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Sunday, 8 November 2020

What we’re tracking on 8 November 2020

Good morning, friends. The (not so) small matter of that election across the pond is the only thing anybody is talking about this morning.

Closer to home: Plenty of folks will be thinking through what Joe Biden’s win means for Egypt and the wider region, and it’s interest rate week here in Cairo and the Health Minister will hold a news conference today as Egypt braces for a second wave of covid. We have chapter and verse on all of this — and more — below.

A decent human being will again occupy the White House in January after Democrat and former vice president Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. The Associated Press and major broadcast networks — ultimately including Fox — declared Biden the winner yesterday evening after calling Pennsylvania for Biden. It took four days of vote-counting for Biden and running mate Kamala Harris to cross the 270 electoral college vote mark.

A new day for America: “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal,” Biden said in a statement. “Democracy beats deep in the heart of America.” You can watch Biden’s victory speech in full here (watch, runtime: 15:54).

Harris just racked up a bunch of firsts, becoming the first woman in America to be elected vice president and the first person of color to hold the office.

And keep in mind: Biden is the oldest person ever elected to the White House. He’ll be 78 when he takes the oath of office on 20 January 2021.

What’s on Biden’s to-do list as he prepares to take office? Axios’ inimitable Mike Allen has the rundown.

What does the coming Biden presidency mean for Egypt? Expect plenty of chatter about that in the months ahead, particularly as the conventional wisdom out of Washington appears to be that the president-elect will look to “restore and expand Obama-era policies.” That time was not a high-water mark in relations between Cairo and Washington as many see Hillary Clinton and others in the administration as having turned their backs on Egypt — and as having welcomed (at the very least) our Islamist interregnum. The bottom line: Likely continuity in business ties and economic policy, but more pressure on the human rights file.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi congratulated Biden on his victory, saying he looks forward to working on stronger bilateral relations between the two countries, Ittihadiya said in a statement.

Egypt’s talk show hosts were all about the election last night — we have the rundown below.

There’s also a risk of a wider US pullback from the Middle East, some media outlets warn this morning. Start with this package from the BBC, then head over to the FT’s “What does a Biden presidency mean for the world?” Veteran business editor Geoff Colvin takes a look at What a Biden administration means for business in Fortune, suggesting it’s likely to mean more regulation, more taxes and more infrastructure spending.

Investors are welcoming the Biden presidency, Reuters reports, noting that markets saw their best week in seven months last week as Joe Biden closed in on the White House and employment figures beat expectations. Bloomberg agrees.

But Agent Orange still sits in the White House until 20 January, and there’s plenty of damage he can do, from offering clemency to pals (and maybe himself?) to leaving a legacy of nasty appointments for his successor to deal with and plenty of “midnight rulemaking.” Axios has the rundown.

How’s this going down in MAGA Land? Trump has not conceded defeat: In an all-caps Twitter meltdown last night, the soon-to-be former president once again claimed that the Democrats had fraudulently added mns of mail-in ballots to the vote tally and insisted that he had won the election. Earlier in the day Trump issued a statement claiming that Biden is “rushing to falsely pose as the winner,” accused the media of covering up electoral fraud, and vowed to challenge the result in court beginning Monday.

The chances of Trump being successful in any of his lawsuits are slim to nil, the New York Times reports. Nothing says credibility like holding a major press conference to announce your federal lawsuit outside a landscaping store next to an adult book shop.

Want more color? This is the mood inside the White House — and here’s how Politico thinks the Trump campaign imploded.

Control of the Senate hangs on two runoff races in Georgia in January. It’s shaping up to be ground zero for whether Congress will be divided again next year, as two Senate seats in Georgia head to runoff elections in January, the Associated Press reports. The race is finely balanced with each party winning 48 seats in the upper chamber in last week’s elections, leaving both parties three short of a majority. With seats in Alaska and North Carolina still too close to call, the Georgia contests will determine whether the incoming Biden administration will have a cooperative Senate or whether the country faces more years of gridlock.

Meanwhile, here at home: It’s interest rate week, and the consensus among analysts in our traditional poll is that the Central Bank of Egypt will leave rates on hold. We have more in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

Inflation data for October will be released on Tuesday ahead of the meeting.

