By the close of trade on Friday, the South African rand strengthened against the US dollar.

  • Gains were limited following an upward revision in the number of new cases of coronavirus. During the last two months, as the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has spiraled into a global threat, countries around the world have scrambled to impose travel bans, quarantine millions, and isolate sick people in an attempt to stop the spread of the new virus. Yet, as of Sunday, there were 78,000 cases of Covid-19 in at least 29 countries, including surging case tolls in Italy, Iran, and South Korea, as well as an ongoing outbreak on a cruise ship off Japan. The likelihood that we’re hurtling into a pandemic.   I have detailed at the end of this message just what the breakdown look like.
  • The authorities in Wuhan on Saturday introduced 14 days’ mandatory quarantine for recovered coronavirus patients, after some discharged patients again tested positive. From Saturday, all patients who had recovered and been discharged had to be sent to designated places for two weeks of quarantine and medical observation, the city’s coronavirus treatment and control command center said on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
  • The guardians of the world economy have convened, amid mounting fears that the coronavirus outbreak poses a greater threat to global growth than first envisaged. Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 nations have met on Saturday and Sunday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for the first time since the virus forced much of China to be quarantined and then began to spread.
  • Turkey has closed its border with Iran and halted incoming flights as a precaution to stop the potential spread of coronavirus after the neighboring country reported 43 cases of the disease, the health minister said on Sunday. All highways and railways were closed as of 5 p.m.
  • In the US, business activity in both the manufacturing and services sectors stalled in February as companies have grown increasingly concerned about the coronavirus outbreak.
  • On the contrary, existing home sales fell less-than-expected on a monthly basis in January.
  • The Federal Reserve (Fed) Governor, Lael Brainard, stated that given low interest rates and low inflation that is less sensitive than in the past to changes in the labor market, the Fed will need to act proactively and aggressively to counter future downturns.
  • The Atlanta Fed Bank President, Raphael Bostic, stated that the US economy is set to grow at a 2.0% to 2.25% annualized rate this year and any disruption to activity from the coronavirus outbreak will be short-lived.
  • The yield on benchmark government bonds fell on Friday. The yield on 2021 bond declined to 6.28% while that for the longer-dated 2030 issue fell to 8.81%.

In early trade on Monday, the US dollar is trading 0.5% higher against the South African rand at R15.0732, while the euro is trading 0.2% higher at R16.3116.  The British pound has gained 0.2% against the South African rand to trade at R19.4944.

By the close of trade on Friday, the euro declined against most of the major currencies.

  • It was the calm before the storm. Last week, new data showed that the euro zone economy had seen an encouraging rebound in February, as activity in the services sector expanded strongly, while manufacturing slowed less than expected. However, the disruptions from the new coronavirus epidemic look set to hit the region’s businesses hard, especially as the number of cases outside of China grows. The European Central Bank and euro region finance ministers have seemed oddly sanguine in recent weeks, but that’s likely to change soon.
  • Eurozone consumer price index (CPI) rose in line with market expectations on an annual basis in January.
  • Business activity in the eurozone came in better-than-expected in February.
  • Further, manufacturing PMI rose to a 12-month high during the same period

In early trade on Monday, the euro has slipped 0.2% against the US dollar to trade at $1.0822, while it has weakened 0.1% against the British pound to trade at GBP0.8366.

Here is a roundup of the areas where cases of COVID-19, the virus’s official designation, have been confirmed:

CHINA

As of Sunday some 77,000 people had been infected and 2,442 had died across mainland China, the majority in and around Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where the outbreak was first reported.

Two people have died and at least 69 people have been infected in Hong Kong.

Ten infections have been counted in Macao.

ASIA-PACIFIC

South Korea: 602 people have been infected by the virus and five people have died. The number of cases jumped sharply in the last days after an outbreak cluster in a religious sect in southern city Daegu.

Japan: more than 130 people have been infected and four have died. Three of those deaths were passengers who had been on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined off Japan, where the number of infections is now at 630.

Singapore: 85

Thailand: 35

Malaysia: 22

Taiwan: 26, including one death

Australia: 17

Vietnam: 16

Philippines: 3, including one death

India: 3

Nepal: 1

Sri Lanka: 1

Cambodia: 1

NORTH AMERICA

United States: 35

Canada: 8

EUROPE

Italy: 132, two deaths. On Saturday Italy became the first country in Europe to put some of its citizens under quarantine, with over 50,000 residents in eleven towns facing lockdown.

Germany: 16

France: 12, including one death

Britain: 13 [4 from the cruise ship]

Russia: 5

Spain: 2

Finland: 1

Sweden: 1

Belgium: 1

MIDDLE EAST

Iran: 43, 8 deaths, the largest number of fatalities of any country outside China.

United Arab Emirates: 11

Israel: 1

Lebanon: 1

AFRICA

Egypt:  5