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Coronavirus death toll surges as fears grow for Chinese economy

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SHANGHAI — The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in mainland China soared past 1,000 on Tuesday with a record daily rise in fatalities, while the prolonged disruption to factories and businesses played havoc with the world’s second-largest economy.

Hundreds of Chinese firms say they will need billions of dollars in loans to stay afloat and layoffs have begun, despite assurances by President Xi Jinping that widespread sackings would be avoided.

Another 108 new coronavirus deaths were reported on Tuesday, a daily record, bringing the total number of people killed in the country to 1,016, the National Health Commission said.

There were 2,478 new confirmed cases on the mainland on Feb. 10, down from 3,062 on the previous day, bringing the total to 42,638.

It was the second time in the past two weeks that authorities recorded a daily drop in new cases, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned the spread of cases outside of China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire.”

So far only 319 cases have been confirmed in 24 other countries and territories, according to WHO and Chinese health officials, with two deaths outside mainland China in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

SACKINGS START

More than 300 Chinese companies are seeking bank loans totalling at least 57.4 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) to help cope with the disruption caused by locked down cities, closed factories and crippled supply lines, two banking sources said.

Among the prospective borrowers are food delivery giant Meituan Dianping, smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp and ride-hailing provider Didi Chuxing Technology Co, the sources said.

Chinese firm Xinchao Media said on Monday it had laid off 500 people, or just over 10% of its workforce, and restaurant chain Xibei said it was worried about how to pay the wages of its roughly 20,000 workers.

Authorities said on Tuesday they will roll out measures to stabilize jobs, in addition to previously announced cuts to interest rates and fiscal stimulus designed to keep any economic downturn to a minimum.

Asian share markets followed Wall Street higher on Tuesday as China’s factories struggled to re-open after an extended break for Lunar New Year, though analysts warned investors might be underestimating how economically damaging the challenge was likely to be.

One Chinese government think-tank forecast the virus would wipe one percentage point off annual economic growth in China and analysts fear a prolonged disruption could have negative consequences for global growth. .

“The coronavirus outbreak completely changed the dynamics of the Chinese economy,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note to clients as they again downgraded forecasts for Chinese growth this quarter.

HUBEI HEALTH CHIEF SACKED

China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 2,097 new cases and 103 new deaths on Feb. 10, the local health authority said.

More people died from the disease on Monday than any other day since the flu-like virus emerged from a wildlife market in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan in December.

The number of reported cases however fell almost 20% compared to the previous day.

Hubei’s government dismissed the provincial health commission’s Communist Party boss, Zhang Jin, and director Liu Yingzi, state media CCTV reported, amid public anger over local authorities’ handling of the outbreak.

Hubei remains in virtual lockdown, with its train stations and airports shut and roads blocked.

One Beijing government official, Zhang Gewho, said it would be harder to curb the spread of the virus as people return to work. “The capacity of communities and flow of people will greatly increase the difficulty,” he said.

About 160 million people are expected to return to their homes across China over the next week following the end of their holidays, a transport ministry official said.

MORE CASES ON CRUISE SHIP

The Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew remained quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 65 more cases detected, taking the number of confirmed cases from the Carnival Corp-owned vessel to 135.

Thailand said it had barred passengers from disembarking another Carnival Corp ship, Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam, the latest country to turn the vessel away due to coronavirus fears although no confirmed infections have been found aboard.

The company had said passengers would disembark in Bangkok on Feb. 13 and that there was no reason to believe anybody aboard had the virus. It has already been turned away from countries including Japan, the Philippines and Thailand.

British Airways canceled all its flights to mainland China until the end of March, while Philippine airlines canceled flights to Taiwan after the government expanded a travel ban to include all foreigners from the island.

An advance team of international WHO experts arrived in China to investigate the outbreak. Its death toll has now surpassed that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002/2003.

(Additional reporting by Yilei Sun; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Trump’s Biggest Economic Legacy Isn’t About the Numbers – The New York Times

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — To understand how much President Trump has altered the conversation around the economy, just listen to Bruce Haines, who spent decades as an executive at U.S. Steel before becoming a managing partner of the elegant Historic Hotel Bethlehem.

The steel mills that still dominate Bethlehem’s skyline have long been empty. And now, so are the tables in the Tap Room, the hotel’s restaurant, a sign of the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s been very difficult,” Mr. Haines said.

The president’s management of the pandemic is a prime reason many voters cite for backing his opponent. But Mr. Haines, who lives in a swing county in a swing state, is struck most by a different aspect of Mr. Trump’s record.

“I spent 35 years in the steel business and I can tell you unfair trade deals were done by Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Haines said. Both parties, he complained, had given up on manufacturing — once a wellspring of stable middle-class jobs. “Trump has been the savior of American industry. He got it. He’s the only one.”

