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China virus toll rises to 170 as fear grows over global economic hit – The Globe and Mail

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Residents scuffle with police officers during a rally to protest the government’s decision to quarantine South Koreans returning from Wuhan in their home town in Jincheon, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

Lim Hun-jung/The Associated Press

Hundreds of foreign evacuees from the Chinese city of Wuhan entered quarantine on Thursday as deaths from a fast-spreading virus rose to 170 and markets shuddered at the impact of an inevitable big hit to the world’s No. 2 economy.

All eyes were on the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has held off declaring the flu-like coronavirus a global emergency but was to reconsider that later in the day.

Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.

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It could also potentially spook markets further.

“The fear is that they (the WHO) might raise the alarm bells … so people are taking money off the table,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.

The day after a state economist forecast the crisis would lop a percentage point off China’s first quarter growth, global stocks tumbled, the yuan hit its lowest this year, oil prices slid again and safe haven assets like gold gained.

The main stock index in Taiwan, 40 per cent of whose exports go to neighboring China, closed down 5.75 per cent on the first day of trade after the Lunar New Year holiday.

The coronavirus, which originated in an illegal wildlife market in the central city of Wuhan, has now claimed 170 lives and infected 7,711 people in China, latest official data showed.

Almost all the deaths have been in Hubei province – of which Wuhan is the capital – where 60 million people are now living under virtual lockdown, staying inside their homes and only venturing out with masks on.

“Most of the shops are closed. We cannot go out and buy food,” Si Thu Tun, one of 60 students from Myanmar trapped in Wuhan, told online news outlet the Democratic Voice of Burma.

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“Honestly, I have one big potato and three packs of instant noodles and some rice,” he said. Myanmar plans a special flight to get the students out within three days.

GLOBAL SPREAD

As other countries fly citizens out, cut flights and heighten screening, another 105 cases have emerged in at least 16 places from Japan to the United States.

An Italian cruise ship’s 6,000 passengers were kept on board while tests were held on two Chinese travelers.

The crisis has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment around the globe, from shops barring tourists to online mockery.

Australia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Indonesia were quarantining evacuees for at least two weeks, though the United States and Japan planned shorter, voluntary isolation.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced the formation of a task force to lead the U.S. response as it prepared to evacuate more citizens from Wuhan.

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Three Japanese, from 206 evacuated on Wednesday, were infected, and worryingly two of them had not shown symptoms, Tokyo said. A second Japanese flight included nine people showing fever or coughing symptoms, broadcaster NHK said.

India was the latest nation to report a case, a student of Wuhan University. And South Koreans protested at facilities earmarked as quarantine centers, throwing eggs at a minister.

“The weapons that will protect us from the new coronavirus are not fear and aversion, but trust and cooperation,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in as Seoul prepared to evacuate the first of about 700 citizens from Wuhan.

In the corporate world, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Sweden’s IKEA were the latest big names to close China operations. Samsung Electronics said it had extended holiday closure for some Chinese production facilities.

Airlines to suspend flights to mainland China include Lufthansa, Air Canada and American Airlines . British Airways canceled flights for a month. Air France cabin crew unions were demanding the same, sources said, though the company has already allowed pilots and crew to opt out of China flights.

‘WHEN CHINA SLOWS, WE FEEL IT’

Fueling concern over the damage to productivity, thousands of Chinese factory workers on Lunar New Year holidays may struggle to get back to work next week, due to travel restrictions.

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Policymakers are anxious, with China dominating U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s news conference on Wednesday. “China’s economy is very important in the global economy now, and when China’s economy slows down we do feel that,” he said.

Streets in many Chinese cities were largely deserted and tourist attractions shut. Starbucks coffee shops were requiring temperature checks and masks.

Cases of human-to-human transmission outside China are of particular concern to medics, but it is too early to determine how lethal the coronavirus is, as there are likely to be many cases of milder infections going undetected.

It has an incubation time of between one and 14 days.

Chinese National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said this week the virus was infectious during incubation, unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another virus that emerged from China and killed about 800 people in 2002 and 2003.

The global cost from SARS was estimated at $33-billion, or 0.1 per cent of world GDP in 2003. Many economists fear the impact on global growth could be bigger this time as China now accounts for a larger share of the world economy.

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G7 nations to boost climate finance

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G7 leaders agreed on Sunday to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, but only two nations offered firm promises of more cash.

Alongside plans billed as helping speed infrastructure funding in developing countries and a shift to renewable and sustainable technology, the world’s seven largest advanced economies again pledged to meet the climate finance target.

But climate groups said the promise made in the summit’s final communique lacked detail and the developed nations should be more ambitious in their financial commitments.

In the communique, the seven nations – the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – reaffirmed their commitment to “jointly mobilise $100 billion per year from public and private sources, through to 2025”.

“Towards this end, we commit to each increase and improve our overall international public climate finance contributions for this period and call on other developed countries to join and enhance their contributions to this effort.”

After the summit concluded, Canada said it would double its climate finance pledge to C$5.3 billion ($4.4 billion) over the next five years and Germany would increase its by 2 billion to 6 billion euros ($7.26 billion) a year by 2025 at the latest.

There was a clear push by leaders at the summit in southwest England to try to counter China’s increasing influence in the world, particularly among developing nations. The leaders signalled their desire to build a rival to Beijing’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative but the details were few and far between.

Johnson, host of the gathering in Carbis Bay, told a news conference that developed nations had to move further, faster.

