What we’re tracking on 23 June 2020
Good morning, friends. Just two more days and we slide into the weekend. Have you made plans yet? Judging from the record number of email auto-replies we’ve gotten the past two Sundays, it looks like plenty of you have slipped into three-day weekend mode for summer.
SIGN OF THE TIMES- EFG Hermes has kicked off its first-ever virtual investment conference: The investment bank is holding a six-day Virtual Investor Conference, which kicked off yesterday and wraps on 30 June, allowing executives from 72 companies to connect with more than 480 investors with USD 15 tn in assets under management. You can check out the firm’s press release here (pdf) or visit the conference website here.
The CBE will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 25 June. Our poll earlier this week showed consensus among analysts that the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will leave rates where they are for the third consecutive meeting. A Reuters poll published yesterday found similar results.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday to discuss Egypt’s request for a USD 5.2 bn standby facility, according to the fund’s calendar.
Three things to watch for today:
The still-unfolding saga of GERD, where we have appealed to the UN Security Council to get involved. More likely to make headlines today are any new developments in Libya. France accused Turkey late yesterday of playing a “dangerous game” on our western border and a mouthpiece for the Nutter in Ankara declared that its proxy in Libya saw “Egypt’s military threat [as] a declaration of war.” The US has expressed support for Cairo-brokered peace talks and urged an immediate ceasefire, as have Germany and Italy, who fear a new influx in migrants if tensions escalate any further, according to the Associated Press.
On the markets front: Stock futures have recovered after swooning earlier in the night when White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said the US trade pact with China was “over.” Futures recovered after Navarro walked back his remarks. Asian markets are mixed in early trading and stock futures now paint a similar picture for Europe and the US when shares start changing hands later today.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 85 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,278. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 56,809 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,576 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 16,613 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 15,133 have fully recovered.
Infections could slow in September, but we’re looking at another wave in winter: Egypt’s covid-19 case tally will likely begin to taper off by September, but a second wave of infections around wintertime is all but certain, member of the Health Ministry’s covid-19 task force Ahmed Shawky told ‘Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 14:45).
Egypt could have more than 600k covid-19 cases -Baseera: More than 600k Egyptian adults may have contracted the novel coronavirus, according to a survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (better known as Baseera). In a poll of more than 3k Egyptians, an average of 10.1 per thousand reported contracting the virus that causes covid-19. Extrapolating the data to the broader population would mean that around 616k people have been infected, Baseera said. Of the respondents who said they had contracted the virus, 12% said they had been hospitalized (which is equivalent to around 74k individuals — a figure Baseera says is within the same [rough] ballpark as the Health Ministry’s confirmed case tally), while 66% isolated at home, 39% followed up with a doctor, and 61% underwent treatment.
The most common symptom among Egyptians is a high fever: Only 39% of cases reported experiencing three or more covid-19 symptoms with the most common symptom being a high fever at 67%, followed by vomiting and diarrhea (39%), a severe cough (37%), congestion (31%), loss of smell or taste (13%), and abdominal pain (13%). Most respondents (38%) were diagnosed using a chest scan; only 15% said they had had a PCR test.
The survey was big news on last night’s talk shows (details below), and a quick note here: The 600k cases, if accurate, includes folks who had a sniffle and stayed home weeks ago — it is not a measure of the current active case load in Egypt.
Rameda to manufacture Avigan substitute, Aviziram, to treat covid-19: Our friends at Rameda will start locally manufacturing the antiviral Anviziram (which contains the same active ingredient as in Avigan) as a possible treatment for covid-19, according to a statement (pdf). Rameda will also manufacture the antiviral med Remdesivir for intravenous administration. All production is initially earmarked for the domestic market, the company said.
Eva Pharma is working to begin manufacturing Avifavir, a Russian-produced generic version of Avigan, CEO Riad Armanious said, according to the local press.
Vezeeta launches recruitment drive as healthcare demand surges: Vezeeta is recruiting new employees across MENA — including in Egypt — on a work-from-home basis amid rising demand for digital healthcare solutions, the company said in a statement.
UNICEF will provide the Egyptian government with USD 17 mn to support the fight against covid, the International Cooperation Ministry said in a statement (pdf).
