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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

What we’re tracking on 20 October 2020

Happy Tuesday, everyone. As we slide toward the end of the week, you’ll want to keep the “rain” warning in context if you’re in the nation’s capital: Our favourite weather app is (so far) predicting around 1 mm worth of sprinkles tomorrow. But this weekend could be a different story, with about 5 mm of rain in the forecast for Saturday and 2-4 mm predicted for Sunday.

Also: A reminder that next week is a short workweek — we’re all off on Thursday, 29 October in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday. Our plan is not to stray far from home: Line up some recipes with the NY Times’ Cooking app and make some good food with our regular weekly delivery of amazing stuff from Sara’s Organic Farm. Read lots. Maybe see if there isn’t something on which to binge on Netflix or AppleTV+ — Ted Lasso seems just about mindless enough, it’s getting universally great reviews and dude’s moustache game is strong.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- The IMF has downgraded its 2020 forecasts for the Middle East and Central Asia, predicting a 4.1% contraction in its latest regional economic outlook compared to the 2.8% it projected in April. The situation is looking less dire in the Gulf, where the IMF now sees a 6% contraction in the cards, an improvement from the 7.1% slump it forecast in July (provided that governments continue to focus on public spending to offset falling oil revenues).

Egypt is the only country in the Middle East expected to avoid contraction in 2020. We have more on this in Last Night’s Talk Shows and a related World Bank report in Speed Round, below.

In the meantime:

It’s Egyptian-German Renewables Day, which will see seven major German energy and industrial companies in attendance, the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (which is hosting the event) said in a statement.

Cairo Water Week continues today through Thursday. The annual event, which kicked off on Sunday, is semi-virtual this year.

Voters abroad will begin casting their ballots tomorrow to elect a new House of Representatives, kicking off the multi-stage process that will see the first wave of voters at home going to polling stations this coming Saturday (24 October).

Reminder: If you want to vote outside Egypt, you need to register on the National Elections Authority’s website before going to cast your ballot.

Folks voting here at home can find their polling station by putting their national ID number into the same website.

Furniture expo Le Marché begins this Thursday, 22 October and will run until Sunday, 25 October at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.

The Health Ministry reported 123 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 127 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 105,547 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 10 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,130. We now have a total of 98,314 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

The government is ready for an anticipated second wave of infections, but remains fiscally prudent to ensure the impact on the economy remains contained, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib last night. Maait noted that the FY2020-2021 state budget has ramped up allocations in key areas to handle the pandemic — and that the in-the-works SMEs Act will help bring the parallel economy kicking and screaming into the light to contribute to formal GDP growth (watch, runtime: 2:11).

The global case tally surpassed 40 mn yesterday as Europe and the US struggle to contain a renewed surge in cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.

Much of the developing world is unprepared for the rollout of a vaccine, with almost 3 bn people living in areas still unable to keep vaccines refrigerated and sterile, the Associated Press reports.

Are we going to ditch quarantines for travelers? The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is working with the World Health Organization to set up a testing system to replace compulsory quarantines in an effort to revive the ailing airline industry, according to Bloomberg. The system would ideally involve cheap tests before departure and fully open borders between countries with similar levels of covid risk.

International migration has slumped to an unprecedented level: The issuance of new visas and permits fell by a record 46% y-o-y in the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic and its economic consequences, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said yesterday.


SIGN OF THE TIMES- Pity the bankers. Commercial bankers may end 2020 by joining the investment bankers crying in their teacups rather than toasting the new year with champagne to celebrate fat bonus cheques. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have all warned staff that bonuses for high-flyers may not keep pace with their performance as the businesses have “booked huge loan loss charges to prepare for a surge in defaults as the pandemic ravages global economies.” The also don’t want to waive their largesse in the face of citizens, regulators and politicians who haven’t had a wonderful 2020, the Financial Times suggests.

Tech firms led by their founders are beating those led by outsiders in both profit growth and share performance this year, according to a Reuters analysis. Heavyweights including Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, Reed Hastings’ Netflix and Elon Musk’s Tesla saw their share prices double so far into 2020, compared with a modest 7.8% gain for the wider S&P 500. Profit growth in founder-led companies also came in at 30% over the past five years, nearly five times a 6.7% recorded by manager-led firms, says the newswire.

The big problem facing central banks: How to wean markets off the deluge of cheap money. The world’s key central banks are increasingly facing what Mohamed El Erian calls a “no-exit” scenario as the question of how to unwind the USD tns of stimulus without freaking out the markets begins to focus minds, Bloomberg says. The surge in corporate and sovereign debt will make it difficult for the Federal Reserve to raise rates while the rapid expansion of the Treasury market may force the central bank, which is currently buying USD 80 bn of Treasuries a month, to maintain its bond-buying program over the long term.

Pressure will increase if vaccines are successfully deployed next year and the global economy starts to recover, with asset bubbles and accelerating inflation a likely outcome if central banks are unable to rein in the stimulus, Bloomberg says.

Other international stories worth knowing about:

  • OPEC plans further oil output cuts amid “anemic” demand and a second wave of covid-19 (Bloomberg)
  • Sudan could get off the US list of state sponsors of terror if it coughs up USD 335 mn to benefit American victims of terror, Agent Orange has tweeted.
  • Eurozone countries are trying to spend their way out of the covid crisis, sending budget deficits up almost tenfold to a combined EUR 1 tn (Financial Times)
  • NASA has tapped Nokia to build a lunar 4G network and will eventually launch 5G there, too. NASA plans to have a “sustainable” human presence on the moon by 2028. Maybe we’ll get 5G around the same time as the moon does? (CNBC)

US ELECTION WATCH- The final US presidential debate on Thursday could be less chaotic than last month’s shouting match now that organizers have decided to mute each candidate’s microphone when the other is delivering their opening remarks, Reuters reports. The interruptions will be allowed to resume after the first 15-minute segment.

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