next quarter. The CFTC had announced the relief for an unnamed lender two weeks ago, and Reuters later reported Capital One was the bank.

“We are not an MSP,” a spokesperson for the bank said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “To alleviate confusion, we are withdrawing our waiver request and will register as derivative volumes require.”

The registration is related to Capital One’s commercial lending to the oil and gas industry, a relatively small part of its overall business. The bank enters into commodity swaps with energy clients to help them mitigate the risk of energy price swings and the related borrowing risks.

While those trades typically do not bring the lender’s swaps exposure anywhere close to the CFTC’s registration threshold, a huge plunge in energy prices put it on track to hit the threshold by the end of the next quarter, the agency said in a letter on March 20.

The waiver was temporary, but sparked worries that regulators are going too easy on banks in a bid to prop up lending, potentially exposing them to more risk down the road if energy prices do not rebound.

Following the 2007-2009 financial crisis during which several major institutions were toppled by their derivatives exposure, Congress created a slew of swap trading laws to reduce systemic risk and increase the visibility of the market.

Capital One’s commercial bank “does not engage in speculative derivatives trading” and its normal hedging activity has not changed, the bank spokesperson said on Saturday.

The bank enters into hedges with banks to reduce exposure to commodity risk from its hedges with oil and gas clients, reducing exposure to commodity risk to “essentially zero, and we are subject to no outstanding margin calls,” she said. (Reporting by Chris Prentice Editing by Alistair Bell)

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UK PM Johnson's pregnant fiance had COVID-19 symptoms but on the mend

LONDON (Reuters) – Carrie Symonds, the pregnant fiance of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said she had spent the past week in bed with symptoms of the novel coronavirus but after seven days of rest felt stronger and was on the mend.

“I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus. I haven’t needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I’m on the mend,” Symonds said.

“Being pregnant with Covid-19 is obviously worrying. To other pregnant women, please do read and follow the most up to date guidance which I found to be very reassuring.”

Johnson said on Friday he was remaining in isolation with mild symptoms of COVID-19, including a raised temperature, seven days after he first tested positive for the new coronavirus which causes the respiratory disease.

Johnson, 55, and Symonds, now 32, announced in February that they were expecting their first child together and were engaged to be married.

After Johnson last month became the first leader of a major power to announce that he had tested positive, he went into isolation at a flat in Downing Street, though the couple normally live together.

Symonds is the first unmarried partner to live openly with a British leader in recent history.

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Trump says will ask Congress for more small business funds if money runs out

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would ask Congress for more money to make loans to small businesses struggling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak if the original $349 billion allocated in a fiscal stimulus bill runs out.

“I will immediately ask Congress for more money to support small businesses under the @ppploan if the allocated money runs out,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

The launch of the small business bailout fund has been rocky since it opened on Friday morning.

Tens of thousands of businesses have swamped lenders, community bankers have complained of an inability to access the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s system and the Treasury Department was still issuing updated guidance and form templates on Friday afternoon.

As of Friday evening, lenders originated more than 17,000 loans valued at about $5.4 billion under the program, Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, said in a tweet.

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UK extends condolences to family of 5-year-old who died from coronavirus

LONDON (Reuters) – British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said his thoughts went out to the family of a 5-year-old child who died in hospital after being infected with the novel coronavirus.

The United Kingdom’s hospital death toll from the coronavirus rose by 20% to 4,313 at 1600 GMT on April 3, the health ministry said.

COVID-19 deaths in English hospitals made up 3,939 of the UK total. Those who made up the 637 daily rise in English deaths were aged between five years and 104 years old.

Of the 637, 40 had no known underlying health conditions. They were aged between 48 and 93 years old.

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Indian power grid operators scramble to prepare for Modi's 'lights off' plan

CHENNAI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to citizens to switch off lights across India on Sunday to mark the coronavirus fight is generating a lot more work and some tough challenges for India’s power sector workers.

On Friday, Modi appealed to Indians to turn out their lights for nine minutes at 9 p.m. on Sunday to show solidarity amid the coronavirus lockdown with a show of lamps, candles and flashlights.

