Coronavirus latest: Infection rate suggests cases levelling off in England

Coronavirus latest: Infection rate suggests cases levelling off in England

US stocks drop despite better-than-expected jobs data

Key jobs data has signaled the labour market in the world’s largest economy is doing slightly better than investors had feared.

But this failed to energise US stock markets, which all opened lower, following an escalation in US-China tensions overnight.

Donald Trump took aim at a third major Chinese technology company, giving US businesses 45 days to stop dealing with WeChat, the messaging app owned by Tencent.

The S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones index all dropped by 0.4 per cent in opening trades.

The labour department’s non-farm payrolls report showed the US added 1.76m jobs in July. That was lower than a record 4.8m in June, but better than the 1.6m economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast.

The dollar, which has fallen by more than 6 per cent against a basket of trading partners’ currencies this year, strengthened 0.5 per cent to a reading of 93.3, adding to gains it had chalked up earlier in the session. The index has declined from more than 102 in March.

US dollar rout pauses on better-than-expected jobs data

The US dollar rebounded from a multi-month rout, after key jobs data signaled the labour market in the world’s largest economy was doing slightly better than investors had feared.

The labour department’s non-farm payrolls report showed the US added 1.76m jobs in July. That was lower than a record 4.8m in June, but better than the 1.6m economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast.

The dollar, which has fallen by more than 6 per cent against a basket of trading partners’ currencies this year, strengthened 0.5 per cent to a reading of 93.3, adding to gains it had chalked up earlier in the session. The index has declined from more than 102 in March.

The jobs data failed to energise US stock markets, which all opened lower, following an escalation in US-China tensions overnight. Donald Trump took aim at a third major Chinese technology company, giving US businesses 45 days to stop dealing with WeChat, the messaging app owned by Tencent.

The S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones index all dropped by 0.4 per cent in opening trades.

Covid-19 update: India tops 2m cases, Mexico exceeds 50,000 deaths

Harry Dempsey and Alan Smith in London

Coronavirus cases globally topped 19m while related deaths rolled past the 700,000 mark, with Latin America holding firm as the centre in the fight against the pandemic.

The number of daily Covid-19 deaths has been steadily rising but remains lower than the peak in April when Europe accounted for most of them. Around 5,800 people have died from Covid-19 each day on average in the past week, over half coming from the Americas.

India has been driving a surge in deaths in Asia, where total case numbers have passed 2m, or about 10 per cent of global cases, and deaths have risen above 41,000, putting it on course to overtake the UK as the country with the fourth-highest number of fatalities.

Mexico is the country with the third-highest number of recorded deaths from the disease, tallying more than 50,000.

An increasing number of countries in Europe including the Netherlands, France and Germany have seen a rise in confirmed cases during the past few weeks, as the UK considers slapping requirements for travellers to quarantine on return from a broader pool of countries. The UK added Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas to its quarantine list on Thursday.

The caseload in Africa has breached 1m, with South Africa being the worst-hit country as it closes in on 10,000 deaths.

US government bonds slip and dollar inches higher after jobs numbers

Colby Smith in New York

Treasuries sold off following the release of US jobs figures, sending the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note higher by nearly 0.01 percentage points to 0.54 per cent. Shorter-dated Treasuries were flat, with the yield on the two-year note steady at 0.12 per cent.

The US unemployment rate fell to 10.2 per cent in July but employers added fewer jobs than in June.

Gold prices edged lower from their record high levels, falling to $2,055 a troy ounce, while the dollar index rose marginally.

US equity futures point to a slight drop when trading begins in New York. The S&P 500 is tipped to decline 0.29 per cent.

“It is a good report,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist of the Leuthold Group. Taken together with the “fantastic” jobless claims figures released on Thursday, which showed that the pace of new applications for unemployment aid slowed last week, Mr Paulsen said he was more optimistic about the outlook for the US economy.

[The report] is not a blow-out from what was expected, but it is a reminder that we can have hotspots and partial re-closings in places around the country, but while that is going on, there have been a lot of cool spots that were opening up further.

US hiring cools to 1.8m in July as virus surge slows rebound

Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

The US unemployment rate fell to 10.2 per cent in July but employers added fewer jobs than in June, as the economic rebound from the pandemic was hindered by a spike in Covid-19 cases in the south and west.

