SEOUL, KOREA, REPUBLIC OF —
South Korea reported fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases Sunday for the first time in two months as U.S. governors ease lockdowns amid pressure worldwide from businesses and the public to limit the pandemic’s economic damage.
Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter under curbs that left churches empty. The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians held a service in a desert monastery that was shown on television.
In Brazil, hundreds of people protested Saturday in major cities against anti-virus lockdowns. France reported a decline in numbers of intensive care patients, but its health agency warned the public to stick to strict isolation measures.
The pandemic that began in China in December is believed to have infected more than 2.3 million people worldwide. While most recover, at least 155,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on figures supplied by health authorities around the globe.
South Korea, the first country after China to report a surge in cases, announced its number of new infections fell Sunday to eight. That raised its total to 10,661, including 234 deaths.
Infections in South Korea have fallen from a peak of 909 on Feb. 29, but officials have warned that a “quiet spread” is possible as people relax social distancing.
“We must not let down our guard until the last confirmed patient is recovered,” President Moon Jae-in said Sunday.
Japan reported 568 new cases for a total of 10,361, with 174 deaths. Pakistan reported 16 deaths and 514 new cases, raising its fatality toll to 159 and infections to 7,993.
Taiwan reported 22 new cases — a student who returned from the United States and 21 crew members of a naval ship that visited the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Even as case numbers rise, governments face pressure to reopen factories, shops, travel and public activities.
Shutdowns that began in China in late January and spread to the U.S., Europe and elsewhere have plunged the world into its most painful economic slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Millions of workers have lost their jobs.
The International Monetary Fund expects the global economy to contract by 3% this year — a far bigger loss than 2009’s 0.1% after the global financial crisis.
“Government efforts alone aren’t enough,” said South Korea’s Moon. He called for “public solidarity” to revitalize the economy.
In Egypt, Pope Tawadros II held Easter services at the Monastery of Saint Pishoy, in the desert valley of Wadi Natrun west of Cairo known as Wadi Natrun. The handful of clerics who attended stood apart from each other.
Christians comprise about 10% of Egypt’s 100 million people. The country has 3,032 coronavirus cases, including 224 deaths.
On Saturday, supporters of President Donald Trump protested in several states demanding governors end controls on public activity.
Texas, Indiana and some other states have announced plans to allow some retailing and other activity to resume. Florida and South Carolina are reopening beaches.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has criticized the federal response as inadequate, rejected pressure to reopen businesses. New York’s daily death toll fell below 550 on Saturday for the first time in two weeks, but Cuomo said hospitals are reporting nearly 2,000 new patients a day.
“We are not at a point when we are going to be reopening anything immediately,” Cuomo told reporters.
Massachusetts had its highest single-day death toll of 159 on Friday. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, citing health experts’ advice, said states should wait until infection rates and hospitalizations decline for about two weeks before acting.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has criticized anti-virus shutdowns imposed by state governors, said Saturday he would recommend reopening its borders with Paraguay and Uruguay.
Bolsonaro has downplayed the threat of the disease. On Friday, he fired his health minister, who supported anti-disease controls, and indicated he expects the new minister to protect the economy.
Trump is pushing to relax the U.S. lockdown by May 1, a plan that hinges partly on more testing.
Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, on a trip aimed at showing the country is on course to reopen.
In Austin, Texas, several hundred people outside the state capitol chanted “Let us work!” Many clamoured for an immediate end to restrictions in a state where more than 1 million have filed for unemployment.
In Indianapolis, more than 200 people stood close together outside the governor’s mansion, carrying American flags and signs demanding that Gov. Eric Holcomb lift restrictions.
Indiana’s state health department reported 529 new cases between April 7 and midday Friday, raising the total to more than 10,600. The number of deaths rose by 26, to 545.
Elsewhere, demonstrators waved signs outside the Statehouse in New Hampshire, which has had nearly 1,300 cases and more than three dozen deaths.
“Even if the virus were 10 times as dangerous as it is, I still wouldn’t stay inside my home,” said one of the protesters, talk show host Ian Freeman.
In Asia, McDonald’s suspended operations in Singapore after seven employees tested positive for the conronavirus. The company said it will keep paying more than 10,000 employees in 135 outlets during the closure, due to last through May 4.
