Coronavirus latest: Global coronavirus cases exceed 700,000

China’s central bank cuts short-term lending rate to boost liquidity

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

China’s central bank cut its short-term lending benchmark on Monday and injected Rmb50bn ($7.1bn) into the financial system as the country grappled with the prospect of sharply slower growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The People’s Bank of China cut the seven-day reverse repo rate used to manage short-term liquidity by 0.2 percentage points, taking it to 2.2 per cent. Lowering the rate, which sets the cost of seven-day lending from the central bank, is a far less substantial easing measure than a cut to the central bank’s main policy lever — the medium-term lending facility rate.

But the move, which came alongside an injection of about $7bn through seven-day reverse repos, will pull down the cost of short-term loans and boosts interbank liquidity, providing some relief from tight funding conditions.

The PBoC last cut the short-term rate in February by 0.1 percentage points as the country’s financial system returned from an extended lunar new year holiday.

South Korea lowers P2P lending cap on fears of rising delinquencies

Song Jung-a reports from Seoul

South Korea’s financial regulators have lowered the peer-to-peer lending cap from Won50m ($41m) to Won30m ($24.5m) due to concerns about a rise in delinquent and toxic loans amid the fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.

The revised rules also allow individuals to lend up to Won10m ($8.2m) for property-related investment products, lowered from the original Won30m proposed in the P2P regulation bill approved last November, the Financial Services Commission said on Monday. The rules apply from August 27.

The revision is also aimed at protecting consumers by preventing deceptive P2P lending as the coronavirus continues to impact Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Under P2P lending loans are often offered to individuals and businesses through social media and the internet, covering a wide range of investment products for startups and small merchants.

Outstanding P2P loans in South Korea have increased to Won2.4tn ($2bn) as of the end of February from about Won750bn ($614m) at the end of 2017, while their delinquency ratio rose from 5.5 per cent to 14.9 per cent, according to the FSC.

Mexico steps up appeals for citizens to stay at home

Jude Webber reports from Mexico City

Mexico reported 993 confirmed coronavirus cases nationally and 20 deaths as the health ministry stepped up its appeals for people to stay at home and traffic data suggested compliance to date was slow.

Mexico’s health undersecretary said on Saturday that compliance with the stay at home appeal, which the government is not enforcing, was around 30 per cent and said Mexico was facing a now or never moment to slow the spread of the virus and spare the impact on the health service.

Mexico City’s traffic congestion was down 36 per cent, compared with early March, according to data from navigator Waze, shared on social media by sustainable mobility activist Xavier Treviño Theesz. According to journey planning app Moovit, public transport use was down 50 per cent compared with mid-January.

China reports 30 new imported coronavirus cases

Health authorities in China reported 31 new confirmed coronavirus cases to the end of Sunday, 30 of which were imported cases, with the remaining infection reported in Gansu province. The number of new imported cases was down from 44 a day earlier.

Overall, mainland China has reported 81,470 coronavirus infections. However, experts have highlighted the existence of unreported cases, particularly for patients that show no symptoms.

There were four new deaths to the end of Sunday, taking the total number of fatalities to 3,304.

Australia tightens scrutiny of foreign takeovers

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

The Australian government has tightened its scrutiny of foreign takeovers over concerns overseas companies could buy up strategic assets on the cheap during the coronavirus crisis.

It follows warnings from two government MPs that distressed companies in the aviation and freight sectors could become vulnerable to takeovers by state-owned enterprises from authoritarian regimes, including China.

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Treasurer, said on Monday all foreign investment and takeover proposals would now be scrutinised by the government’s foreign investment review board to protect the national interest. However, he denied the measures were aimed specifically at China, noting Beijing was only the fifth-largest overseas investor in Australia last year while the US was the largest.

“These are extraordinary times and we have seen the value of Australian companies, indeed companies right around world, be severely diminished because of the coronavirus and we don’t want predatory behaviour that is not in the national interest occurring,” Mr Frydenberg told Australian radio.

The temporary changes to regulations will apply to existing and new investment proposals. Previously, most foreign takeovers and investments proposed by private companies were not considered by the Australian government unless they were worth more than A$1.1bn.