The fall in the jobless rate from 11.1 per cent in June was slightly better than economists had expected. According to the US labour department, employers added 1.8m jobs in July, a much slower pace from 4.8m in June, but ahead of expectations for an increase of 1.6,.

Average hourly earnings unexpectedly rose 0.2 per cent against expectations for a 0.5 per cent decline. Hourly wages were up 4.8 per cent year-on-year down slightly from 4.9 per cent in the previous month.

The improvement in the labour market recovery came as the White House and Democrats remained sharply divided over how much Congress should provide in a new aid package for millions of Americans who remain out of work.

The data released on Friday underscored the continuing impact of the summer’s coronavirus outbreak, which has taken the American death toll to more than 150,000. Data published on Thursday showed that the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits last week remained stubbornly above 1m.

The stakes are high for Donald Trump, who had been banking on a strong economy and record low unemployment to propel him to re-election. The president faces a tough battle against Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, as he struggles respond to a crisis that has taken a severe toll on his standing in opinion polls and balance the need to protect public health without causing further economic damage.

Ohio governor tests negative for coronavirus after initial positive

Ohio governor Mike DeWine has tested negative for coronavirus after an initial test administered before Donald Trump’s visit to the state came back positive.

Mr DeWine, who was scheduled to join Mr Trump before his tour of a Whirlpool factory, took a rapid test on Thursday morning “as part of the standard protocol” to greet the president and tested positive, although he had no symptoms, according to the governor’s office. By late Thursday, the results of a second test came back negative. Mr DeWine’s wife, Fran, and staff members also tested negative.

The governor and his wife plan to undergo another round of tests on Saturday.

“The PCR tests for the Governor, First Lady, and staff were run twice. They came back negative the first time and came back negative when they were run on a second diagnostic platform,” the governor’s office said through Mr DeWine’s Twitter account.

“We feel confident in the results from [The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center]. This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state.”

PCR tests are considered more reliable than rapid diagnostic tests such as the one Mr DeWine initially took on Thursday.

Antigen tests provide results in one hour or less, and positives are “usually highly accurate” while negatives may need to be confirmed with a molecular test, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s website. A molecular test – including PCRs – is “typically highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated”.

The governor’s office said it will work with the manufacturer of the antigen test “to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred”.

Aberdeen FC match postponed after Covid-19 outbreak

A Scottish Premiership football match has been called off, after two players tested positive for Covid-19 in Aberdeen FC’s squad.

Saturday’s away game for the Dons against St Johnstone has been postponed, after two players were confirmed to have caught the virus, while six other players were self-isolating.

The city, a hub for the North Sea oil and gas industry, has recorded new 79 cases in a virus cluster that led First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday to order a local lockdown that includes the closure of all indoor hospitality and banning travel further than five miles for leisure purposes. Aberdeen FC players were reportedly seen in one of the city’s bars earlier this week.

Unlike the English Premier League, the Scottish Premiership ended the 2019/20 season in May after suspending play months earlier. The weekend’s fixtures are set to be the second round of matches in the new season that started last week.

England’s weekly infection rate indicates numbers are levelling

Clive Cookson in London

England’s latest weekly coronavirus infection survey shows the number of Covid-19 infections continuing to increase slowly from a low point in late June.

But Katherine Kent, an analyst with the Office for National Statistics report, said: “This week’s estimates suggest this [rising] trend may be levelling off when compared with the data we published last week.”

The ONS and its study partners at Oxford and Manchester universities estimated that 28,300 people within the community (rather than care homes and hospitals) in England had Covid-19 during the most recent week from July 27 to August 2, equating to around one in 1,900 individuals.

During the week there were an estimated 0.68 new Covid-19 infections for every 10,000 people in the community population in England or around 3,700 new cases a day.

The survey has also been extended for the first time to Wales.

An estimated 1,400 people in the principality were infected — around 1 in 2,200 of the Welsh population.

Evening Standard to cut a third of jobs due to Covid-19

Alex Barker in London

About a third of jobs at the Evening Standard are to be eliminated in the most far-reaching cost cuts at any large UK publisher since the pandemic upended the newspaper business, according to people briefed on the plan. 

Staff at the free commuter newspaper were told on Friday morning of management proposals to cut 115 jobs to help save the company, which is owned by Evgeny Lebedev, the Russia-born newspaper proprietor nominated for a peerage last week. 

