LONDON (Reuters) – A sharp rise in the number of coronavirus deaths and infections unnerved world markets on Thursday, as traders halted the rally in stocks and retreated to the safety of government bonds and gold.
FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
Europe’s main markets followed Asia into red with London FTSE .FTSE, Frankfurt’s DAX .GDAXI and Paris’ CAC 40 .FCHI extending losses to 1% to 1.5%, as the euro EUR= also slumped to near a three-year low against the dollar after a torrid couple of weeks.
China reported 254 new deaths, double the previous day’s toll and the fastest rise since the pathogen was identified in December.
Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated, accounted for 242 of them and confirmed 14,840 new cases, though it was amplified significantly by a switch to using quicker computerised tomography (CT) scans – which reveal lung infections – to confirm the virus.
Excluding cases declared using the new methods, the number of new Hubei cases rose by only 1,508, the official data showed, though for markets, the net result was more uncertainty about how long problems are likely to persist.
AXA Investment Management’s chief economist Gilles Moec said the impact of virus could be part of a “perfect storm” for Europe that hurts the economy for months and then gets compounded by a heated trade battle with the United States.
“We started with the premise that this virus would be worse than SARS and that has now become consensus,” Moec said.
“So attention turns to who is hit the hardest and Europe is among the usual suspects and Germany in particular, given China is its biggest export market. So the reaction of the exchange rate is probably rational,” he added.
The euro bowed as low as $1.0864 EUR= and also crumpled to a four-and-a-half-year low against the Swiss franc EURCHF= as wary European FX dealers headed to their usual safe spaces also wondering whether ECB rate cuts might be back in play.
Japan’s yen strengthened past 110 per dollar JPY=, 10-year U.S. Treasuries fell below 1.6% US10YT=RR and European yields dropped 3 basis points. Oil slipped again too [O/R] and E-mini S&P 500 futures ESc1 were down 0.5%, pointing to a fade in Wall Street’s recent strong rally. [.N]
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS had snapped two days of 1% gains to end 0.1% lower as most markets across the region posted modest declines.
“There is no panic on this,” said Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale in Hong Kong, since the dramatic rise seems so far to be contained to Hubei.
The new methodology effectively lowers the bar for classifying new infections, contributing to the spike in cases. Chinese officials said the method is only being used in Hubei, though it was expected to be gradually extended to other regions.
The virus has also cast a shadow over life in Asia’s financial markets, with Benzimra himself logged in from home and speaking to clients by phone as meetings are increasingly cancelled, even in cities not subject to quarantine.
“Most markets were recouping their losses so that has offered maybe some excuse to sell Asian markets,” he said. “But there is not much energy in this.”
Japan’s Nikkei .N225 fell 0.1%. Australia’s ASX/S&P 200 index retreated from a record high. The Shanghai Composite .SSEC fell 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI was 0.3% softer. Gold rose 0.6% XAU= to $1574 per ounce.
There was more drama for Brexit-bound British markets too.
The sudden resignation of the country’s finance minister Sajid Javid caused a jump in both sterling and British government bond yields amid bets his replacement, the 39 year-old Rishi Sunak, will beef up spending.
Javid’s departure comes less than a month before he was due to deliver his first budget and after just 204 days made him the shortest-serving chancellor of the exchequer since 1970.
“I suspect he (Sunak) is likely to do whatever Boris Johnson tells him to do,” said Nomura economist George Buckley. “I don’t know what that means for the public finances and fiscal policy but I doubt it will mean tighter fiscal policy.”
The main focus remained the coronavirus though. Markets had taken comfort from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency programme head describing the apparent slowdown in the epidemic’s spread as “very reassuring”.
Yet WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also warned that it should be viewed with extreme caution. “This outbreak could still go in any direction,” he said.
Even before the rise in cases, economists were turning more bearish on the likely hit to China’s growth as factories idle and supply chains are upended.
Citi on Wednesday again downgraded its 2020 GDP forecast for China to 5.3%. The bank had forecast it to be 5.8% in its January outlook, before cutting it to 5.5% two weeks ago.
Morgan Stanley believes a gradual, rather than sharp recovery is the most likely scenario. That all bodes ill for regional economies and has weighed on Asian currencies and commodities.
The Australian dollar AUD=D3, a liquid proxy for China’s economic health because of Australia’s export exposure, retraced its recent rally and traded 0.3% softer at $0.6716. [FRX/]
China’s yuan was 0.1% weaker CNY=. Rallying oil prices stalled, with Brent crude LCOc1 down at $55.38 per barrel, 15% below where it was before the coronavirus outbreak. [O/R]
Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Sam Holmes, Alison Williams and Alex Richardson
Coronavirus Canada Updates: BC shatters records with 274 new COVID-19 cases, social gatherings blamed – lintelligencer
For the second day in a row, British Columbia has announced a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases.