Richard McGregor, analyst at Lowy Institute, said the new measures were no doubt made with Beijing’s state-owned enterprises in mind, especially as conspiracy theories are swirling about how China is using the crisis as an opportunity to assert its influence.

“But vultures come in many forms, and I think this will end up applying to lots more companies than just those from China,” he said.

News you might have missed

Trump extends US social distancing guidelines to April 30 Donald Trump has extended the US social distancing guidelines until the end of April, amid predictions that the number of deaths there could rise to 100 times what the country has seen so far. One of his most senior medical advisers warned that the death toll could reach 200,000, up from just over 2,000 today.

Mexico López Obrador says self-isolation would play into hands of opposition Despite desperate pleas by the health ministry for people to stay at home, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador again appeared to minimise and politicise the looming Covid-19 crisis.

Ft Lauderdale mayor demands strict docking protocols for Zaandam cruise liner A stricken cruise liner with four dead, two confirmed coronavirus patients and 138 passengers and crew with flu-like symptoms aboard was on course to transit the Panama Canal on Sunday evening en route to Florida.

Nigeria orders two-week lockdown of Lagos and Abuja Nigeria’s president has ordered a two-week lockdown of the commercial capital Lagos and the federal capital Abuja as Africa’s most populous country nears 100 coronavirus cases. He also said all commercial and private aircraft would be grounded.

Moscow to impose full quarantine upon residents from Monday Moscow’s mayor has ordered a full quarantine of citizens from Monday, banning all residents from leaving their homes except for absolute necessities.

New York fatalities climb towards 1,000 New York recorded an additional 237 coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 965.

UK could take six months or longer to get ‘back to normal’ It could be up to six months – and perhaps longer – before British people can return to their “normal” lives, according to the deputy chief medical officer. Speaking at the government’s daily press briefing Jenny Harries said lockdown measures would have to be gradually lessened and that dropping restrictions suddenly would be “quite dangerous”.

Oil prices slump, Asia stocks fall as coronavirus measures extended

US oil prices fell below $20 a barrel, Asia equities slipped and US stock futures moved lower as governments said social distancing measures to stem the spread of coronavirus would have to be extended.

West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, fell more than 7 per cent to a low of $19.92 a barrel, the lowest level in 18 years, as the hit to global economies from coronavirus dents demand. International benchmark Brent crude was down 5.7 per cent at $23.50 a barrel.

Japan’s Topix fell 2.7 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea was down 3.2 per cent in early trading. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was an outlier, up 0.8 per cent. S&P 500 futures slipped 1.2 per cent.

US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday night that the guidelines to avoid social contact would remain in place until April 30, following a warning from one of his most senior medical advisers that the death toll from coronavirus could reach 200,000.

The S&P 500 had ended down 3.4 per cent on Friday as investors piled into haven assets such as US Treasuries ahead of the weekend. The index had gained 10.3 per cent for the week amid relief over a $2tn emergency stimulus package.

Signs of slowdown in countries’ death rates and growth of cases

Steve Bernard in London

Every day the Covid-19 virus is infecting an increasing number of people. However, the rate of growth in countries is starting to slow.

Among countries with more than 5,000 cases, this is most visible in Spain, which two weeks ago had a growth rate above 40 per cent per day on average and has seen this number fall to about 15 per cent.

The US continues to see increases above 25 per cent per day, but have fallen from recent highs of nearly 40 per cent. Iran, one of first countries to see a major outbreak outside of China, has started to see an increase again in recent days, edging back up to nearly 10 per cent.

The same also looks to be true with deaths.

Among countries with more than 100 deaths, this slowing down is most visible in Spain, which two weeks ago had a growth rate above 50 per cent per day on average, and has seen this number fall to about 20 per cent.

Global coronavirus cases exceed 700,000

Steve Bernard in London

The total number of cases worldwide has surpassed 700,000 on Sunday as an additional 44,279 people were confirmed to have contracted coronavirus.

The US has so far added 9,516 cases in the past day to about 133,000, with 21 states still to report their numbers.


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