The restructuring plan for the London-based title, which has long faced financial difficulties and reported a pre-tax loss of £13.6m in 2019 under the editorship of former chancellor George Osborne, will keep a print edition but will attempt to accelerate its digital transition. 

Subject to consultation with staff, the proposal includes removing 69 editorial positions to reduce the 167-strong newsroom by about 40 per cent. A further 31 commercial jobs and 15 in distribution are also under threat. The overall group employs 341 people.

Investors turn attention to key US jobs numbers

Global stocks slipped as tensions between the US and China rose and investors waited on US jobs data that will give an insight into the pace of the economic recovery.

European stocks fell in morning trading, with the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 losing 0.2 per cent, led lower by cyclical sectors including banks and autos. London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.3 per cent, while futures trade pointed to declines of 0.6 per cent for the S&P 500 on Wall Street.

Economists polled by Reuters forecast a rise for US non-farm payrolls of 1.58m in July, substantially down from June’s 4.8m gain.

While data on Wednesday showed the pace of new applications for US unemployment aid decelerated in the previous week, a separate report from wage processor ADP showed private jobs growth slowed markedly in July.

“Non-farm payrolls are the timeliest major data release for the US economy, and they take on additional significance due to the stalling of consumer spending that occurred amid the reimposition of lockdown measures across much of the US in July,” said Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe, which provides foreign exchange services to major corporates.

French industrial output bounces back but trade deficit widens

Harry Dempsey in London

French industrial production extended its strong recovery in June, rising by more than economists had expected, as factories stepped up a gear following the lockdown.

French exports fell by a historic 28.9 per cent in the second quarter of the year though, underlining the extent to which coronavirus ground trade to a halt in one of Europe’s biggest economies. The fall follows a 7.3 per cent decline in the previous three-month period. Imports sank 20.7 per cent in the April-June quarter, extending a 6.2 per cent decline from January to March. The second-largest eurozone economy’s trade deficit widened by €6.9bn over the previous quarter to €20.4bn.

Industrial output increased 12.7 per cent from May, according to Insee, the national statistics office. This is a stronger reading than economists’ 8.9 per cent predictions in a Reuters poll but slower than May’s 19.9 per cent gain.

Second-quarter output dropped by a quarter compared with the same three-month period a year earlier. In June, it was down 11 per cent versus February, which is a similar gap to Germany.

Hopes of a swift economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis in France were dented last week after consumer confidence declined in July. That came after France reported its biggest contraction in economic output since the second world war, falling 13.8 per cent.

Coronavirus cases have been rising, hitting a two-month high with almost 1,700 new infections reported on Wednesday, which could derail the nascent recovery.

UK households set for lower energy prices after drop in demand

Donato Paolo Mancini and Nathalie Thomas

The maximum that 15m UK households pay for their gas and electricity is set to fall by an average of £84 from October, reflecting a sharp decline in energy prices this year as coronavirus lockdowns triggered a slump in demand.

The move would bring the cap to its lowest level — of £1,042 a year for the six winter months — since it was introduced in 2019, the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem said on Friday.

The caps protect an estimated 15m households that are either on variable — rather than fixed — tariffs for their electricity and gas, or have pre-payment meters in their homes.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem chief executive, said millions of households financially affected by the Covid-19 crisis would see “big savings on their energy bills this winter when the level of the cap is reduced”.

The regulator plans to advise the government to keep the price caps until 2021.

Spain’s industry benefits from relaxing lockdown measures

Chelsea Bruce-Lockhart in London

Spain’s industrial sector rebounded more than expected in June, as the government lifted its most stringent nationwide lockdown measures, but output remains well below pre-crisis levels.

Production across the industrial sector of the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy fell 14 per cent in June, compared with the previous year, after reporting a year-on-year revised drop of 24.7 per cent in May. From May to June, output increased 14 per cent.

Spain has been one of the European economies hardest hit by the pandemic, with gross domestic product dropping 18.5 per cent in the second quarter of the year. More than 1m workers have lost their jobs.

The change in production levels in June was marginally better than economists had expected. A Reuters poll consensus was for a year on year decline of 15.4 per cent.

Spain has since recorded a resurgence of coronavirus cases. The number of new cases averages more than 3,000 a day.

While other European countries have also seen an uptick in cases, the change has not been as dramatic. Fears are growing that measures to control a potential second wave could restrict Spain’s chances of a quick recovery from the shock of a strict lockdown in April and May.

