The Fed, Netease Hong Kong debut, coronavirus in focus

Stocks in Asia Pacific were set to trade lower on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated on Wednesday that it would keep interest rates near zero through 2022.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 22,750 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 22,830. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 23,124.95.

Shares in Australia were also set to decline, with the SPI futures contract at 6,063, as compared to the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 6,148.40.

Investor reaction to the Fed’s recent economic forecast will be watched on Thursday. The U.S. central bank kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and indicated it does not expect to raise them through 2022. The Fed also expects the U.S. economy to contract by 6.5% in 2020 before expanding by 5% in 2021. 

Meanwhile, shares of Chinese internet giant NetEase

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UK house prices expected to fall despite stable demand

UK surveyors are predicting further falls in house prices in the next few months as the economy deteriorates and they expect demand to shift towards properties with access to outdoor space.

The housing market has revived since April’s low when it froze because of the closures of estate agents and the banning of house viewings. However, surveyors continue to report falling house prices with this trend expected to last in the near term, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

“Pre-Covid sales that were in the pipeline are now largely going through,” said Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist.

While this was encouraging, the health of the economy and the labour market will largely determine “how sustained this improvement will prove”, Mr Rubinsohn added.

The stabilisation in demand was visible in all the related Rics indices, which are calculated as the difference between surveyors reporting an expansion and those reporting

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CityFibre to create 11,000 jobs in full-fibre network push

CityFibre, the Goldman Sachs-backed telecoms company, will create 11,000 new jobs over the next three years as it pushes ahead with an expansion of its fibre network to reach 8m homes.

The telecoms infrastructure company has built full-fibre networks in a around 25 smaller UK cities and towns such as Milton Keynes and Peterborough and believes a £4bn expansion to 100 locations will act as a catalyst for investment by larger rivals BT’s Openreach and Virgin Media.

The group has kicked off the three-year recruitment drive at a time when tens of thousands of jobs are under threat because of the pandemic. It will train 10,000 new engineers in skills including fibre splicing, telephone pole climbing and road cutting, who will then be employed by local construction groups, as well as employing 1,000 people directly as part of the plan. 

The telecoms industry has been expanding its workforce as investment

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CBI appoints business productivity chief as next director-general

The CBI has appointed Tony Danker, a business productivity chief and former Guardian executive, to lead the UK’s largest employers’ group, replacing Carolyn Fairbairn who steps down after her five-year term comes to an end this year.

Mr Danker is the chief executive of Be the Business, a non-profit business organisation set up to help drive productivity in the UK by Charlie Mayfield, the former John Lewis chairman. Mr Danker will take over in November from Dame Carolyn, who had agreed to extend her term by two months during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Danker will become director-general of the group just as the CBI faces renewed pressure from its members to engage with the government over Brexit while also dealing with the likely lasting economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Many CBI members are still concerned by the government’s approach to the UK’s departure from the EU, and the fallout

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