Bruce Haines, co-owner of Hotel Bethlehem, said the business has lost 40 percent of its income because it is unable to host large events and gatherings.
Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

In perhaps the greatest reversal of fortune of the Trump presidency, a microscopically tiny virus upended the outsize economic legacy that Mr. Trump had planned to run on for re-election. Instead of record-low unemployment rates, supercharged confidence levels and broad-based gains in personal income, Mr. Trump will end his term with rising poverty, wounded growth and a higher jobless rate than when he took office.

Still, despite one of the worst years in recent American history, the issue on which Mr. Trump gets his highest approval ratings remains the economy. It points to the resilience of his reputation as a savvy businessman and hard-nosed negotiator. And it is evidence that his most enduring economic legacy may not rest in any statistical almanac, but in how much he has shifted the conversation around the economy.

Long before Mr. Trump appeared on the political stage, powerful forces were reshaping the economy and inciting deep-rooted anxieties about secure middle-income jobs and America’s economic pre-eminence in the world. Mr. Trump recognized, stoked and channeled those currents in ways that are likely to persist whether he wins or loses the election.

By ignoring economic and political orthodoxies, he at times successfully married seemingly contradictory or inconsistent positions to win over both hard-core capitalists and the working class. There would be large tax breaks and deregulation for business owners and investors, and trade protection and aid for manufacturers, miners and farmers.

In the process, he scrambled party positions on key issues like immigration and globalization, and helped topple sacred verities about government debt. He took a Republican Party that preached free trade, low spending and debt reduction and transformed it into one that picked trade wars even with allies, ran up record-level peacetime deficits and shielded critical social programs from cuts.

Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

“He completely moved the Republican Party away from reducing Social Security and Medicare spending,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

On immigration, Mr. Trump remade the political landscape in a different way. He has accused immigrants of stealing jobs or committing crimes and — as he did in Thursday night’s debate — continued to disparage their intelligence. In doing so, he rallied hard-line sentiments that could be found in each party and turned them into a mostly Republican cri de coeur.

The Democrats changed in turn. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has positioned himself as the champion of immigrants, pledging to reverse Mr. Trump’s most restrictive policies, while rejecting more radical proposals like eliminating the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

He has also been pushed to finesse his position on fracking and the oil industry, promising not to ban the controversial drilling method on private lands, and trying — with mixed success — to walk back comments he had made during the presidential debate about transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Shifts on trade were more momentous. Mr. Biden and other party leaders who had once promoted the benefits of globalization found themselves playing defense against a Republican who outflanked them on issues like industrial flight and foreign competition. They responded by embracing elements of protectionism that they had previously abandoned.

No matter who spends the next four years in the White House, economic policy is likely to pay more attention to American jobs and industries threatened by China and other foreign competition and less attention to worries about deficits caused by government efforts to stimulate the economy.

The reshuffling is clear to Charles Jefferson, the managing owner of Montage Mountain Ski Resort near Scranton, Pa.

“Those were not conversations we were having five years ago,” he said. “The exodus of manufacturing jobs, that was considered a fait accompli.”

Mr. Jefferson, 55, grew up in North Philadelphia in a blue-collar union family and remembers the hemorrhaging of jobs that many Democratic leaders said was unstoppable in a globalized world — even though such positions were deeply unpopular with many rank-and-file Democrats.

Manufacturing revived after bottoming out during the Great Recession but floundered during President Barack Obama’s second term. Mr. Jefferson, who said he voted for Mr. Obama, supported Mr. Trump in 2016. He plans to do so again.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The sector still represents a relatively small slice of the economy, accounting for 11 percent of the country’s total output and employing less than 9 percent of American workers. But Mr. Trump has been a relentless cheerleader. While he often took credit for manufacturing jobs at companies like General Motors and Foxconn that later disappeared or never materialized, the pace of hiring in the sector sped up considerably in 2018 before stalling out last year.

As a result, in this election, unlike the last, the significance of manufacturing and the need for a more skeptical approach to free trade are not contested.

Mr. Biden, after decades of supporting trade pacts, is now running on a “made in all of America” program that promises to “use full power of the federal government to bolster American industrial and technological strength.” He has also vowed to use the tax code to encourage businesses to keep or create jobs on American soil.

Even voters who don’t particularly like Mr. Trump credit him with re-energizing the U.S. economy.

Walter Dealtrey Jr., who runs a tire service, sales and retreading business in Bethlehem that his father started 65 years ago, said he voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, but he was never a big fan of the president.

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

“He talks too much,” said Mr. Dealtrey, who’s been around long enough to distinguish a new Goodyear or Michelin tire by its smell. “And his tone is terrible.” A year ago, he had considered the possibility of supporting a moderate Democrat like Mr. Biden or Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

But with Election Day just over a week away, Mr. Dealtrey plans to once again support the president. Even after a few unnervingly slow months in the spring and some layoffs among the 960 people he employed at his company, Service Tire Truck Centers, he stills trusts Mr. Trump on the economy.