“G7 countries account for 20% of global carbon emissions, and we were clear this weekend that action has to start with us,” he said as the summit concluded.

“And while it’s fantastic that every one of the G7 countries has pledged to wipe out our contributions to climate change, we need to make sure we’re achieving that as fast as we can and helping developing countries at the same time.”

PLEDGE OVERDUE

Some green groups were unimpressed with the climate pledges.

Catherine Pettengell, director at Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for advocacy organisations, said the G7 had failed to rise to the challenge of agreeing on concrete commitments on climate finance.

“We had hoped that the leaders of the world’s richest nations would come away from this week having put their money their mouth is,” she said.

Developed countries agreed at the United Nations in 2009 to together contribute $100 billion each year by 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, many of whom are grappling with rising seas, storms and droughts made worse by climate change.

That target was not met, derailed in part by the coronavirus pandemic that also forced Britain to postpone the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) until later this year.

The G7 also said 2021 should be a “turning point for our planet” and to accelerate efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5 Celsius global warming threshold within reach.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the G7 leaders had agreed to phase out coal.

The communique seemed less clear, saying: “We have committed to rapidly scale-up technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity, consistent with our 2030 NDCs and net zero commitment.”

The also pledged to work together to tackle so-called carbon leakage – the risk that tough climate policies could cause companies to relocate to regions where they can continue to pollute cheaply.

But there were few details on how they would manage to cut emissions, with an absence of specific measures on everything from the phasing out of coal to moving to electric vehicles.

Pettengell said it was encouraging that leaders were recognising the importance of climate change but their words had to be backed up by specific action on cutting subsidies for fossil fuel development and ending investment in projects such as new oil and gas fields, as well as on climate finance.

British environmentalist David Attenborough appealed to politicians to take action.

“We know in detail what is happening to our planet, and we know many of the things we need to do during this decade,” he said in a recorded video address to the meeting.

“Tackling climate change is now as much a political and communications challenge as it is a scientific or technological one. We have the skills to address it in time, all we need is the global will to do so.”

($1 = 1.2153 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Elizabeth PiperAdditional reporting by William James and Kate Abnett in Brussels and Andreas Rinke in BerlinEditing by William Maclean, Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry)

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Canadian dollar goes up from Friday’s 4-week low

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Canadian dollar

The Canadian dollar edged higher against its U.S. counterpart on Monday as oil prices climbed and investors looked past domestic data showing factory sales falling in April, with the loonie clawing back some of Friday’s decline.

Canadian factory sales decreased by 2.1% in April from March, Statistics Canada said. Still, sales were up 1.1% after excluding vehicles and parts.

“Zooming out from the disruptions seen in the auto industry, the outlook for manufacturing sales is not all that bad,” Omar Abdelrahman, an economist at TD Economics, said in a note.

“The reopening of provincial economies and strength in Canada‘s largest export market (the U.S.) should provide a lift to demand,” Abdelrahman added.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was supported by economic recovery.

U.S. crude prices rose 0.9% to $71.56 a barrel, while the Canadian dollar was trading 0.2% higher at 1.2143 to the greenback, or 82.35 U.S. cents. On Friday, it fell to its weakest since May 14 at 1.2177.

Speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar, the strongest G10 currency this year, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed on Friday. As of June 8, net long positions had fallen to 45,281 contracts from 48,772 in the prior week.

A stronger Canadian dollar is usually seen hurting exporters, but the nature of the global economic recovery could help firms pass on their higher costs from the currency to customers, leaving exporters in less pain than in previous cycles.

Investors were awaiting a Federal Reserve policy announcement on Wednesday. Expectations that the Fed would stick to its dovish course have helped cap U.S. and Canadian bond yields.

Canada‘s 10-year yield touched its lowest level since March 3 at 1.365% before recovering to 1.381%, up 1.3 basis points on the day.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Economy

Toronto stock exchange dips as losses in miners

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Toronto Stock Exchange

Toronto stock exchange index edged lower on Monday, as losses in mining stocks and dismal domestic manufacturing data overshadowed gains in energy stocks.

* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.7% as gold futures fell 1.6% to $1,848.2 an ounce. [GOL/]

* Canadian factory sales slipped by 2.1% in April from March on lower sales of transportation equipment, as well as subdued petroleum and coal products sector, Statistics Canada said.

* At 9:43 a.m. ET (13:43 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 14.52 points, or 0.07%, at 20,123.83.

* The energy sector climbed 1.4% as U.S. crude prices were up 1% a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.9%. [O/R]

* Financials slipped 0.3%, while industrials fell 0.1%.

* On the TSX, 120 issues were higher, while 107 issues declined for a 1.12-to-1 ratio favouring gainers, with a trading volume of 22.35 million shares.

* TSX’s top gainers were paper and packaging company Cascades Inc <CAS.TO> and IT firm Kinaxis Inc <KXS.TO>, jumping 4.1% and 4.0%, respectively.

* Biggest decliners were uranium producers Nexgen Energy Ltd <NXE.TO>, down 5.9%, followed by Cameco Corp falling 5.5%.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Canadian Natural Resources Limited <CNQ.TO>, BCE Inc <BCE.TO>, and Hut 8 Mining Corp <HUT.TO>

* Twenty-two stocks hit fresh 52-week highs on the TSX, while there were no new lows.

* Across all Canadian issues, there were 95 new 52-week highs and four new lows, with total volume of 43.57 million shares.

 

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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