Asian shares at seven-month high
Shares in Asia have hit a seven-month high on Wednesday thanks to the record close for the S&P 500 on Wall Street on Tuesday night.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan rose 0.3%, up for a third straight day to 570.80 points, a level not seen since late January, Reuters reports.
Stocks in Australia were up more than 1% helped by a number of companies such as the biotech success story CSL and Domino’s Pizza reporting dividends. The Kospi in South Korea saw a leap of 0.6%.
The S&P 500 passed an all-time peak set in February just before the onset of the pandemic, which sent the benchmark index to lows on 23 March. The index has surged about 55% since then helped by enormous government and central bank stimulus.
According to Tapas Strickland, economist at Melbourne-based National Australia Bank, that represents the “fastest-ever” recovery from a bear market at 126 days from trough to peak. In layman’s terms that the period from the most recent low back to the previous top.
We can at last stop calling Joe Biden the US Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee. The former vice president will officially be the candidate to take on Donald Trump in November when the incumbent’s handling of the pandemic could be the decisive issue.
You can read all about how the nomination went down here:
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,510 to 226,914, data just released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases shows.
The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,243, the tally showed.
South Korea rocked by new outbreak
South Korea is struggling to contain an outbreak of the virus in the capital, Seoul, after the country reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Wednesday.
New cases rose by 297, including 283 local infections, raising the total to 16,058, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the news agency Yonhap reports.
New daily cases have been running in three figures for a week, forcing renewed social distancing measures and the closure nightclubs, bars and cafes.
Some 150 cases were reported from Seoul, and 94 from the surrounding Gyeonggi province.
Cases linked to the Sarang Jeil Church spiked to 457 as of Tuesday, according to the health authorities. People aged over 60 and above accounted for nearly 40%.
The latest outbreak has echoes of the country’s initial outbreak where members of a doomsday sect were particularly affected.
Virus mutation ‘may be more infectious but less deadly’ – expert
A leading expert on infectious diseases says that an increasingly common mutation of the coronavirus found in Europe, North America and parts of Asia may be more infectious but less deadly than previous versions.
Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at Singapore’s National University Hospital and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, has told Reuters that evidence suggests the proliferation of the so-called D614G mutation in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates, suggesting it is less lethal.
“Maybe that’s a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,” he says, adding that most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate.
“It is in the virus’ interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,” he said.
The mutation was discovered as early as February and it has circulated in Europe and the Americas. Our science team have written this explainer about the significance of mutations of the virus:
More from our correspondent in New Zealand, Eleanor Ainge Roy:
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has announced a small health team to assist the government and work across multiple ministries. She is also boosting security at quarantine hotels.
Around 500 extra defence force personnel will be deployed to quarantine hotels, making the total of defence force personnel 1200.
“This boost in staff will be progressively rolled out over six weeks… by scaling up our defence force staff we can stop using private security contractors, and replace them with defence force staff.”
Ardern said it was “unrealistic” to expect the border controls to be “perfect”.
Six new cases in New Zealand
There are six new cases in New Zealand as the country continues to a slight uptick in infections.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, director-general of health, told a media conference that one of the cases is an imported case from Qatar via Sydney.
The other five cases are in the community and are linked to the Auckland outbreak.
Five people are receiving hospital care.
Ardern said today’s results were “encouraging” and they were not seeing a surge or additional cases related to the Rydges worker who tested positive on 16 August.
“So far the rollout of our resurgence plan is working as we had intended.”
Argentina confirmed 6,840 new cases of coronavirus and 172 deaths on Tuesday as the country struggles to contain a surge in recent weeks.
The country’s health ministry said it now had a total of 305,966 cases and 6,048 deaths.
Dr Luis Camera, a member of the Argentine government’s health advisory group, said while cases, intensive care admissions and hospital bed occupancy rates were not still climbing, they had settled at an unsustainable level.
He told Reuters TV that Argentina had hit the “altiplano”:
The highest points for the city of Buenos Aires could have been the last days of July and the first days of August. Now the infection curve has stabilized at a plateau, but a high plateau. In South America, you call it the altiplano, as opposed to the lowlands.
Global cases pass 22 million
The number of coronavirus cases recorded around the world has passed 22 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Deaths from the virus stand at more than 777,000.
Stock markets in Asia Pacific have opened in positive territory on Wednesday after that historic lead from Wall Street.
The ASX200 in Sydney has jumped 0.38% in early trade while the Kospi in South Korea was up 1%. Japan’s Nikkei was off slightly.
Kyle Rodda at IG Markets in Melbourne said that despite the S&P500 record close, much of the heavy lifting was done by Amazon and the Google parent Alphabet, rallying 4.1 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.
[It] speaks of the concern that this record high is built on shaking foundations. Only 61% of stocks are trading above their 200-day moving average – well below the 81 per cent that characterized the last record high.
New cases in Mexico have risen by 5,506 to 531,239, although the government says that the actual number of infections is most likely “significantly higher”.
Death from the disease stand at 57,774, the world’s third-highest total after the US and Brazil.
