What we’re tracking on 2 June 2020
We don’t remember the last time we were this happy it was “hump day,” as we around here think of Tuesday — get over it, and it’s a downhill slide into the weekend. Perhaps it’s the “jetlag” from Eid — or maybe it’s just the glut of bad news at home and abroad.
We’re going easy on ourselves this week — trying to remember who we are, what our job descriptions are and what we were working on before the break. But next week, we’re giving long, hard thought to what’s next. That was the theme of a note we sent out a few weeks back. And if you need more in that vein to get you through this week so that you can do the same, go read Six businesses finding an upside in the coronavirus crisis in the Financial Times.
Key news triggers coming up in the weeks ahead:
- PMI figures for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will land tomorrow at around 6:15am CLT, according to IHS Markit’s calendar.
- Foreign reserves figures for May should be out early next week.
- Inflation data for May will land on Wednesday, 10 June.
- The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 25 June.
- Founding members of the EastMed Gas Forum will meet in June to ink the Cairo-based energy organization’s charter.
The market today: Global stocks are still trading at a three-month high. Asian markets are mixed in early trading this morning with Shanghai down, Australia flat and both the Nikkei and Kospi edging into the green. European shares look set to open in the green later this morning, while futures suggest US stocks look set to dip at the opening bell after posting gains yesterday despite six nights of nationwide protests against racial injustice and economic disparities. Protests and violence haven’t yet convinced investors to recalibrate their long-term views, the Financial Times writes. The EGX30 was essentially flat in heavy trading yesterday, closing the day up 0.1%.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 46 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,005. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 26,348 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,399 new infections yesterday, which Reuters noted is the first decline of daily new cases in a week. We now have a total of 7,149 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 6,447 have fully recovered.
Egypt could hit the 30k case mark by the end of this week and add another 10k cases next week, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Gaffar said yesterday, Hapi Journal reports. Abdel Ghaffar also floated the idea that we could see 1 mn cases in total under one of the government’s less likely projected infection scenarios — where we wind up, he said, depends largely on people’s behavior (watch, runtime 1:29).
The total number of covid-19 fatalities among Egyptian physicians rose to 32 on Monday while infections hit 372, Youm7 reports The syndicate has been calling on the Health Ministry to better protect frontline medical workers.
Hospitals and pharmacies remain well-stocked with medical equipment across the country, said Health Minister Hala Zayed, who urged people to refrain from panic buying immune-modifying medicine to avoid shortages, according to a ministry statement.
Grocery stores and retail operators have a new set of guidelines to follow that puts the onus on them to ensure the safety of their shoppers, according to Al Masry Al Youm. The rules include: Barring anyone without a mask from entry; providing plastic gloves, disinfectants and masks to patrons at cost; routine surface cleaning; enforcing social distancing throughout, including in checkout aisles; and limiting traffic to 25% of a store’s maximum occupancy, among others.
The EGP is back to where it stood in mid-January against the USD, easing four piasters yesterday against the greenback to 15.87, according to data from the Central Bank of Egypt (pdf). The EGP had rallied more than 3% against the greenback during the first seven weeks of 2020 and had held steady since the onset of the pandemic before easing in the past two weeks. The EGP, NRN and KES have all held their value as other African currencies have slumped under pandemic pressure.
Citizens living abroad will get a six-month extension on the validity of their passports to help them renew their residence status wherever they’re living now while overseas passport services are suspended, according to Al Masry Al Youm.
Hotels will now be able to operate at a 50% occupancy rate if they meet the necessary safety requirements, the Tourism Ministry announced yesterday. Some 78 properties, mostly along the Red Sea, were open starting in Eid With a 25% cap on occupancy under new rules designed to prevent the spread of covid-19.
Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati has concluded his time in self-isolation after having come in contact with Daqahlia Governor Ayman Mokhtar, who last month tested positive for the virus, according to state-owned Ahram Gate. Abdel Ati is expected back in the office today.
A new curfew means a new metro timetable: The Cairo Metro is now running from 5:15 am, with last trains departing at 7:15-7:45 pm depending on the line, according to the Transport Ministry. This comes as the new curfew hours (8 pm-5am) came into effect yesterday.