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government bowed to demands by religious leaders and agreed to keep mosques open during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. Pakistan has been blamed for contributing to the virus’s spread by refusing to stop a gathering of tens of thousands of religious missionaries. Nearly 2,000 confirmed cases have been traced to them.
In Europe, there are tentative signs that anti-disease curbs are working.
France and Spain started dismantling some field hospitals. The number of active cases in Germany has declined over the past week as people recover.
Still, France’s health agency urged the public to stick to confinement measures that have been extended until at least May 11. “Don’t relax our efforts at the moment when confinement is bearing fruit,” the agency said.
Albania’s government plans to allow its mining and oil industries to reopen Monday, along with hundreds of businesses including small retailers, food and fish processing, farming and fishing.
McDonald reported from Beijing. Associated Press reporters worldwide contributed to this report.
Canadian regulator lifts banks’ capital buffer to record, priming for post-pandemic world
Canada‘s financial regulator raised the amount of capital the country’s biggest lenders must hold to guard against risks to a record 2.5% of risk-weighted assets, from 1% currently, in a surprise move that could pave the way for them to resume dividend increases and share buybacks.
The new measures, which take effect on Oct. 31, is a sign that the economic and market disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic have abated and banks’ capital levels have been resilient, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) said in a statement.
But the regulator acknowledged that key vulnerabilities, including household and corporate debt levels, as well as asset imbalances caused by steep increase in home prices over the past year, remain.
In a sign of concern about the housing market, OSFI and the Canadian government raised the benchmark to determine the minimum qualifying rate for mortgages, starting June 1.
The increase in the Domestic Stability Buffer (DSB) to the highest possible level raises the Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital – the core bank capital measure – to 10.5% of risk-weighted assets; a 4.5% base level, a “capital conservation buffer” of 2.5%, and a 1% surcharge for systemically important banks, plus the DSB.
The change “gives OSFI more leeway to loosen a restriction down the road, namely the freeze on buybacks and dividend increases,” National Bank Financial Analyst Gabriel Dechaine said.
OSFI felt it was “useful for the banks to understand what our minimal capital expectations are and to give them time to adjust to that… ahead of any lifting of the temporary capital distribution restrictions,” Assistant Superintendent Jamey Hubbs said on a media call.
Even with the higher requirement, Canada‘s six biggest banks would have excess capital of about C$51 billion, dropping from C$82 billion as of April 30, according to Reuters calculations.
That was driven in part by a moratorium on dividend increases and share buybacks imposed by OSFI in March 2020, although a pandemic-driven surge in loan losses has so far failed to materialize.
The Canadian banks index slipped 0.25% in morning trading in Toronto, while the Toronto stock benchmark fell 0.1%.
The increase is the first since the last one announced in December 2019, which did not come into effect as planned in April 2020, as OSFI made an out-of-schedule change https://www.reuters.com/article/canada-mortgages-regulation-idUSL1N2B636J that dropped the rate to 1% in March. It has maintained that level at its twice yearly reviews.
Prior to that, OSFI had raised the required level by 25 basis points at every twice yearly review since it was introduced at 1.5% in June 2018.
($1 = 1.2326 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)
Canada Economic Indicators
The economic indicators used to gauge the performance of an economy and its outlook are the same across most nations. What differs is the relative importance of certain indicators to a specific economy at various points in time (for instance, housing indicators are closely watched when the housing market is booming or slumping), and the bodies or organizations compiling and disseminating these indicators in each nation.
