Daily Review, September 23: Hong Kong lifts COVID-19 hotel quarantine; DBS, UOB temporarily remove fixed-interest home loans

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Hong Kong will end its mandatory hotel quarantine from Monday (September 26).

All international arrivals can return to the accommodation of their choice, but will be required to self-check for three days after entering the city. During that period they are allowed to go to work or school, but they are not allowed to enter bars or restaurants.

From September 26, travelers will also be subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing upon arrival.

A pre-flight PCR test, which was required for travelers to Hong Kong 48 hours before flight, is being replaced by a rapid antigen test.

Following the announcement, Cathay Pacific Airways said it plans to increase flight frequencies to both regional and long-haul destinations.

Here are some of the destinations in Asia that have recently eased entry rules for COVID-19.

At least two Singaporean banks – DBS and UOB – have temporarily stopped offering fixed-rate home loans since Friday (September 23).

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The US Federal Reserve announced a 75 basis point increase in its benchmark for federal funds on Wednesday, a reflection of equally sharp increases in June and July.

DBS, Singapore’s largest lender, has removed fixed-rate home loans from its website. TAUT understands that the local bank is currently reviewing its rates.

In response to questions, UOB said it is reviewing its fixed-rate offering and will end its existing two-year and three-year packages.

At OCBC, the mortgage offer appears to be untouched as of Friday afternoon.

The latest rate hike by the US Fed is its fifth this year, and further hikes are likely to rein in decades-long high inflation.

Singapore’s core inflation rose further to 5.1 percent in August, mainly driven by stronger increases in food and service prices.

The last time Singapore reported higher year-on-year core inflation growth was in November 2008, when it stood at 5.5 percent.

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Headline inflation increased mainly as a result of higher inflation for private transport, food and services.

Meanwhile, inflation for electricity and gas fell to 23.9 percent, from 24 percent in July, due to a smaller rise in gas prices.

Global supply chain frictions have eased somewhat and some commodity prices have leveled off, MAS and MTI said. But they added that global inflation is likely to remain high in the near term.

Analysts say they expect the Monetary Authority of Singapore to tighten monetary policy further next month to strengthen the Singapore dollar and curb rising inflation.

The vote started on Friday (September 23) in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine in a referendum that Russia is expected to use to justify the annexation of four regions.

Voting will take place from Friday to Tuesday in the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, which represent about 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory.

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The Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region said that in one city, Russian authorities had banned the population from leaving the city, and that armed groups had been sent to force people to participate in the referendum.

Russia says it is an opportunity for people in the region to express their views.

Ukraine says Russia plans to frame the referendum results as a sign of popular support and then use them as a pretext for annexation.

And as winter approaches, European countries that depended on Russia for natural gas are trying to look for alternatives, pushing the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

TAUT spoke to analysts to find out why Europe is turning to LNG in particular and what the knock-on effects are for Singapore and other countries in Asia.

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