What we’re tracking on 24 June 2020
Good morning, friends. The big news of the day: The Madbouly government is easing next week (nearly) all the restrictions it had put in place to stem the transmission of the virus that causes covid-19. We have chapter and verse in this morning’s Speed Round, below.
Perhaps the most interesting news: Early closing of shops, malls, restaurants and coffee shops is going to be the new normal post-covid in our fair city that never sleeps, according to appearances by Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad. Don’t discount the staying power of the country’s shop owners and big retailers on this one. — it’s really impossible for us to imagine no midnight eating or shopping in our city that never sleeps.
We’re still in the grip of an oddly-timed news slowdown. This is Enterprise’s sixth summer and the twentieth summer reporting on our fair country for at least one of the olds among us. So trust us when we tell you this: There’s no such thing as a “summer slowdown” in Cairo (though the Dog Days of August are very real). We suspect it may be a case of folks being a bit tired out after nearly four months of covid and WFH — coupled with government attention being paid to the situations with Ethiopia and Libya.
Random observation: We’ve always wanted to live in one of the foreign tourism videos put out by the Tourism MInistry. Its latest — emphasizing measures in place to protect visitors from corona — is no exception (watch, runtime: 2:15).
Need a dose of optimism? Visit Planet Startup as the folks at accelerator Flat6Labs Cairo hold their spring 2020 demo day online today at 5pm. The spring 2020 cycle started in mid-February, the firm said in a press release (pdf), and has seen eight fledgling tech-focused companies working in fintech, e-commerce, logistics, software as a service, AI, on-demand car services, freelance marketplace services, and bio materials develop their ideas get ready to pitch their ideas to potential investors and the media. You can register for the digital event here.
Heading into the end of the week, keep an eye on:
- The CBE will meet to review interest rates tomorrow. Our poll earlier this week showed consensus among analysts that the central bank will leave rates on hold for the third consecutive meeting.
- 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.
Next week: The good people at CNBC think there’s a chance US stocks may come under pressure in the final days of June as big funds consider cashing out their gains in equities this quarter and moving into bonds. Wags suggest as much as USD 76 bn could be rebalanced out of equities and into fixed income. Why now? The S&P is up more than 21% for the quarter, a signal that it might be time to book your gains and get into a safer asset given nobody knows how the coming months will unfold for the market or for the US economy.
Next month: Are you (as an employee) considering working remotely (say, from Sahel?) for a long, long time? The Wall Street Journal has advice for professionals in their 20s and 30s. The cautionary tale: Plenty of bosses are happy to have staff working from their homes in the city in which they were hired — it makes ‘em feel all good in side that they could, for example, summon you to the office tomorrow. Read: How to plan before leaving town to work remotely.
Next year: It’s time to start planning NEXT summer’s vacation. Thinking of taking a big trip next summer? Odds are good that everyone who booked that same destination has already rolled over non-refundable deposits to snap up the same hotel / resort / safari. You want to be thinking this weekend not just about what you’re doing for a staycation this summer, but where you may want to head in the summer of 2021. Read: That big vacation you scrapped is already selling out for next summer in the WSJ.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 87 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,365. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 58,141 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,323 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 17,022 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 15,535 have fully recovered.
Isolation hospitals have reached 59% of their total capacity, while 71% of ICU beds are currently occupied, said Health Minister Hala Zayed, according to a cabinet statement. Around 23% of the available ventilators are also currently in use, Zayed said. There are 367 state facilities — including university hospitals — authorized to treat covid patients.
After yesterday’s crushing news that no foreign pilgrims would be allowed to go on Hajj, Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad was on the airwaves to reassure Egypt’s faithful that everyone who had a slot for pilgrimage this year will see their place roll forward to 2021 (watch, runtime 1:06).
The academic year for Egypt’s universities will now end on 15 September to accommodate end-of-year exams, which will begin on 1 July, according to a cabinet statement.
An additional 35 hotels have received health and safety certificates allowing them to reopen at reduced capacity, bringing the total number of hotels the Tourism Ministry has licensed to reopen to 301, according to Al Shorouk.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
In a “warning to poor nations,” covid is tearing into Latin America, which accounted for nearly half the world’s covid-19 deaths in past two weeks — and where the WSJ says mns are falling back into poverty
The US’ leading disease expert Anthony Fauci is “cautiously optimistic” about a vaccine becoming available by the end of the year, the Associated Press reports. There are currently over a dozen potential vaccines being tested globally for safe use and efficacy, while the US is poised to conduct its largest study on some 30k people next month.
The virus is not in control in the US, Faucci told lawmakers yesterday, citing a “disturbing surge” as “Americans ignore social distancing guidelines and states reopen without adequate plans for testing and tracing the contacts of those who get sick,” the New York Times reports.
Eurozone manufacturing and service activity is continuing to rebound, with the bloc’s flash PMI (pdf) jumping an unprecedented 15.6 points in June from May. June’s 47.5 reading is still lower than the 50-point mark indicating expansion, but the gauge came in much higher than expected by Reuters economists who saw it at only 42.4, reports CNBC.
One Yale University economist is going ultra-bearish on the USD: Yale senior fellow and ex-Morgan Stanley Asia chairman Stephen Roach tells Marketwatch that the greenback could crash 35% against competitors in the coming months due to Washington’s spiraling deficit and dwindling savings.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
Banks and fintech bros take note: The once-high-flying founder of German fintech outfit Wirecard is in handcuffs on “suspicion of false accounting and market manipulation two days after the company he built into Europe’s leading fintech group admitted that €1.9bn of cash reported on its balance sheet probably does ‘not exist,’” the Financial Times reports.
Legendary investor Bill Ackman is raising funds for what would be the largest ever blank-check investment vehicle, Reuters reports. Ackman is seeking USD 3 bn for the venture and could boost its overall size to USD 6.5 bn using money from his Pershing Square hedge fund.
Another contender has thrown her hat into the ring for the top job at the WTO. South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee joins Egypt’s Abdel Hamid Mamdouh in the list of candidates who want to lead the trade body when Roberto Azevedo steps down in August — a year early.
A trade agreement between the US and China looks likely to stay for now, former American trade official Clete Willems said, according to CNBC. The agreement “remains a winner” for Trump’s reelection bid and China has been doing a good job committing to its side of the bargain, Willems says. Fears over the fate of the ‘Phase One’ agreement have increased in recent weeks after trade was dragged into a war of words between Beijing and Washington over the coronavirus outbreak. The agreement was signed in January and saw the US pledge not to increase tariffs on China’s imports in exchange for Beijing committing to increase its agricultural imports and opening discussions on tech policy.
Businesses boycott Facebook: Outdoor gear brands are boycotting Facebook and Instagram ads to push them to be more accountable towards racism, according to TechCrunch. REI, North Face, and Patagonia have joined a campaign to push the platforms to clamp down on racism and hate speech under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. They’re demanding that social media outfits stop collecting ad revenue from “misinformation and harmful content.”