By Powerscourt on 07/11/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 07 November 2020


Joe Biden appears to be edging his way ever closer towards the White House. If he wins Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he will reach the 270 needed to win the presidency. However, hopes of an imminent resolution were further hampered last night after the Supreme Court ordered all mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted separately, following an appeal lodged by Republicans to exclude those votes from the total count.

Meanwhile, in a speech late last night, Biden told the press that he and his transition team aren’t waiting for a verdict before getting to work, and that he and Kamala Harris have already met with public health and economic experts as they begin working to combat the pandemic.

If the voting goes his way, few can be envious of the hand that Joe Biden has been dealt. Trump will remain president for at least a further two and a half months, and everything about his current rhetoric suggests that he is unlikely to want to go either quietly or cleanly. And once Biden has finally ascended to power, one of the first of many daunting tasks will be to rebuild an economy that is in dire need of fiscal relief as a result of the coronavirus.

The US Labor Department’s closely watched employment report, published yesterday, will have done nothing to make that task seem any less daunting. Figures for October showed that the US economy created the fewest jobs in five months, and that over 3.6 million people have been out of work for more than six months – up 1.2 million from September. While the headline unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 7.9% the month before, the report suggested that the figure is heavily skewed by people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work.”

As noted in yesterday’s update, reports of a new COVID-19 strain in Denmark’s mink population have led to fears that the virus may be mutating (as well as to the prompt culling of millions of unfortunate Danish mink), although the WHO attempted to allay fears in a press conference yesterday afternoon. “Right now, the evidence that we have doesn’t suggest that this variant is in any way different in the way it behaves…it is still the same virus”, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.

In the UK, data released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics provided early signs that the rate of coronavirus infections across England and Wales appears to be slowing down. The ONS said that the rate of increase for the week commencing October 25 was less steep compared with previous weeks, and that “incidence appears to have stabilised at around 50,000 new infections per day.” The data showed similar signs to a model from King’s College London, which this week suggested that the R number in the UK is at 1.0, meaning that the outbreak is no longer growing.

In Liverpool, the government’s “operation moonshot” mass testing pilot scheme launched at midday yesterday. The pilot scheme will see half a million people offered tests, including a new form of rapid testing, even if they do not have symptoms. It emerged yesterday that Downing Street officials involved in the operation travelled to Slovakia last weekend, where – impressively – two-thirds of the country’s population were tested for coronavirus in just two days. “They are interested in our lessons and in the details and results,” said Slovakia’s deputy defence minister, Marian Majer, who added that Slovakia has offered to send a planning team to London to help with UK preparations if required.





The European multinational aerospace corporation booked 72 jet deliveries in October, approaching last year’s monthly pace for the first time since the start of the pandemic. It said Jan-Oct deliveries reached 413 aircraft, down 36% from a year earlier. However, October deliveries were down just 6.5% from 77 in the same month of 2019. Airbus sold 11 jets last month, mainly to private jet operators amid a slump in airline demand, and received another three A220 cancellations from Australia’s Macquarie MQG.AX. So far this year Airbus has sold 381 jets, or 308 after cancellations, outstripping Boeing BA.N in orders and deliveries as the U.S. planemaker’s 737 MAX remains grounded by a 19-month-old safety ban, expected to be lifted this month.

The Angola-Australian miner is set to make the first investment from its $400m climate investment fund through a landmark agreement with China’s biggest steelmaker. BHP and China Baowu Group have signed a memorandum of understanding focused on decarbonising steelmaking, a highly polluting industry that is reckoned to be responsible for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Under the five-year partnership announced on Friday, BHP will invest $35m in low-carbon steelmaking technologies and share technical knowledge with Baowu, one of its biggest customers. This includes a potential carbon capture and storage project at one of Baowu’s production sites in China and the utilisation of low carbon fuel sources such as hydrogen. “Our investments are focused on actions that can create real change in emissions,” said Mike Henry, BHP’s chief executive.


Consumer & Retail

French luxury house Chanel has increased prices for a second time this year, it said on Friday, as high-end brands seek to protect margins from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement responding to a Reuters query, Chanel said the latest price increases were “the consequence of recent significant exchange rate fluctuations between the euro and certain local currencies,” without giving further details. “These adjustments are made in all the countries where it is necessary and are the guarantee that Chanel items are sold at equivalent price levels throughout the world,” it said, adding this was particularly important at a time when international travel is very limited. Chanel in May hiked prices of handbags and other small leather goods worldwide by between 5% and 17%. Flavio Cereda, an analyst at Jefferies, said that had been followed by another increase of around 5% in October, notably in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Britain. He expected other luxury brands to follow suit to compensate for the pandemic’s hit to 2020 margins. LVMH’s star brands Louis Vuitton and Dior, Kering’s Gucci, Prada and Ferragamo among others have also increased prices this year. Brands say they have reduced the gap between their prices in Asia and the rest of the world, although analysts estimate the same item often costs as much as 30% more in the key Chinese market than it does in Europe.



Alphabet’s Google said on Friday it would not file a motion to dismiss a U.S. government lawsuit filed last month but would fight it in federal court. The U.S. Justice Department sued the $1 trillion search and advertising giant in October, accusing it of illegally using its market muscle to hobble rivals in the biggest challenge to the power and influence of Big Tech in decades. The two sides said in a short court filing on Friday that Google would refrain from filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It said it would file an answer to the government’s complaint before December 21. The two sides also said they had failed to reach an agreement on how to protect confidential information that was given to the government by third parties. They said that they would file statements on their positions by Nov. 13.



Sunak and Johnson agree to extend universal credit boost – The Times

Joe Biden says he is ‘going to win’ US election as lead expands – Financial Times

Time is running out to enact any trade deal with UK – EU lawmakers – Reuters