Business Maverick

Business Maverick

February 11 : Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

(Photo: Unsplash / CDC)

Singapore’s approach to the coronavirus has been applauded by experts around the world, the U.S. Department of Justice charged four Chinese nationals with espionage and there may be another interest rate cut on the horizon for New Zealand. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

Model Approach

As governments in Asia struggle to reassure their populations over the coronavirus, one country is winning praise for its approach to keeping its citizens informed — Singapore. Public health experts say the city-state’s approach to public communication is providing a model for others to reduce panic, rumors and conspiracy theories. In a nine-minute recorded message on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “fear can do more harm than the virus itself,” then laid out steps residents can take to help prevent the spread of the virus, like exercising good hygiene, while assuring them that the city had enough supplies of basic goods. Moreover, he reassured Singaporeans that the virus didn’t appear as deadly as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, meaning that most people would likely experience a minor illness. Meanwhile, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has topped 1,000, and one estimate put the mortality rate from the disease at 1%.

Markets Lift

Asian equities are poised to open higher Tuesday after U.S. stocks hit a record high as investors looked past the potential economic impact of the spreading coronavirus, and treasuries rose. Futures pointed to gains in Australia and Hong Kong, while Japanese financial markets are shut for a holiday. The S&P 500 Index climbed to a new high Monday, with most sectors advancing. The Chinese yuan traded offshore extended gains, while the yen was little changed. Elsewhere, the euro weakened after the region was buffeted by political headlines. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s succession plan collapsed, and polls put Sinn Fein in place for a possible role in Ireland’s next government, depressing the country’s banking stocks. Oil fell below $50 a barrel to the lowest level in more than a year as prospects for an emergency meeting of OPEC+ withered, raising fears of a supply glut at the same time the coronavirus is weighing on global demand.

Charged

The Department of Justice announced charges Monday against four members of China’s People’s Liberation Army for the 2017 hack of Equifax, a breach that exposed the personal information of about 145 million Americans. The announcement by Attorney General William Barr follows an indictment in Atlanta accusing the Chinese military personnel of conspiring with each other to hack into Equifax’s network and stealing sensitive data on nearly half of all U.S. citizens. “This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” Barr said in a statement. “Today, we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us.”

Peak Powerhouse?

Plenty of experts have lived to regret their predictions of the downfall, the collapse — the peak of anything China. But here it is. A bold call for the ages: We very likely have just witnessed Peak China as an export powerhouse. In the third quarter of last year, 14% of all global goods exports came from China, according to data collated by the World Trade Organization. That was second only to the final quarter of 2015 when China’s share of global exports topped 15%. Still, while China’s exports remained robust in 2019, it certainly won’t be repeated in the first quarter of 2020, what with a de facto industrial shutdown in the world’s second largest economy because of the coronavirus crisis. History says epidemics tend to have fleeting effects on economies. This time, though, the health crisis now underway is not happening in isolation. What with the trade war, supply chain pressures, geopolitics and worries over espionage and human rights abuse, the virus is really only just the latest blow in a long list of challenges for the country.

Theranos Attack

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes mounted an attack Monday against charges that she defrauded patients who used her company’s blood tests. The former chief executive of the blood-test startup that imploded after reaching a $9 billion valuation argues that allegations she misled patients should be dismissed as too vague and because the government can’t prove that people who got inaccurate test results were actually harmed. Prosecutors say they’ve got plenty of proof that Holmes and ex-Theranos President Sunny Balwani duped patients into relying on technology they knew was faulty, and put some of those people in peril by providing false lab results. A trial is scheduled for August in San Jose, California. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila is weighing a defense request to dismiss the indictment.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.

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