At a Thursday briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 274 new cases — shattering the previous record, announced Wednesday, of 203.
B.C. is now facing 1,920 active cases, nearing the previous record of 1,987 set in September. In addition, 4,425 people were in isolation due to possible exposure.
The province’s death toll was unchanged at 256.
Despite surging cases, the situation in B.C. hospitals has remained relatively stable since early October.
Seventy-one people were in hospital, 24 of them in critical or intensive care.
About 82 per cent of B.C.s 12,331 cases have recovered.
Much of the surge in new cases has been driven by social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, which Henry described as “high risk.”
A small percentage of the new cases were also linked to “large” Thanksgiving gatherings.
Many of the events have been concentrated in the Lower Mainland, but their effects have since spread province-wide as attendees returned to homes outside the region, Henry said.
They have also spread into the healthcare system and workplaces people who were exposed returned to work, she added.
“People are not sticking with their COVID-19 safety plans for social gatherings, particularly ones like weddings and funerals,” Henry said.
Take a step back from social interactions, says B.C.'s top doctor – NiagaraFallsReview.ca
VICTORIA – British Columbia reported 223 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, tipping the number of active infections over 2,000.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says in a statement infections have been detected at two more assisted-living or long-term care homes and there are two new community outbreaks.
The latest health-care outbreaks are at Laurel Place in Surrey and Fair Haven Homes at Burnaby Lodge, while the community outbreaks involve Coast Spas Manufacturing and Pace Processing in Langley.
Outbreaks at a number of other care homes have been declared over, leaving 16 homes and two acute-care facilities with active infections.
Seventy-five people are in hospital, including 24 in intensive care, but no one else has died from the illness since the province’s last update.
Henry says contact tracing teams throughout the province are working around the clock, but their success depends on everyone taking a step back from social interactions.
There are nearly 4,640 people under public health monitoring as a result of exposure to a known case.
B.C. has confirmed 12,554 cases of COVID-19 so far.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.
Northern Manitoba braces for increased COVID-19 restrictions while cases rise – Global News
While Manitoba’s north is set to come under increased restrictions meant to combat rising COVID-19 case numbers Monday, the mayor of The Pas says heightened rules are necessary to quell the virus’s spread.
“We need to get a handle on this virus in our community and if the restrictions will allow us to do that, then it needs to be done,” said Herb Jaques, the mayor of the northern town of 12,000.
Generally, gatherings will be capped at five people under the province’s orange level in its pandemic rating system — gatherings of more than five can take place if the number of people doesn’t exceed 30 per cent of a given location’s capacity, the location is physically divided into separate areas where five people are allowed at a time and people aren’t allowed to come into close contact.
Masks will be mandatory in all public, indoor spaces. Restaurants, retail stores and other businesses will be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, while casinos and bingo halls will have to close.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin made the announcement Thursday.
“We know that the north is already at risk for transmission of this virus, especially in remote, isolated communities (where there is lack of) access to health care,” Roussin said at the time.
Manitoba tightens restrictions on schools in Winnipeg Metro, northern regions, in response to rising COVID-19 numbers
Jaques said people in The Pas have already begun to wear masks in the town’s shopping district.
“It’s very common now to see people wearing masks in town; all the local businesses have taken measures to ensure there is social distancing,” Jaques said. “It’s just a regular occurrence now in their businesses.
“Handwashing stations are everywhere; we’re doing whatever we can for the recommendations of (chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin) to be compliant and try to get ahead of this.”
The sprawling Northern Health Region, which encompasses 396,000 square kilometres of the province, avoided significant numbers of COVID-19 cases early in the pandemic. On Saturday, however, the region saw 15 new cases, while 58 cases are active.
“I think a solemnness is setting in in my community,” Jaques said. “As you know, we were almost exempt from participating in (the pandemic), we had no cases and we went with no cases for quite a while. Now it’s here and it appears to be here with a vengeance.”
The neighbouring communities of The Pas, Opaskwayak Cree Nation and the rural municipality of Kelsey currently have 15 active novel coronavirus cases combined.
Jaques said he is concerned about the area health-care system’s capacity — The Pas Health Complex has 48 beds total, according to the health authority.
Four of those are functioning intensive care beds, Jaques said.
“If this starts to get out of hand, we’re going to fill up those spaces fairly quickly and that’s a concern,” he said.
“Now is not the time to point fingers or lay criticism, but when this is over, there really needs to be some serious discussions about health care in the north and in Manitoba.”
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas on travel to northern Manitoba
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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