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Markets not merry as stock losses extend into eighth day

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(Reuters) – A gauge of stocks worldwide posted an eighth straight decline on Monday as investors ignored Trump administration attempts to reinforce confidence and the U.S. president called the Federal Reserve the “only problem our economy has.”

Investors, also facing the likelihood of a prolonged U.S. government shutdown, fled to the relative safety of bonds and gold during the first day of a week of trading shortened by the Christmas holiday.

Oil prices, meanwhile, tumbled more than 6 percent on Monday to the lowest in over a year.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary responded to the ongoing selloff by calling top U.S. bankers and said he would convene a group of officials known as the “Plunge Protection Team.”

“There are a whole number of factors that have triggered this latest risk-off climate, including the Fed’s very modest deviation from its (rate increase) plan and the government shutdown in the United States,” said Investec economist Philip Shaw.

“We may get some clarity on several factors in early 2019, starting with a clearer line of sight on the prospect for a resolution in U.S.-China trade dispute, but until then, there are some nerves.”

MSCI’s world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was 1.57 percent lower and down 8 percent over the past eight sessions. The index touched its lowest since early 2017.

U.S. stocks have fallen sharply in recent weeks on concerns over slowing economic growth and efforts by the U.S. Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy, with the S&P 500 index .SPX on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression and on the cusp of confirming it is now in a bear market. The Nasdaq .IXIC has fallen nearly 22 percent from its Aug. 29 high.

Trump on Monday blasted the independent U.S. central bank, saying on Twitter that the “only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the market.”

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has been unable to break an impasse over Trump’s demand for funds for a wall on the border with Mexico, and a senior official said the resulting government shutdown could continue into January.

U.S. stocks followed broad indexes in Europe and Asia lower on Monday, with markets in Germany and Italy closed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 653.17 points, or 2.91 percent, to 21,792.2, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 65.52 points, or 2.71 percent, to 2,351.1 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 140.08 points, or 2.21 percent, to 6,192.92. [.N]

“Markets (are) still under pressure from last week’s more hawkish Fed update, exacerbating fears about slowing growth and more expensive refinancing following years of stimulus,” said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.

The political uncertainty has only added to the air of risk aversion, with benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR rising 14/32 in price to yield 2.7418 percent.

The gap between two and 10-year yields has shrunk to fewer than 0.15 percentage point, a flattening of the curve that has sometimes heralded coming recessions in the past.

“Many of the financial and economic indicators that turn first around business cycle peaks are now flashing red in advanced economies,” said Simon MacAdam, global economist at Capital Economics.

“This is consistent with our view that the recent loss of momentum in the world economy will develop into a more severe slowdown in 2019.”

The flight to safe havens again boosted the yen, with the dollar hitting its lowest level against the Japanese currency since August. The yen JPY= strengthened 0.81 percent versus the greenback at 110.33 per dollar.

FILE PHOTO: A security barricade is placed in front of the U.S. Capitol on the first day of a partial federal government shutdown in Washington, U.S., December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Gold also has regained its appeal, holding near six-month highs XAU= over $1,268 per ounce.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were down $3.02 a barrel at $50.80. U.S. crude futures CLc1 fell $2.94 to trade at $42.65.

Brent fell 11 percent last week and hit its lowest since September 2017, while U.S. futures slid to their lowest since July 2017, bringing the decline in the two contracts to 35 percent so far this quarter.

Additional reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan and Julien Ponthus in London, Wayne Cole in Sydney and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Dan Grebler

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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