The appeal, however, set off alarm bells for those in charge of India’s power grid, prompting a flurry of orders to officials manning generation plants and managing grid load, amid concerns that a surge in voltage due to a steep dip in demand could harm the grid and cause widespread outages.

India’s Power System Operation Corp (POSOCO), which oversees the national power grid, ordered all senior officials to be present at generating stations, substations and load despatch centers across India between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

It advised engineers to start reducing output from baseload plants such as coal-fired power stations just ahead of 9 p.m. and ramp up generation from hydro and gas plants, typically used to address peak power demand, to manage the anticipated gyration in demand.

POSOCO expects consumption to dip by over 10% when Indians switch off lights, it said in an advisory sent to grid operators across the country, calling the expected reduction in load and rapid recovery, “unprecedented”.

POSOCO’s parent body, Power Grid Corp of India (PGRD.NS), asked regional electricity transmission center employees to be on “high alert,” as the lights out plan could “lead to outage of grid elements due to grid constraints”.

India’s Ministry of Power sought to allay concerns though, and said in a statement, “The Indian Electricity grid is robust and stable and adequate arrangements and protocols are in place to handle the variation in demand.”

Modi has ordered India’s 1.3 billion people indoors to avert a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections, but the world’s biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee home to their villages.

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India’s power consumption has already plunged amid the lockdown to stem coronavirus cases – which rose to nearly 3,000 on Saturday. Some states are worried about the impact of the “lights off”.

Nitin Raut, the power minister of Maharashtra, a western state which consumes the most electricity in India, appealed to citizens to light lamps and candles, while keeping lights on to ensure proper functioning of the grid.

“Already the electricity demand and supply equation has been stretched,” said Raut, adding the possibility of grid failures “could not be ruled out.”

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Spanish hotel owner turns resort over to refugees during coronavirus crisis

MADRID (Reuters) – In a complex of holiday bungalows to the east of Madrid, Venezuelan refugees and homeless people have replaced the tourists, business meetings and wedding parties that usually fill the premises.

The owner of the La Ciguena resort has turned the facility over to some of Madrid’s most vulnerable families, after he had to close the hotel because of the coronavirus outbreak sweeping through Spain.

“Since we’ve arrived, they’ve attended to our every need,” said Stephanie Paez, an eight-month pregnant Venezuelan refugee accompanied by her partner and mother.

She said her aim was to find a job, an apartment and get her residency papers once the coronavirus crisis was over.

Spain is in strict lockdown as it battles one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. The country’s death toll has surpassed 11,000, second only to Italy. Bars, restaurants and shops selling non-essential items are closed.

The resort is housing 12 families with children, around 65 people, most of them Venezuelan refugees. Although the staff have been temporarily laid off while the complex is shut to paying visitors, they come in to help voluntarily.

Families receive breakfast, lunch and dinner and come to the dining room, which overlooks a lake, in a staggered schedule so they can keep a distance of two meters between people.

“We thought, ‘What can we do, we have to do something’ and it took one second to offer,” Miguel Angel Carnero, the manager of the La Ciguena resort, told Reuters.

“It’s a way to do our bit, to contribute during this pandemic” he said.

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Coronavirus fury after Democrats form committee to monitor Trump’s response

The majority party has argued that there are already enough oversight measures in place in the $2trillion (£1.6trillion) stimulus bill passed by Congress last week.

Pelosi announced on Thursday that she is creating a House Select Committee on the coronavirus crisis.

The committee will appoint both Democrats and Republicans, and will have subpoena power to seek information from the Trump administration.

The House Speaker said: “It would have subpoena power that’s for sure.

“It’s no use having a committee unless you have subpoena power, and we would hope that there would be cooperation because this is not a kind of an investigation of the administration it’s about the whole [response].”

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy raised concerns at the proposal on Fox & Friends on Friday.

He said: “This isn’t about oversight, it sounds like pure politics.

“Let’s take care of the crisis at hand right now.

“We have five different oversights already looking at this and this is what she comes up with?”

The CARES Act passed last week includes a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to locate and investigate waste and abuse of spending under the bill.

On Thursday President Trump attacked the Democrat response commenting: “I want to remind everyone here in our nation’s capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations.

“Here we go again.

“They’ve already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years.

