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Tuesday, 3 November 2020

What we’re tracking on 3 November 2020

Good morning ladies and gents. It’s the first hump day of November, and two stories have really captured our attention.

#1- We just got another warning that at least some covid-19 restrictions could come back into effect. Authorities may have to take “difficult decisions” to reimpose some restrictions that were in place earlier in the pandemic if citizens continue to flout social distancing and precautionary measures such as wearing masks, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly warned during a cabinet meeting yesterday. It’s the second time in less than two weeks that Madbouly has issued this type of warning, having earlier said that soaring case numbers in neighboring countries are cause for significant concern.

The PM has a point: It only takes a short walk through the streets of the capital to see that all of us — from every walk of life — have largely “cancelled” covid. Madbouly repeated yesterday his call for authorities to fine people for not wearing masks in public transportation, malls, and government buildings. Bloomberg also covered Madbouly’s statements.

Cases have been creeping up in the past few days: The Health Ministry reported 189 new cases yesterday, the highest daily figure since 31 August.

But a full lockdown still seems unlikely, with even Health Minister Hala Zayed seeming to take a second lockdown off the table a couple of weeks back, even if we begin to see a serious spike in cases.

Covid was topic du jour on the airwaves last night: Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 16:31), Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 9:13), Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary (watch, runtime: 9:40) and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 7:29) all featured segments on the PM’s statements yesterday.

#2- It’s election day in the US — Anxiety, chaos and patience are the key themes running through the global press’ coverage this morning as Americans head out to the polls.

The key question as polling stations open: Whose ballot will count? Anything other than a landslide victory for either candidate may well end up in a bitter legal battle — at the center of which will be the validity of mail-in ballots. The Donald has already tried (and failed) to launch lawsuits against mail-in ballots in the states of Texas and Nevada, the Financial Times reports. Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in ballots, claiming that they will be used to commit election fraud. A major point of contention for the president surrounds absentee ballots posted before election day but which do not arrive until after 3 November. Trump insists that these votes will not be counted, eliciting a strong response from the Michigan attorney-general who described a failure to count all the ballots as tantamount to a “coup.”

Wondering where to watch it all go down? Everyone and their mothers will have live coverage as the results start to trickle in. CBS News has a live election coverage and results stream scheduled to start at midnight CLT tonight, ABC News is streaming its news on YouTube, while CNN will be live with its traditional all night coverage. Until then, for a comprehensive look at all the potential developments, FiveThirtyEight has you covered with a series of graphs that update based on new polls and results as they come in. You can also get live election news on The New York Times. And for those of you tired of legacy media, Joe Rogan will be live-streaming on YouTube all night long. Check out his channel later tonight.

And if you want to get nerdy with it: The Wall Street Journal has an hour-by-hour breakdown of when polls close in states across the country, when we’re likely to start seeing results, and what to keep your eye on.

What are the pundits saying? FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver is warning “I’m here to remind you that Trump can still win,” writing that “a 10 percent chance isn’t zero. And there’s a chance of a recount, too.” 270toWin has Biden taking 290 electoral votes to Trump’s 163.

A sign of things to come — or the calm before the storm? Global stock markets finished in the green across the board yesterday as investors positioned themselves ahead of the vote. Coming off their worst week since March, US stocks rebounded as the Dow closed the session up 1.6% and the S&P 500 up 1.2%. Apple and Amazon held back the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which closed 0.4% in the green. Over in Europe, major indexes all gained 1-2%.

Asian markets were all up in early trading this morning while markets in the US and Europe are looking like they’ll see gains when they open later.

Don’t let the green fool you: The VIX measure of stock market volatility remained high during trading yesterday, while yields on US treasuries and German bunds both fell, indicating increased risk-off sentiment.

PSA for Apple nerds: There’s one more thing. How long is it that you’ve waited for someone at Apple to utter those words from the stage? They’re not coming at the end of a keynote, but you’ll still want to make sure your credit card is at hand next week: Apple is holding what looks set to be its final product unveiling of 2020 under the banner of “One more thing.” Expectations are that the faithful will be rewarded with Macs powered by Apple silicon and perhaps those tracking tags. The event streams on Tuesday, 10 November at 8pm CLT. You can stream it here.

It’s PMI day, with the gauge due out here at 6:15am, just a few minutes after our traditional dispatch time. Egypt’s private sector finally entered expansion territory for the first time in 14 months in September, driven by a strong rise in consumer demand and strengthened business activity. October PMI figures for Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also set to be released today.

The Egypt Romania business council is meeting today with 15 Romanian companies and the Romanian deputy economy minister in attendance, the local press reports. A delegation of Romanian companies yesterday held talks with the Arab Organization for Industrialization to discuss joint projects in a range of sectors including defence, IT and solar energy.

GERD negotiations will continue today, and possibly Wednesday, as legal and technical representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan prepare their recommendations on the framework for future negotiations and the role of observers ahead of Thursday’s ministerial committee meeting, the Sudanese Irrigation Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Defense Minister Mohamed Zaki is in Portugal to talk military cooperation with Portuguese officials over the course of several days, according to a ministry statement.

The second phase of House elections kick off tomorrow, when Egyptians abroad going to the polls. Casting their ballots are folks registered in Cairo, Dakalia, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai. Expats have until Friday to vote. Polls open for voters here at home on 7-8 November.

Other news triggers to keep your eye on:

  • Foreign reserves figures should be out next week;
  • Inflation data for October will be released on 10 November;
  • The Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review rates on 12 November.

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Egypt could jointly manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V covid-19 vaccine, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Russian news agency TASS after meeting with the Russian trade minister last week. Egyptian pharma company Pharco has already agreed to work with the Russian sovereign wealth fund to distribute some 25 mn doses of the vaccine. The minister said it was too early to say when the vaccine will arrive in Egypt.

WHO boss in self-isolation as the world sees the deadliest week for the pandemic since April: World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is self-quarantining after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus. This comes as global fatalities top 1.2 mn, Europe goes into lockdown, and the US possibly entering a second wave more severe than the first, reports Bloomberg.

Covid-19 patients are reporting symptoms that can persist for weeks or months after being cured, including severe fatigue, memory lapses, and heart problems, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many of those reporting latent long-term problems initially only experienced mild symptoms, calling into question the assumption that people with minor cases of the disease fully recover within two weeks. A survey of more than 4k covid-19 patients found that about 10% of those aged 18-49 still struggled with symptoms four weeks after becoming sick while another preliminary survey showed that 25% of patients had at least one symptom after 90 days.

US corporates are reporting better earnings than Wall Street pundits had penciled in, according to the Financial Times. Earnings per share reported by S&P 500 companies have beaten expectations by almost 20% while corporate sales are 2.8% above forecasts. While the figures disclosed so far are still below those of the third quarter of last year, “companies [are] broadly reporting a shallower rate of decline,” says the salmon-colored paper. There’s some overly optimistic thinking from Deutsche Bank, which has stuck its neck out and raised its EPS forecasts for the fourth quarter. We’ll reserve judgement on that until the trajectory of the virus/economy becomes clearer in the coming weeks.

At least two people were killed and 15 more injured in central Vienna last night in a series of shootings which are being described as terror attacks by the Austrian government, the Guardian reports. Egypt condemned the attack and reiterated its rejection of violence and extremism in a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

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