With everything going on across the Atlantic, it’s easy to forget that we’ve got an election of our own underway. Today is the final day that voters in Cairo, Dakahlia, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai can cast their ballots in the parliamentary election. Polls opened for the second stage of the contest yesterday.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is in town today to meet with Sameh Shoukry, and the two will hold a press conference following the talks, Al Shorouk reports. We’re none the wiser on the specific reason for the diplomatic visit.

Are we getting closer to having an altogether confusing system for shop and restaurant operating hours? The government is putting the finishing touches on proposals to regulate the closing times for restaurants, shops, and cafes across the country, cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Al Mal. We’re hoping the plan is a little less convoluted than the outline suggested last week, which would see businesses close at different times depending on the time of year, where in the country they’re based, and what services they provide.

PSA #1- Expect more rain in the capital this morning: The torrential downpours seen on the North Coast yesterday will move south early today, reaching Cairo and parts of Upper Egypt, according to the Egyptian Meteorological Authority. Look for a daytime high of 24°C today and an overnight low of 16°C.

PSA #2- Are you a manufacturer? Have you done anything innovative? There’s an award for you. The Trade Ministry and the Egyptian-German Promotion for Small and Medium Enterprises promotion project have opened an awards program that recognizes manufacturers who’ve excelled at supply chain, process, production and marketing. It’s called the Ebtaker Industrial Innovation Award 2020. You can learn more about it here (pdf) or here.

PSA #3- There’s an Apple event this coming Tuesday streaming at 8pm CLT. Look for the announcement of Macs running on Apple silicon.

The Health Ministry reported 208 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 224 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 108,962 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 12 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,355. We now have a total of 100,239 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

Health Minister Hala Zayed will hold a press conference today on the state’s efforts to combat a second wave of covid-19, providing updates on case numbers and outlining treatment protocols, the local press reports. The ministry on Friday reported 224 fresh cases of the virus, the highest figure since 30 August.

The US has set a new covid-19 record for the third day in a row, reporting 125k cases yesterday, the Financial Times reports. Several states are reinstating stricter safety measures since a resurgence of the virus in October, and New York (which reported over 3k new cases on Friday for the first time in six months) has deployed more National Guard troops to airports ahead of the holidays.


Some non-election international news that should be on your radar this morning:

It’s no longer illegal to own booze or shack up in the UAE in major legal reforms to the country’s personal status law and criminal code, the National reports. Other changes will clamp down on “honor killings” and make divorce and inheritance laws more flexible.

Ikhwan vs. El Face: Facebook has shut down a network of “inauthentic” Ikhwan-linked accounts, some of which are in Egypt, as part of its crackdown on disinformation and “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” it said in a report. The platform also shut down nearly 8k pages and six other networks spanning Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Morocco, Georgia and Ukraine.

Turkey has sacked the head of the country’s central bank in response to high inflation and a plunging currency which hit a record low of 8.58 against the USD on Friday, the Associated Press reports. The currency has lost almost a third of its value this year, and annual inflation is now at 11.89%.

Short-dated bonds from Egypt and Brazil were among last week’s best performing thanks to their minimal connection to the volatility of the elections. Investors poured into higher-risk assets following election uncertainty that pushed the USD to its weakest in over two years, while giving a boost to emerging markets and spelling out benefits for US exporters, Bloomberg reports.

The US unemployment rate fell by one percentage point to 6.9% in October as employers added 684k jobs, according to a US labor department report (pdf). The figures handsomely beat estimates that saw the economy adding 530k jobs, and mark the sixth straight monthly gain that has seen the US claw back more than half of the 22 mn jobs lost in March and April.

Ant Group’s IPO could be delayed by at least six months and its valuation markedly reduced after the Chinese government suspended the listing — which was meant to debut as soon as this Thursday — to protect the stability of capital markets, according to the Financial Times. The IPO, which was on track to raise a record-breaking USD 37 bn IPO, was scrapped by regulators last week after Beijing announced new regulations on Monday that would introduce loan caps and require online platforms to fund at least 30% of their loans.

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