Hargreaves Lansdown’s record new client numbers boost profit

Antonia Cundy in London

Profit at Hargreaves Lansdown jumped 11 per cent after a record number of new customers joined the platform while markets whipsawed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK’s largest investment platform signed up 188,000 net new users in the year to the end of June. That increased its active client base 15 per cent, bringing its total assets under management to £104bn, up 5 per cent compared with a year previously.

The rise in profits was largely driven by a 72 per cent increase in revenue earned from stockbroking, after December’s general election in the UK gave Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a huge majority while the coronavirus crisis helped the group to record trading levels.

Between 1.1m and 1.3m deals were made per month between March and June, compared with a monthly average of 370,000 for the same months in the past three years.

The fund supermarket, which last year suffered a crisis of investor confidence over its involvement in the Woodford scandal, increased its dividend 31 per cent to 54.9 pence per share after profits rose by 11 per cent to £339.5m.

Including a sale of Funds Library, the FTSE 100 group’s fund information website, pre-tax profit rose 24 per cent to £378.4m.

UK corporate roundup

Standard Life Aberdeen suffered a 30 per cent fall in profits in the first half of the year as heavy outflows linked to its lost business with Lloyds Banking Group and the market turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic took their toll on the UK’s second-largest asset manager.

UK’s largest fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdowne reported a record £7.7bn in new business in the 12 months to the end of June, and said it saw a “surge” in new clients during the pandemic. Hargreaves, which came under fire during the period for its role in the Woodford crisis, raised its dividend by just over a third to 54.9 pence.

Pharma group Hikma has also joined that rare group of companies that has been able to raise its payout to shareholders, after operating profit rose 25 per cent in the first half of the year. The generic drugmaker said results beat expectations following revenue growth in all three of its business lines.

Also out this morning: results from property portal Rightmove, which unsurprisingly saw profits slide as the property market went into deep freeze during the pandemic, while interdealer broker TP ICAP said trading activity has slowed “markedly” following a frenzy earlier in the year.

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Germany’s trade volumes rise, boosted by Chinese demand

Harry Dempsey in London

Germany’s trade volumes rebounded in June, as the value of goods sent to and from China soared.

Trade with the US however tumbled as coronavirus spread from east to west.

Exports from Europe’s biggest economy jumped 14.9 per cent to €96bn in June compared with the previous month, the largest increase since the data series began in 1990, the Federal Statistical Office said on Friday. Imports rose 7 per cent to €81bn, the biggest jump since May 2010 when the country was recovering from the European sovereign debt crisis.

“With these strong numbers, some upward revision of the second quarter GDP data should not be excluded,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING.

However, the volume of trade remains roughly 10 per cent lower compared with the same period in 2019, showing that there is some mileage to cover to recoup the losses to trade incurred due to the pandemic.

Exports to and imports from China gained by 15 per cent and 20 per cent. Trade with Germany for the US and the UK, which have struggled to contain outbreaks of coronavirus, fell by about a fifth, although the declines softened compared with May.

Germany generated a current account surplus of €22.4bn in June 2020, which was higher than the same month a year ago.

Record one-day tally takes India’s caseload above 2m

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India has detected a record 62,000 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, pushing its total confirmed caseload over the 2m mark, as the pathogen continues to spread rapidly through the population, weighing heavily on efforts to revive the faltering economy.

Nearly 900 coronavirus patients have died in India over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of confirmed Covid-19 fatalities to more than 41,600, the fifth-highest death toll in the world.

India, which has the world’s third-highest confirmed caseload after the US and Brazil, added its latest 1m cases in just three weeks, after crossing the 1m milestone in mid-July.

Of the total caseload, more than 600,000 remain active, an increase of more than 262,000 in the last three weeks.

India is now adding new coronavirus cases faster than any other country in the world, as the United States and Brazil show declines in their five-day average of new caseloads.

The virus is now spreading from big cities — such as Mumbai and New Delhi — where it was originally concentrated to more underdeveloped rural areas, with fragile health systems that may not be able to cope with the strain.

India’s caseload is also believed to be far higher than the official numbers indicate, given that the country still has one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates of any country in the world, despite efforts to scale up.

India has carried out just 16,035 tests per million of its people, compared to more than 62,000 per million in Brazil, and more than 190,000 per million in the United States.

The rampant spread of the virus is weighing heavily on India’s economy, which is expected to contract sharply this year.