Do you want to help the UNDP? The UN Development Program Egypt has launched the Kemama campaign to fund the production of medical masks in Upper Egypt, in partnership with its AltFinLab and the Neya Foundation. You can make a contribution in EGP or USD.
Covid aid to Africa: Egypt’s Armed Forces sent a military plane containing medical supplies and protective gear to DR Congo and Zambia yesterday, according to a statement from the military spokesperson.
Banks backing hospital in Upper Egypt: NBE and Banque Misr are donating EGP 130 mn to develop an extension to Minya University’s hospital according to Hapi Journal. The new branch is set to include two operating rooms, an intensive care unit, a recovery room, a communications hub and outpatient clinics.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
More people are dying of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases since the pandemic kicked off, the New York Times writes, saying, “Public health experts have said that many of these additional deaths from other causes may be undercounts or misdiagnoses of Covid-19, or indirectly linked to the pandemic otherwise.”
The global reopening continues as the UK allows some primary school students to return to classrooms and Turkey lifts travel restrictions between major cities and reopened cafes and restaurants
It could take the US economy as much as a decade to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing a report by a US budget agency and calling it a long swoosh recovery.
European manufacturers fared slightly better last month — but that’s not saying much: Manufacturing activity in the eurozone rebounded slightly in May but remained in deep contraction as output and new orders continued to feel the suffocating effects of lockdown, according to fresh IHS Markit PMI data (pdf).
China, meanwhile, is in recovery mode: Manufacturing activity in China expanded as the country exited its lockdown restrictions. PMI data (pdf) edged up to 50.7 in May from 49.4 in April despite new export orders continuing to contract sharply on weak external demand.
Saudi Arabia’s central bank has provided banks with USD 13.3 bn in fresh liquidity to keep credit flowing to the private sector, as the country’s economy reels from the global pandemic and low oil prices, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority announced on Monday.
Goldman Sachs is going short on the USD in anticipation that “steady reopening process, limited evidence of a pickup in Covid infection rates, and encouraging policy actions” will lower demand for greenbacks as investors move out of safe havens in search of returns, CNBC reports, citing a note written by strategists over the weekend.
Woman-led hedge funds did better in the insanity of covid-19 than did their male counterparts: A small sample of hedge funds managed by women has outperformed male-led counterparts through the pandemic, the Financial Times reported, citing data by Hedge Fund Research’s (HFR) Women Access index. The cluster of funds lost only 3.5% in the first four months of 2020, compared with the 5.5% drop in the broader HFRI 500 Fund Weighted index.
THE REST OF THE WORLD BEYOND COVID-
King Cheeto has threatened to deploy the military to quell protests over racial and economic inequality in America and is demanding that governors get tough on what he called “domestic acts of terror” as protests raged on for a seventh night. Peaceful daytime protests gave way to clashes with police in New York, Washington and Los Angeles and New York imposed an 11pm-5am curfew last night. The story dominates front pages around the world: FT | WSJ | NYT | WaPo | Bloomberg | CNBC.
Business leaders across the US are speaking out against racism and police violence, the Wall Street Journal notes, and watchdogs have now documented more than 100 deliberate acts of police violence against journalists (here and here). Egyptian readers who lived through 2011 will relate to reports that police are shooting targeting the faces of media and protesters alike with “non-lethal” rounds, including at least one photojournalist who has lost the sight in one eye after being hit.
The US-China trade agreement is hanging by a thread after China instructed major state companies to indefinitely halt purchases of US soybeans and other farm goods as tensions ratchet up between Beijing and Washingnton over Hong Kong and the covid-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources.
The robot takeover of journalism begins: Microsoft is laying off dozens of its contract news producers working at MSN and will instead rely on AI to produce some of its news coverage, sources told the Seattle Times.
PSA- We’re in for a spell of warmer weather, with the mercury in the capital city set to gradually rise from 32°C today to 39°C at the start of next week, according to our favourite weather app.