Here are the 12 key economic indicators for Canada, the world’s 10th-largest economy:1
Statistics Canada, a national agency, publishes growth statistics on the Canadian economy on monthly and quarterly bases. The report shows the real gross domestic product (GDP) for the overall economy and broken down by industry. It is an accurate monthly/quarterly status report on the Canadian economy and each industry within it.2
Employment Change and Unemployment
Key data on the Canadian employment market, such as the net change in employment, the unemployment rate, and participation rate, is contained in the monthly Labour Force Survey, released by Statistics Canada. The report contains a wealth of information about the Canadian job market, categorized by the demographic, class of worker (private sector employee, public sector employee, self-employed), industry, and province.3
Consumer Price Index
Statistics Canada releases a monthly report on the consumer price index (CPI) that measures inflation at the consumer level. The index is constructed by comparing changes over time in a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. The report shows the change in CPI monthly and over the past 12 months, on an overall and core (excluding food and energy prices) basis.4
International Merchandise Trade
This monthly report from Statistics Canada shows the nation’s imports and exports, as well as the net merchandise trade surplus or deficit. The report also compares the most current data with that for the preceding month. Exports and imports are shown by product category, and also for Canada’s top ten trading partners.5
Teranet – National Bank House Price Index
This composite index of house prices across Canada was developed by Teranet and the National Bank of Canada and represents average home prices in Canada’s six largest metropolitan areas. A monthly report shows the change in the index monthly and over the past 12 months, as well as monthly and 12-month changes in Canada’s six and 11 largest metropolitan areas.6
RBC Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index – PMI
Released on the first business day of each month, this indicator of trends in the Canadian manufacturing sector was launched in June 2011 by Royal Bank of Canada, in association with Markit and the Purchasing Management Association of Canada. RBC PMI readings above 50 signal expansion as compared to the previous month, while readings below 50 signal contraction. The monthly survey also tracks other information pertinent to the manufacturing sector, such as changes in output, new orders, employment, inventories, prices, and supplier delivery times.7
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index
The Conference Board of Canada’s Index of Consumer Confidence measures consumers’ levels of optimism in the state of the economy. It is a crucial indicator of near-term sales for consumer product companies in Canada, as well as an indicator of the outlook for the broad economy since consumer demand comprises such a significant part of it. The index is constructed on the basis of responses to four questions by a random sampling of Canadian households. Survey participants are asked how they view their households’ current and expected financial positions, their short-term employment outlook, and whether now is a good time to make a major purchase.8
Ivey Purchasing Managers Index – PMI
An index prepared by the Ivey Business School at Western University, the Ivey PMI measures the monthly variation in economic activity, as indicated by a panel of purchasing managers across Canada. It is based on responses by these purchasing managers to a single question: “Were your purchases last month in dollars higher, the same, or lower than in the previous month?” An index reading below 50 shows a decrease; a reading above 50 shows an increase. Panel members indicate changes in their organization’s activity over five broad categories: purchases, employment, inventories, supplier deliveries, and prices.9
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) issues a monthly report on the sixth working day of every month, showing the previous month’s new residential construction activity. The data is presented by region, province, census metropolitan area, and dwelling type (single-detached or multiple-unit). The indicator is an important gauge of the state of the Canadian housing market.10
This key indicator of housing activity is compiled by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and is based on the number of home sales processed through the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Systems of real estate boards and associations in Canada. The monthly report from the CREA shows the change in home sales across Canada, as well as for major markets, from month to month. The report also includes other important housing-related information, such as the change (as a percentage) in newly listed homes, the national sales-to-new listings ratio, months of housing inventory, the change in the MLS Home Price Index, and the national average price for homes sold within the month.11
Statistics Canada releases a monthly report on retail sales activity across Canada, with changes shown on month-over-month and year-over-year bases. The headline number shows the percentage change in national retail sales on a dollar basis; the percentage change in volume terms is also shown. The retail sales figures are shown by industry and for each province or territory, and provide insights into Canadian consumer spending.12
The building permits survey conducted monthly by Statistics Canada collects data on the value of permits issued by Canadian municipalities for residential and non-residential buildings, as well as the number of residential dwellings authorized. Since building permit issuance is one of the very first steps in the process of construction, the aggregate building permits data are very useful as a leading indicator for assessing the state of the construction industry.13
The Bottom Line
The 12 economic indicators briefly described above show the health of key aspects of Canada’s economy: consumer spending, housing, manufacturing, employment, inflation, external trade, and economic growth. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the Canadian economy.
Canada adds jobs for fourth straight month in May
Canada added 101,600 jobs in May, the fourth consecutive month of gains, led by hiring in the education and health services sector as well as in professional and business services, a report from payroll services provider ADP showed on Thursday.
The April data was revised to show 101,300 jobs were gained, rather than an increase of 351,300. The report, which is derived from ADP’s payrolls data, measures the change in total nonfarm payroll employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Alex Richardson)