SLA profits dive as pandemic takes toll on asset manager

Siobhan Riding in London

Standard Life Aberdeen suffered a 30 per cent fall in profits in the first half of the year as heavy outflows linked to its lost business with Lloyds Banking Group and the market turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic took their toll on the UK’s second-largest asset manager.

The Edinburgh-based group reported adjusted profit before tax of £195m, slightly above analysts’ expectations of £179m but well below the £280m posted for the same period last year.

SLA pointed to a 13 per cent fall in revenues derived from management fees, driven by £24.8bn of net outflows and by investors moving into lower-margin cash-like products as a result of the volatility caused by the health crisis. The group’s assets under management and administration fell from £544.6bn to £511.8bn at the end of June.

“There is no question that the impact of Covid-19 has played a role on our results today, and across our industry, particularly in relation to lower revenue,” said SLA’s outgoing chief executive Keith Skeoch. He added that despite the “exceptional circumstances”, SLA’s performance had been “resilient”. The company maintained its interim dividend of 7.3p.

SLA is ushering in former Citigroup banker Stephen Bird as its chief executive as it seeks to draw a line under the problems that have dogged the group since its unsuccessful merger in 2017.

The departure of Mr Skeoch, one of the architects of the integration of Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life Investments, will end the group’s association with the merger. Martin Gilbert, his partner in engineering the deal, stepped down as co-chief executive last year and will exit SLA’s board in September.

German industrial output picks up but second wave fears rise

Harry Dempsey in London

German industrial production increased 8.9 per cent in June, as factories in Europe’s biggest economy cranked up output by slightly more than most economists had expected as the eurozone’s largest economy eased its coronavirus-induced lockdown.

German industrial output extended a recovery after two steep falls in March and April, the Federal Statistical Office said on Friday.

Although industrial output rose by a record amount, exceeding the revised 7.4 per cent jump in May, production remained depressed, still 11.7 per cent off the level at the same month last year.

Production in the auto industry advanced by more than half but remained about a fifth lower compared with its pre-pandemic level. Output of intermediate goods also rose sharply, adding 18.3 per cent.

A further sign of a rebound in German manufacturing, catching up with the strong comeback for retail sales, followed data released on Thursday showing that industrial orders rose at a record rate in June.

The country’s industrial companies expect to maintain the momentum and increase production over the coming three months, a separate survey by Munich-based think tank the Ifo Institute showed.

However, looming over any positive outlook is an emerging resurgence in coronavirus cases. Germany recorded more than 1,000 daily cases on Thursday for the first time since May, raising concerns about a second wave.

UK bank customers face higher overdraft charges

Claer Barrett, Personal Finance Editor

Customers of high street banks could face annual overdraft charges as high as 49.9 per cent as a regulatory shake-up of borrowing costs delayed by Covid-19 finally comes into effect.

“The new charges are going to hit borrowers at the worst time, just as the furlough scheme unwinds and unemployment starts to spiral,” said Andrew Hagger, director of MoneyComms, a comparison website.

Customers with large overdrafts were likely to be “shocked” by the difference in monthly charges, Mr Hagger said, which in some cases would be “double what you’d be charged for borrowing on a credit card”.

According to his research, charges for dipping £2,000 into the red for 10 days on the HSBC Advance account will double from £9 to £18 under the new rates.

“Better-off people do tend to have much bigger overdrafts, as they’re often not people who receive a monthly wage, [but they] have big swings in cash flow or have a high bonus element to their pay,” he said.

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Chinese exports grow at faster pace than forecast

Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

Chinese exports rose sharply in July compared to last year, according to official figures released on Friday.

Exports rose 7.2 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier, data from the Chinese customs administration showed, despite expectations of a fall from economists polled by Reuters.

That compares to a 0.5 per cent rise in June, when exports returned to growth after contracting on the back of the global coronavirus pandemic.

A recovery in trade comes after China’s economy returned to growth in the second quarter, and follows data earlier this week showing factory activity jumped at its fastest rate in nine years in July.

However, Chinese imports underperformed expectations to fall by 1.4 per cent in July, after having risen in June, in a sign of a mixed picture for trade.

Gold on track for best week since global financial crisis

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Gold was headed for its best week since the global financial crisis as investors braced for US employment data that could show recovery in the world’s biggest economy is losing steam.