“It’s witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt, and in the end it’s people doing the witch hunt who are losing — and they’ve been losing by a lot.

“And it’s not any time for witch hunts.”

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House Speaker Pelosi has told the Republican leadership the panel will be bipartisan.

It will be chaired by House Democratic Whip James C. Clyburn of Missouri.

Lawmakers have passed three relief packages to address fallout from the virus.

President Trump signed a $2trillion (£1.6trillion) bill last week to send checks to many Americans.

It also sets up a $500billion (£407billion) corporate liquidity fund and provides $377billion (£307billion) in aid to small businesses, among other provisions.

So far America has reported a quarter of the world’s 1,094,324 coronavirus.

As of Friday, America has confirmed 276,037 cases.

Of that number, 7,385 have died after contracting COVID-19.

New York has the most cases in the US, with 102,863 cases and 3,218 deaths.

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African migrants in Morocco wait for aid as coronavirus bites

RABAT (Reuters) – Thousands of African migrants without revenue during Morocco’s coronavirus lockdown could run out of money for food and essentials, and rights groups have urged the government to offer them the same cash help it has promised to citizens.

The North African country has imposed a month-long lockdown restricting movement to purchases of food or medicine and to staffing some key jobs, with 761 cases of the coronavirus confirmed, including 47 deaths.

Saddou Habi, 30, who came to Morocco two years ago from Guinea, and decided to stay rather than trying to reach Europe after getting a job in a restaurant, said his money will run out in 10 days.

“I have been helping my four other flat mates whose financial situation is worse than mine,” he said.

“We are respecting all measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus but we need urgent help to go through these difficult times,” he said.

The government has promised monthly support of about $120 a month to households where the main provider has lost work in the informal economy because of the lockdown.

At present, that aid will go to people with a “free health service” card available only to Moroccans. The government plans to roll it out to people who do not have the card, but has not said if this would be extended to migrants.

The state will also pay about $200 a month to workers in private companies who are registered with the state social insurance scheme.

It leaves most of the 50,000 migrants who have obtained official residency permits since 2013 without help. The far larger number of undocumented migrants, many of them homeless or seeking to pass through Morocco to reach Europe, face even less chance of assistance.

The National Human Rights Council and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights have urged the government to help. The finance ministry did not respond when asked if migrants would become eligible for state aid.

‘WE HAVE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY’

Habi has applied for a residency permit, but is still waiting for it to be issued. He lives in the poor Hay Nahda district of Rabat, where houses made of bare concrete blocks press up against each other.

Local rights groups and charities have distributed food in poor districts to both Moroccans and migrants, but the lockdown has made it harder to distribute such supplies.

Living conditions are worst for homeless sub-Saharans in northern Morocco, near the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which migrants often try to reach across a thicket of high wire fences.

The majority of migrants work in the informal sector earning barely enough money to meet their basic needs for a day, said Ousmane Ba, a Senegalese migrant who heads a community group.

The government needs to do more to shelter homeless migrants living in the forests in northern Morocco and help them avoid contagion, he added, speaking by phone from the city of Nador, near Melilla.

So far, the government has put more than 3,000 homeless people, including migrants, into shelters located in schools, stadiums and other buildings for the duration of the lockdown.

“We are all in the same boat in the face of the coronavirus storm. We have to show solidarity with one another for all to be rescued,” Ba said.

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Health unit reports 50 cases of COVID-19 in City of Kawartha Lakes, 14 in Northumberland County

There are now 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of Kawartha Lakes and 14 in Northumberland County, the region’s health unit reported Friday.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit released the data at 1:30 p.m. Friday, noting its information can be up to 25 hours behind current updates. There also remains one confirmed case in Haliburton County. The health unit noted there was a “duplication” error issued Thursday which stated there were 15 cases in Northumberland County.

Of the 50 cases in the City of Kawartha Lakes, the health unit reports 17 deaths related to COVID-19. However, Dr. Michelle Snarr, medical director of Pine Crest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, reported Friday morning another four deaths at the long-term care home.

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The death toll stands at the facility is 20 along with one spouse of a resident, Snarr noted, bringing the municipality’s total to 21.

In a message on Twitter issued Friday, City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham reminded residents to simply “stay home” this weekend to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


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