The US postmaster general has tried to take the heat out of the growing anger about possible disruption to mail-in voting in November’s election by announcing that all proposed operational changes to the postal system will be delayed until after the vote.
House speaker Nacy Pelosi said the promise by Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee whose changes threatened to disenfranchise millions of voters as the pandemic impacts the abulity oif people to vote in person, were “insufficient”.
Follow all the voerage of this and the Democratic convention at our US live blog:
Testing and contact tracing are crucial measures for slowing the spread of Covid-19, but are not enough on their own to contain the disease, according to a new study by researchers at Imperial College, London.
The work published on Wednesday in the The Lancet Infectious Diseases says that test-and-trace can reduce the virus’ reproduction rate, or R number, by 26%, AFP reports.
But lead author Nicholas Grassly, a professor at Imperial College’s School of Public Health, said the test and trace work had to be carried out very quickly in order to be effective. That meant
- immediate testing with the onset of symptoms and results within 24 hours
- the quarantine of contacts, also within 24 hours;
- and the identification of 80% of cases and contacts.
Very few countries – notably South Korea, Taiwan and Germany – have come close to staying within these guidelines, and most are still falling well short.
Vaccine will be compulsory in Australia – PM
Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, says it will be compulsory for people to have a Covid-19 vaccine once it is available.
Australia had earlier revealed it has agreed a deal with AstraZeneca to supply the potential Oxford University vaccine. People will receive the vaccine for free in Australia, Morrison said, calling the Oxford vaccine “one of the most advanced and promising in the world”.
Meanwhile, the Australian state of Victoria, the epicentre of the country’s second wave of infections, recorded 216 new cases in the past 24 hours and 12 deaths, officials said on Wednesday morning.
You can follow all the updates from there at our Australia live blog here:
Wall Street’s S&P500 hits record high
The S&P 500 stock index on Wall Street closed at a record high on Tuesday night marking the complete recovery of shares after the shock of the pandemic.
The record confirms that Wall Street’s most closely followed index entered a so-called bull market – or upward curve – after hitting its pandemic low on 23 March. It has surged about 55% since then thanks to massive intervention by the US government and the Federal Reserve central bank. It closed 7.79 points, or 0.23% higher at 3,389.78.
That makes the bear market – or downward movement – that started in late February the S&P 500’s shortest in its history. The S&P 500 is a broader index of US companies than the Dow Jones industrial average, which represents only 30 companies.
The story of how share prices have roared back as workers around the world find themselves out of a job or on reduced pay is one of the central issues of the pandemic. Read more about how it has panned out in the US here:
And from a UK perspective here:
Good morning/afternoon/evening. I’m Martin Farrer and thanks for joining me for live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are the main developments in the past 24 hours:
- Global coronavirus cases are approaching 22 million and the global death toll has risen to almost 776,000. The biggest drivers of the case counts are the United States and Brazil, according to John Hopkins University. The US has recorded over 5.45 million cases and more than 170,000 lives have been lost.
- Stocks on Wall Street’s S&P500 index hit an all-time high on Tuesday night completing their recovery from the pandemic shock. The world’s most closely watched measure of share prices has increased 55% since its coronavirus low on 23 March after huge government and central bank stimulus.
- Young are not invincible amid the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization warned. The WHO said Covid-19 is now being spread mainly by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who may be unaware they are infected, potentially transmitting the disease to more vulnerable groups. “We are seeing young people who are ending up in ICU. Young people are dying from this virus,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said.
- The Netherlands could go “back to square one” if the country doesn’t control new infections, the Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, warned. Without imposing mandatory restrictions, Rutte gave people urgent advice not to hold parties at home and to limit events like birthday celebrations and other private house gatherings to a maximum of six people.
- A hotel quarantine security guard in Sydney has contracted Covid-19. The guard most likely was infected by a traveller from the US, officials said, rasing questions about whether nurses should replace security personnel.
- Ireland’s nationwide coronavirus restrictions are being “significantly tightened” until at least 13 September as cases surged at the fourth highest rate in Europe. Following the rise in the last three weeks, people have been urged to restrict visitors to their homes, avoid public transport and for older people to limit their contacts. “We’re absolutely not at a stage where we can return to normality. We are at another critical moment,” the taoiseach, Michael Martin, said.
- Germany is expected to extend its pandemic furlough scheme to 24 months. The chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she welcomed the proposal to let the kurzarbeit programme run on until 2021. A final decision is expected on 25 August.
- Lebanese authorities announced a new lockdown and an overnight curfew to rein in a surge in infections. The new measures will come into effect on Friday and last just over two weeks. Areas damaged by the devastating explosion that hit Beirut on 4 August will be exempt from the restrictions, as clean-up efforts continue across multiple neighbourhoods.
- South Africa will launch clinical trials of a US-developed coronavirus vaccine with 2,900 volunteers this week. It’s the second such study in the African country worst hit by the disease. Known as NVX-CoV2373, the vaccine was developed by US biotech company Novavax from the genetic sequence of SARSCoV2. It will be administered to the first volunteer in the randomised, observer-blinded trial on Wednesday.
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