Meanwhile, stocks across Asia-Pacific fell in early trading on Friday after US president Donald Trump issued an executive order banning transactions with the Chinese owners of apps TikTok and WeChat. The move could further raise tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Gold rose as much as 0.5 per cent to $2,072.50 a troy ounce — another record high — before paring some of those gains to trade at $2,061.37. That put gold, which often serves as a haven in times of uncertainty, on track for its strongest weekly rise since November 2008.

The precious metal’s value has risen by more than a third this year, prompted by massive easing measures from central banks intended to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

In equities, China’s CSI 300 fell 1.7 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 2.8 per cent. The Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent — WeChat’s Chinese owner — dropped 7.9 per cent following Mr Trump’s executive order. Alibaba, another Chinese internet company, fell 5.7 per cent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 per cent while Japan’s Topix was down 0.6 per cent.

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Australia’s Victoria state reports 450 new coronavirus cases

Australia’s state of Victoria reported a further 450 coronavirus cases on Friday as its premier called on the public to follow rules to protect healthcare workers from the virus.

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, said the state had recorded 139 new cases among healthcare workers. He asked that the public take steps to protect themselves and, in turn nurses, doctors, paramedics and other hospital workers.

More than 1,500 healthcare workers have contracted the virus in Victoria.

“The best thing we can do is to follow each of these rules and make good decisions at a personal level because that will not only keep us safe and every other family safe but it will mean our healthcare heroes are exposed to less of this virus,” he said.

A lockdown on Melbourne and surrounding areas was tightened this week in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

On Friday, the Reserve Bank of Australia said it estimates the lockdown in Victoria will cut at least 2 percentage points from national growth in the current quarter.

Under its current baseline scenario, the central bank expects the country’s economy to contract by 6 per cent in 2020 and 5 per cent in 2021.

Victoria reported 11 new deaths, taking its overall tally since the pandemic began to 181 fatalities linked to Covid-19. Victoria has now logged 13,867 cases.

Mr Andrews said an expanded door knocking programme had conducted around 1,150 checks on the residences of people under isolation orders, but of those 150 were not home.

Appetite for Uber Eats fails to offset ride-sharing collapse

Dave Lee in San Francisco

A surge in Uber’s food delivery business was unable to counteract a 75 per drop in global ride-sharing, dragging the company’s overall revenues down 29 per cent as it counts the cost of the coronavirus crisis.

For the April-June quarter, Uber’s gross bookings — the total value of trips, deliveries and other Uber services — fell 35 per cent from the same period last year, to $10.2bn. The number of active users of Uber’s services fell by 44 per cent to 55m.

But locked-down Uber customers pushed revenue for the company’s food delivery business, Uber Eats, up by 103 per cent year-on-year to $1.2bn — the first time food delivery has driven more revenue for Uber than ride-sharing.

Speaking to investors on Thursday, Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the delivery business had shifted from being a “luxury to a utility”, and was now as big as the ride-share business was when he took over the company in 2017.

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No new Covid-19 cases at New Zealand’s quarantine facilities

No new cases of coronavirus have been detected at New Zealand’s quarantine and managed isolation facilities in 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said Friday.

It has been 98 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.

“There are no new recovered cases to report, so there continue to be 23 active cases in managed isolation facilities,” the ministry said in a statement. “None of those people are receiving hospital-level care.”

The last case acquired locally from an unknown source came on May 1. There is currently no evidence of community transmission, the ministry said.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country since the pandemic started remains at 1,219.

Laboratories processed 4,014 tests on Thursday, bringing the total number of tests completed to 486,943. “This is another strong result around our testing numbers,” the statement said.

China reports 27 new local Covid-19 infections

Health authorities in China reported 27 new Covid-19 infections to the end of Thursday as new cases in the Xinjiang region came in below 30 for a fifth day.

Located in China’s far west, Xinjiang reported 26 new cases, with the outbreak in the regional capital Urumqi extending into a fourth week. New cases in Xinjiang hit a daily high of 112 on July 30 but have since slowed.

Officials launched mass testing and limited the movement of people to control the Urumqi outbreak.

Meanwhile another locally transmitted case was discovered in Beijing. Authorities in the Chinese capital said it was linked to an outbreak in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province.

No new cases were reported from Liaoning.

A further 10 imported Covid-19 cases took China’s overall tally to 84,565.

