What we’re tracking on 17 November 2020
Good morning, friends. You know the end of the year is upon us when (a) Gourmet starts playing Christmas muzak, (b) the Financial Times launches its annual How To Spent It gift guide and (c) the seasonal blockbusters start tumbling out, including today’s launch of volume one of Barack Obama’s memoir (check out reviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and look it up on Amazon).
Half our staff worked together mask-to-mask in the office yesterday — and it was wonderful. Half of us come in each Monday so we welcome new people and get reacquainted with each other after spending March through now on WFH, and it reinforced the fundamental truth of this Dispatch from the Department of the Obvious: Video calls cannot match the speed and rigour of real conversation.
TWO MORNING MUST-READS whether your commute is 30 seconds to your home office or an hour across town: Capitalism must be saved by capitalists, argue these pioneering ESG investors (Fortune) and then this Economist piece on why the future of asset management is in China.
The Health Ministry reported 242 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 220 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 111,009 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 12 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,465. We now have a total of 101,179 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.
Covid has now claimed the lives of 200 Egyptian doctors, the Medical Syndicate said in a statement yesterday as it noted the passing of orthopedist Dr. Mouman Mohamed Medhat, the assistant director of the police hospital in Alexandria,
Moderna sees Pfizer’s 90%, and raises them some: Moderna says its vaccine is more than 94% effective based on preliminary data from stage three clinical trials, the company said in a statement. The announcement follows Pfizer’s last week that their vaccine is 90% effective, and Russia’s announcement that its Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective. Moderna’s final data is expected later this month, after which the company is expected to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine will be administered as two shots that are taken 28 days apart.
Moderna could have a major advantage over Pfizer in that their vaccine does not require special ultra-cold storage and can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures for up to 30 days. The results mean the US could have up to 60 mn doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines available for emergency use by the end of the year. Everyone everywhere had the story: Reuters | Bloomberg | NYT | BBC | FT | AP.
We can already sense tomorrow’s headlines being written: “China’s Sinopharm vaccine 94.01% effective in phase 3 trials.” What are the chances?
Moderna’s vaccine was all over the airwaves on Last Night’s Talk Shows: Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi phoned former health minister Ashraf Hatem for his two cents on the competing vaccines. Hatem pointed out that the Moderna vaccine — unlike Pfizer’s — does not need to be stored in super-cold temperatures and is easier to transport. He also dismissed theories that companies have strategically timed their announcements for after the US election or to pump up their share prices (though we have to admit they are impeccably timed to turn a certain orange man a shade of red).
We should hear more information from the Russian and Chinese vaccines in the coming days, he said (watch, runtime: 3:44). El Hekaya’s Amr Adib spoke to Abd al-Hadi Khader, professor of internal medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, for his take on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (watch, runtime: 13:52), while a doctor told Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary that the World Health Organization is in talks with both companies to lower the cost for the developing world (watch, runtime: 13:14).
Vaccines are a special kind of rocket fuel for global stocks, which hit record highs yesterday on the news. The MSCI World index rose to an all-time high as prospects of a covid-19 vaccine on the horizon continued to bolster investor sentiment. US equities did likewise, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 clocking record highs. The vaccine was also good news for oil prices, pushing up Brent futures by almost 2.5%. Rising covid-19 cases in the US however kept the USD relatively flat, while uncertainty over a Brexit trade agreement saw the British Pound fall slightly against both the greenback and the Euro. (Reuters | WSJ | FT | Bloomberg)
One tech company that didn’t ride the virus to record valuations is AirBnb, which revealed in its IPO filing yesterday that its valuation was cut in half to USD 18 bn earlier this year as covid lockdowns across the world suffocated the tourism and hospitality sectors. The filing, which gives investors their first look at the company’s finances as it prepares to list in New York, reveals that it made a USD 696.6 mn loss in the first nine months of the year after seeing a 72% plunge in booking revenues during 2Q. The company is now doing better as it prepares to hit the Nasdaq, reporting a USD 219.3 mn profit in the third quarter.
The real recovery in emerging markets is just getting started, with accelerating growth, monetary easing, and progress toward a vaccine guiding currencies and stocks to two-year highs, Bloomberg cites Bank of America and Morgan Stanley as saying. Despite the world of risks EMs are prone to, measures of volatility are falling, and the signing of the world’s largest trade pact by Asia Pacific nations on Sunday is adding to the favorable outlook. Investors will now be on the lookout for monetary policy decisions, which “will remain as accommodative as possible and we should expect further easing over the winter,” Bloomberg quoted Societe Generale chief currency strategist Kit Juckes as saying.
Foreign student enrollment at US colleges declined to a 16-year low in the 2019-20 academic year as a result of covid-19 and the Trump administration’s restrictive policies on immigration, Bloomberg reports. And it looks likely to get worse in 2020-21, as undergraduate and graduate enrollment declined 15% and 7.8%, respectively, for the fall semester. We were already seeing signs of this here: Egyptian students and education experts told us that while they may still want to return to the US and UK, their eyes are already drifting elsewhere.
Oh, and speaking of saving capitalism: Our friends ast CIB have released their 2019 sustainability report. Which this year dives not just into the expected ESG measures, but also the bank’s pandemic response. You can read CIB’s launch press release (pdf), check out the full report here (pdf) or visit the report’s landing page here.