Chinese smartphone company Oppo has donated 15k food boxes to families impacted by covid-19, according to a company statement.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
No international pilgrims will go on Hajj this year: Saudi Arabia has decided to move ahead with a “very limited” Hajj this year for individuals of “various nationalities” currently residing in the kingdom, but will not allow pilgrims from outside the kingdom, according to the Saudi Press Agency. Hajj is set to begin at the end of next month. Saudi’s caution is well-placed: The decision comes as the WHO has warned that religious events are contributing to a resurgence of new cases in countries that managed to contain the virus early on, Reuters reports.
It’s day two of reopening for office towers in New York, on which the NYT has some color.
South Korea has been hit with a second wave of covid-19 infections in capital city Seoul after many ventured outside to celebrate during a holiday weekend in May, according to Reuters.
Investors are questioning whether the USD should be trading at a safe-haven risk premium as second waves of the covid-19 pandemic emerge worldwide, Deutsche Bank’s chief Asia macro strategist Sameer Goel told CNBC following a sharp spike in new cases across the US over the weekend. While investors have been favoring the greenback over other developed nations’ currencies since the outbreak escalated in March, the “emergency USD demand seems to be waning,” he said.
Bond traders are being dragged into the digital age: Bond trading, one of the few remaining areas of the financial world that hasn’t gone digital, is now embracing the new digital status-quo amid the pandemic, Reuters says. The case of a Seattle-based bond trader who managed to break up a large bond order into smaller bits and execute them electronically “illustrates how the volatility caused by the crisis, along with a new remote mindset of working from home, has pushed more traders to go digital in a market that has historically lagged stocks and forex in electronification,” Dhara Ranasinghe and Saikat Chatterjee write for the newswire.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
The Donald has suspended the issuance of new H-1B and a raft of other work visas until at least the end of the year. Business in the US is freaking out, particularly given H-1B visas are earmarked for highly-skilled workers and are sought after in Silicon Valley. Also suspended are L-1 visas, which let corporations movie staff to the US as part of inter-company transfers. Visas for some seasonal workers and short-term gigs like camp counselors and au pairs have also been put on ice. The Wall street Journal and Reuters have more.
Last night’s WWDC keynote was a blockbuster and is all over the front pages of the global business press. Expectations were high enough that it brought veteran Apple watcher Walt Mossberg out of retirement. The WSJ stalwart and co-founder with Kara Swisher of the Recode franchise said (a tiny bit inelegantly) in a livestream last night that the event was “one of the most important and historic events in Apple history.” Done fully remotely instead of in front of the customary audience in Steve Jobs Theater, the event saw the computer maker:
- Announce a switch to its own chips for the Mac starting at the end of this year, dumping Intel in a process that could take up to two years. Macs will run on the same silicon that powers iPads, iPhones and Apple Watches. Microsoft Office and Adobe professional software including Photoshop and Lightroom are already running on the new chips.
- Unveil the ability to put widgets anywhere you want on your iPhone screen, among other tweaks coming in iOS 14;
- Show off a rebuild of macOS for the new silicon that packages improvements in design and functionality;
- Significantly tweak iPadOS to make it more friendly to power users, including through a iPad-version of dropdown menus for the first time;
- Promise to continue supporting Intel-based Macs for the foreseeable future.
Oh, and Apple will finally stop taking over your entire screen when you have an incoming call when iOS 14 rolls out to the masses this fall. If you want everything on a single page, head over to CNBC or the Verge for the top line. If you want to dive deeper, your best bet may be this 13-minute rundown and page chock full of links from MacRumors, with 9to5Mac’s version being a close second. The story is front-page news everywhere from the Financial Times to the Wall Street Journal (no less than four stories) and Bloomberg.
Also of interest to the nerds among us: Apple took the venom out of a spat with email startup Hey (run by the outspoken founders of Basecamp) as it allowed Hey to update its iOS app in the App Store and as Apple said it will allow developers to “challenge” its app review guidelines.
Airbnb may still IPO this year: “We’re not ruling it out this year, but we’re definitely not committing to a timeline right now,” said CEO Brian Chesky according to Bloomberg. Despite seeing nearly USD 1 bn in cancellations early on in the pandemic, a rebound in demand by urban professionals looking for vacation rentals in nearby rural areas has heightened optimism over the company’s performance in the back half of the year.