Mr. Dealtrey talked as he walked around stacks of giant tires that towered above his own six-foot frame, a Stonehenge-size monument to wheeled transport. He likes the president’s focus on “big manufacturing” and the way he “instills confidence in businesses to invest in this country.”

Just how much responsibility Mr. Trump deserves for reframing some key economic issues is up for debate. Frustration about job losses in the United States has been brewing for decades; the parties were diverging on immigration; and antagonism toward China over trade practices, suspicions of technology theft and its authoritarian tactics extends beyond the United States.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“I don’t think he really has pushed the boundaries of any of those policy issues beyond where they already were,” said Mr. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute.

Similarly, Jason Furman, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, argues that Mr. Trump was pushed along by the same trends and forces that spurred his supporters. And on some issues, like immigration, he caused public opinion to move in the opposite direction.

In the end, it may turn out that the president’s most significant impact on economic policy is not one that he intended: overturning the conventional wisdom about the impact of government deficits.

By simultaneously pursuing steep tax cuts for businesses and wealthy individuals, raising military spending and ruling out Medicare and Social Security reductions, Mr. Trump presided over unprecedented trillion-dollar deficits. Emergency pandemic relief added to the bill. Such sums were supposed to cause interest rates and inflation to spike and crowd out private investment. They didn’t.

“Trump has done a lot to legitimize deficit spending,” Mr. Furman said.

Mr. Furman is one of a growing circle of economists and bankers who have called for Washington to let go of its debt obsession. Investing in infrastructure, health care, education and job creation are worth borrowing for, they argue, particularly in an era of low interest rates.

That doesn’t mean the issue has disappeared. Republicans will undoubtedly oppose deficits resulting from proposals put forward by a Democratic White House — and vice versa. But warnings about the calamitous consequences of federal borrowing are unlikely to have the same resonance as before the Trump presidency.

Back in his office, Mr. Dealtrey remembers how disturbed he once was about the size of the deficit. “I used to care about my kids and grandkids being stuck with it,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “But nobody cares anymore.”

“Maybe I don’t care anymore,” he said, momentarily surprised at his own words. “We’ve got bigger problems than that.”

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How Trump’s and Biden’s Tax Plans Will Help or Hurt the Economy’s Recovery – Barron's

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While political rivals are forecasting economic devastation if former Vice President Joe Biden were to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, many economists and tax analysts who have modeled outcomes have a different take.

The net effect of Biden’s proposals, when analyzed independently of spending and economic policies, would be negative economic growth ranging from -0.16% to -1.62% over the next 10 years, according to analyses by the American Enterprise Institute and Tax Foundation.

Slowed growth is attributed to higher taxes on the very wealthy, and major changes to businesses taxation, including an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a doubling of the tax rate on certain income earned by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations, and elimination of a 20% deduction for owners of pass-through entities with income of more than $400,000.

But when factoring in spending and economic plans—including those for trade, immigration, education, housing, health care, and other policies—the outlook varies by scenario.

An analysis by Moody’s Analytics finds that if Biden wins and Democrats win a majority in both the Senate and the House and enact his plans, average annual economic growth would be 2.9% and average annual wage growth would be 0.9% through 2030.

Moody’s finds that some 18.6 million jobs would be created over Biden’s four-year term, and full employment would be reached in the second half of 2022. Full employment is typically defined as an unemployment rate under 5%. It is about 8% today.

In contrast, if President Donald Trump wins the election and Republicans win the majority in both houses of Congress, the economic picture dims: 10-year economic growth would average 2.4%, wages would grow by 0.7% over a decade, 11.2 million jobs would be created over four years, and full employment would be reached in 2024.

If Congress maintains its split majority, with Republicans dominating the Senate and the Democrats in the House, the economic outcomes will be similar whether Biden’s or Trump’s tax policies are in effect—though somewhat more favorable under Biden’s presidency, according to Moody’s.

Read more: Here’s How Much You Would Pay Under Biden’s and Trump’s Tax Plans

Analyses that compare the two candidates’ plans are handicapped by a lack of detail issued by Trump. For example, while he has stated that he supports a capital-gains tax cut, none of the analyses factor this in.

Generally speaking, however, capital-gains tax cuts don’t typically help the economy, says Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation. “There is no evidence that capital-gains tax cuts are growth-enhancing.”

Email: editors@barrons.com

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Fall in Crude Oil Prices Puts USD/CAD on the Rise

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USD/CAD

A mid-October decline in crude oil prices produced a bleaker outlook for the immediate future of the Canadian dollar (CAD), which enabled the US dollar (USD) to get back on the front foot in the USD/CAD currency pair.

