Early Wednesday morning, public health officials in China announced that they had once again reported no new cases of the coronavirus anywhere in the country of 1.4 billion.
Granted, China’s daily stats have been trending toward zero for months, even if the world may never learn how many Chinese were actually infected – and how many actually died – during the outbreak. Nevertheless, the news seemed to energize Beijing, which announced that it might lower its 2020 GDP target ever so slightly even as Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, reported a strong rebound in China sales last month. Volkswagen CEO Stephan Wöllenstein says in a blog post published Wednesday that the carmaker is aiming to hit its pre-corona sales targets for the world’s largest car market – however difficult that might be to believe.
The notion that the Chinese auto market could be “back to normal” by summer – as Wöllenstein claims – sounds far-fetched, considering that certain restrictions on movement remain in Hubei and elsewhere.
What’s more, the CCP’s office overseeing Hong Kong called the SAR’s anti-government protests “political viruses”, and warned that Beijing would crack down with force if violent, disruptive protests were to resume. After the disappearing acts Beijing pulled on citizen journalists reporting out of Wuhan, not to mention the arrest of Jimmy Lai, we suspect young Hong Kongers will be too focused on saving their careers and making rent to stir up trouble for the Communists.
Offering a study in contrasts, Brussels released new projections calling for disastrous economic contractions in some of the EU’s worst-hit member countries, including Italy. Under “benign assumptions”, EU output will decline 7.4% this year, the EU expects – a deeper contraction than the aftermath of the financial crisis. Compared with its autumn forecast, the EU is heading for a €850 billion ($918 billion) investment shortfall for 2020 and 2021. Greece, Italy and Spain are expected to see the steepest declines with a more than 9% decline in GDP. By contrast, GDP in Poland will fall by 4.3%, before rebounding by 4.1%.
EU bureaucrats also warned that the virus threatens the very survival of the European political experiment, a sentiment that has been echoed by several European heads of state.
Meanwhile, Germany reported 947 new coronavirus cases on Monday, a slight increase on the prior day, while also reporting an uptick in recorded deaths from the disease. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute also reported an uptick in deaths, with 165 recorded on Monday, bringing the Germany-wide total to 6,996. Germany has reported a total of 164,807 infections, with 147,400 having made a full recovery.
For the fourth day in a row on Wednesday, Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases – 10,559 new infections, to be exact. That’s just shy of Sunday’s daily record of 10,633 new cases.
Right now, Russia now has 165,929 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as it climbs the global coronavirus outbreak rankings like King Kong scaling the Empire State Building. Oddly, the Russian death toll remains suspiciously low, with just 86 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 1,537.
After closing Russia’s border with the Far East in January, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has slipped to 59% in April from 63% a month earlier, one of the lowest prints on record, as hysteria about the outbreak (which has been mostly centered on Moscow and the surrounding area) and lingering resentments about continued cuts to social services as Russia grapples with low oil prices and myriad other issues. The pandemic will force the Eurasian giant to run a budget deficit equivalent to 4% of its GDP for 2020, its finance minister warned on Wednesday.
Starting during the early morning hours on Wednesday, the NYC subway stopped running between 1 am and 5 am, a practice that will continue every day until the outbreak subsides. More than 1,000 police officers were assigned to handle what is the first overnight shutdown of the city’s subway system in at least 50 years. Officers from the NYPD’s department of homeless outreach moved the indigent sleeping in the subway cars to shelters, accompanied by nurses prepared to take care of their health-care needs.
With futures in the green, investors will be keeping an eye out for anything that might offer further justification for optimism. But as Sam Zell warned yesterday, anyone who thinks this is going to simply revert back to normal in a few months is deluding themselves.
The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed around the world yesterday ticked higher compared with the day before, but not by much, remaining roughly in the ~80k range.
While perusing the overnight headlines this morning, we enjoyed a hearty chuckle over what passes for “news” at Disney-owned ABC.
A retired Kansas farmer who mailed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo an N-95 mask to give to a frontline worker there has received an honorary degree from his state.
Dennis Ruhnke of Troy, Kansas, was bestowed with a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University during a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
“In 1971, Dennis was two credits away from earning his degree in agriculture when his father passed away. He chose to leave school to take care of his mother and the family farm,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who presented the degree alongside the university’s president, said in a Facebook post. “Dennis’ kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree.”