UK business presses for more support on local lockdowns

Daniel Thomas and George Parker in London, and Andy Bounds in Huddersfield

Boris Johnson’s government is being urged by business leaders to give more financial support and information to companies hit by local lockdowns, as ministers consider extending coronavirus restrictions.

Preston council in Lancashire said on Thursday that it expected the government to announce new restrictions there soon after a rise in Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, Leeds city council urged people to maintain social distancing following an increase in cases.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, convened experts from the government’s joint biosecurity centre on Thursday to review existing local lockdowns in Leicester and parts of northern England.

With further lockdowns likely, the CBI is calling on the government to support businesses hit by the restrictions with a system of funding, as well as more clearly communicate the arrangements.

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Asia-Pacific stocks struggle for direction ahead of US jobs data

Stocks in Asia-Pacific struggled for direction on Friday while gold climbed to a new high as the White House and Democrats remained at loggerheads over a stimulus package and investors awaited US non-farm payrolls figures.

Japan’s Topix was down 0.2 per cent, the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.6 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 per cent. Futures tip the S&P 500 to dip 0.1 per cent.

Gold marched yet higher to a record $2,072 a troy ounce on concerns over the US recovery.

After days of talks on the next coronavirus rescue plan failed to reach an agreement, President Donald Trump has used the threat of executive action to persuade Democrats to move closer to his position.

Investors are also awaiting the July non-farm payrolls figures for further pointers on the state of the US economy.

“A weak report will raise concerns about the current policy pulse in the US and raise pressure for Republicans and Democrats to extend income support through Q4 of this year,” ANZ said in a note, adding that employers are expected to have added 1.5m jobs.

Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed up 0.6 per cent as the number of new applications for US unemployment aid came in below expectations.

US death toll jumps by more than 1,000 for third day running

Peter Wells

US coronavirus deaths rose by more than 1,000 for the third day in a row, while the number of new cases increased by the most in five days.

A further 1,251 people died, according to Covid Tracking Project data, down from 1,403 on Wednesday.

Texas (306) had one of its biggest one-day jumps in deaths, while California (166) and Florida (120) also revealed large increases. Tennessee (42) was the only state to report a record jump in fatalities.The national death toll, which stands at over 151,000 has risen by more than 1,000 a day 14 times in the past 17 days.

A further 54,184 people in the US tested positive for coronavirus over the past 24 hours, from 52,265 on Wednesday. It was the fifth day in a row that new infections have risen by fewer than 55,000 a day.

Texas (7,598), Florida (7,650) and California (5,258) reported the largest jumps in cases. Indiana (1,040) was the only state to reveal a record single-day rise, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

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Ohio governor Mike DeWine has tested positive for coronavirus, just hours before a planned meeting in Cleveland with Donald Trump. Mr DeWine, 73, took a Covid-19 test “as part of the standard protocol” to greet the president.

The Texas coronavirus death toll jumped by more than 300, handing the Lone Star state one of its biggest daily increases in fatalities on record. A further 306 people died, the state’s health department revealed, up from 236 on Wednesday.

A surge in Uber’s food delivery business was unable to counteract a 75 per drop in global ride-sharing, dragging the company’s overall revenues down 29 per cent as it continues to count the cost of the coronavirus crisis.

US stocks marched higher on Thursday amid hopes for further fiscal stimulus and after data showed fewer Americans than expected applied for unemployment aid for the first time. The S&P 500 was up 0.6 per cent to notch its fifth consecutive day of gains and move closer to record levels.

The mass participation London Marathon has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus crisis, with organisers cancelling the race while keeping an elite event featuring stars including Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Organisers said they had decided to cancel the event “with a heavy heart”.

The US has lifted its level-four travel advisory for international travel that has advised American citizens since March to avoid travelling overseas owing to the global spread of coronavirus.

Pakistan on Thursday announced the easing of restrictions on restaurants, parks and cinemas, almost five months after they were shut to stop the spread of coronavirus. Asad Umar, minister of planning, said these locations will reopen from Monday.

US household debt plunged for the first time since 2014, driven by a steep fall in credit card balances as consumer spending plunged amid coronavirus lockdowns. Consumer debt balances amounted to $14.27tn at the end of the second quarter, a 0.2 per cent drop from the previous period.

An Israeli laboratory will start human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine in October. The Israel Institute for Biological Research, a government-run research centre based outside Tel Aviv, and the Weizmann Institute have been working on a vaccine since March.

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