On October 15, crude oil prices shed over 3.5% of their value in a single day. The CAD is regarded as one of the world’s leading commodity currencies, such is the Canadian economy’s reliance on the money that it generates from exporting key goods.

Any decline in oil prices is liable to weaken the CAD, which thereby strengthens the USD’s position in comparison to the loonie. That was the case in March 2020, where oil prices plummeted to a four-year low and the USD/CAD rose to its highest level since May 2017.

Neither oil prices nor the USD/CAD currency pair behaved so dramatically in mid-October, but the general trends were the same. Experts have expressed their concerns about the future of oil prices in the coming months, so there may be more scope for the US dollar to make gains against its Canadian counterpart.

An otherwise strong year for CAD

While the USD’s position as a safe haven has proven reassuring to traders at several junctures throughout the year, the overarching narrative in 2020 for the USD/CAD currency pair is one of Canadian resilience.

USD/CAD rose by approximately 2% on June 12, with that single-day increase the consequence of the US Federal Reserve taking the investing community by surprise with its indication that interest rates would remain low for the next couple of years. That sent markets scrambling, with oil prices also falling to further weaken the CAD’s position.

Yet that was a fleeting moment of strength for the USD, with the CAD swiftly recovering its losses against the greenback. From June 12 to the start of September, the USD/CAD pair slumped by approximately 4.4%.

That saw its June mark of 1.3638 traded for prices in the region of 1.30 as September began. This is an indication of the strength of the CAD, as fewer Canadian dollars were required to purchase one US dollar.

USD/CAD

Source: Pixabay

 

That may not seem like a significant drop, given that the USD/EUR retracted by around 5.5% and the USD/GBP shrunk by around 5.9% in the same time period.

However, the USD/CAD currency pair is not one that is known for its volatility. This can be observed through the margin requirements put in place for forex brokers in Canada. Margin requirements contribute to Canada’s strict regulatory environment for currency trading. The margin requirement determines the percentage of their capital that a trader must put forward to open a new position on a market, with a higher margin percentage necessitating more funds upfront.

The reason that margin requirement is a good indication of a currency pair’s traditional volatility is that the pairs more prone to fluctuations have higher percentages. For example, the notoriously unpredictable pair of the South African rand and the Japanese yen (ZAR/JPY) usually comes with a margin requirement of around 29%, whereas the USD/CAD pair has a much more conservative 2% capital requirement for traders seeking to open up a position.

This makes the stretch between June and September for the USD/CAD currency pair particularly notable. The USD clawed back a small proportion of its losses in September, before almost retreating into the 1.31 region. The USD/CAD had not hovered around the 1.30/1.31 mark since January 2020, a testament to the CAD’s resurgence.

Oil concerns to dampen CAD optimism

The news of crude oil’s price decline gave the USD a platform to bounce back, with the USD/CAD ending October 16 at the 1.3225 level. Further gains are likely to be predicated on the long-term forecast for oil prices, with any bleak outlook for the commodity certain to be bad news for the Canadian dollar and the nation’s wider economy.

Other factors inevitably influence the USD/CAD currency pair, given the countries’ heavy trade links and geographical proximity. As demonstrated by that shift in momentum on June 12, the policies announced by either the Federal Reserve or the Bank of Canada can influence market sentiment.

General politics can also be significant. The last few months of 2020 for the USD/CAD are likely to be shaped by the outcome and immediate aftermath of the US presidential election, although this is not a phenomenon unique to the United States and the Canadian economy.

Markets all over the world will be affected by the victor’s presidential vision for the country, with their new social and fiscal policies having the potential to either instill confidence in the American economy or place the long-term future of the US dollar in jeopardy.

Given the US dollar’s prevalence all over the world, as a peg for some currencies and as the central part of dollarized economies, this promises to be an important close to the year. However, crude oil prices may still prove to be the dominant factor in shaping the USD/CAD currency pair.

USD/CAD

The International Energy Agency’s October report is grim reading for commodity currencies. The IEA calls the outlook ‘fragile’, raising serious concerns about the long-term prospects for growth in oil demand. The IEA anticipates a stock draw of 4 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter of the year, although this statistic should be caveated with the acknowledgement that these figures are coming off the back of record-high levels.

Yet the IEA ends its October report with the declaration that oil producers have little cause for optimism in the long term. At the start of 2020, some experts were predicting that oil prices would not drop below $50 per barrel (bbl) all year. Now, the IEA suggests that the projected curve for oil prices will not reach the $50bbl mark until 2023.

While markets will eventually adapt to these new oil price projections, Canada’s reliance on commodities makes it difficult to foresee any substantial immediate gains for the CAD against the USD. The USD/CAD currency pair may have moved in Canada’s favour for much of the year, but crude oil concerns may provoke momentum in the opposite direction.

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