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Coronavirus latest: India passes 3m cases as Modi opens economy wider

8/24/2020, 6:00:50 AM

Education experts urge caution as pupils return

Andrew Jack in London

Schools around the world have reopened their doors or are preparing to restart, in many cases while coronavirus transmission rates are rising, provoking fresh concerns about whether and how the process should take place.

After a near global shutdown of education settings as the pandemic spread earlier this year, 22 countries have now fully reopened their schools. By mid-September, 12 more will do so and 55 have permitted partial reopenings.

Scientific studies have largely shown the health risks to children of Covid-19 to be less severe than for adults while pressure on governments has increased to reopen education to mitigate the long-term impact on students’ learning and accelerate economic recovery.

Read more here

8/24/2020, 5:40:33 AM

No Covid-19 compensation fund, Lebanon minister warns

The Lebanese government said on Monday it had not set aside money for families of Covid-19 victims, saying rumours that it had established a compensation fund were false.

Hamad Hassan — the country’s caretaker public health minister since the resignation of the government on August 10 over a devastating explosion that killed hundreds in Beirut six days earlier — condemned the funding reports.

He wrote on Twitter that “there is no compensation or aid to the families of the victims who die of coronavirus, contrary to all the rumours”.

Lebanon’s health ministry announced on Sunday that it had detected 507 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cumulative number to 12,698. There have been at least 123 deaths.

8/24/2020, 5:20:29 AM

Danish companies urged to reinstate guidance for investors

Richard Milne in Oslo

Danish companies have been some of the few to reinstate full-year guidance with their second-quarter results as Denmark’s financial regulator pushed them to tell investors how the rest of 2020 could be despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies from shipping group AP Moller-Maersk and brewer Carlsberg to wind turbine maker Vestas and jeweller Pandora have reintroduced their outlook for this year’s sales or profits in recent weeks.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority told companies to give guidance wherever possible when reporting second-quarter results even if great uncertainty remained over how Covid-19 could affect the economy and individual industries.

Read more here

8/24/2020, 5:00:21 AM

Asia stocks edge up on eve of Jackson Hole meeting

Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific equities rose on Monday as traders looked ahead to the US Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole meeting later in the week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 1.5 per cent while the CSI 300 gauge of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 0.8 per cent.

In Tokyo, the Topix edged 0.2 per cent higher and South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.9 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat.

Chinese tech group Tencent jumped 4.2 per cent — its most in two weeks — after it was reported that a White House executive order banning its WeChat app may not be as severe as previously believed.

Earlier in August, US President Donald Trump gave American companies 45 days to stop their “transactions” with the app. The move has prompted legal action from a coalition of users and came as tensions rise between Washington and Beijing.

Asian markets have reacted cautiously over recent weeks to signs of new waves of the coronavirus across the region, as well as mixed growth prospects. This month, Seoul reinstated virus measures after its worst outbreak in five months.

Analysts said traders were looking to Thursday’s Jackson Hole summit, where discussions of the growth outlook may have an impact on US markets.

Wall Street continued to rise last week, with the S&P 500 adding 0.3 per cent to close at another record high on Friday. Big tech companies have propelled equities higher while short positions have dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

In commodities, Brent crude, the international benchmark, was little changed at $44.33 a barrel on Monday.

8/24/2020, 4:40:56 AM

UAE to focus on post-pandemic food and water security

The United Arab Emirates said it will focus its planning on food and water security in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported on Sunday.

“The objective is to launch specialist initiatives that will ensure our readiness to confront all types of crises,” Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s vice-president and prime minister as well as ruler of Dubai, was quoted as saying by the Wam news agency.

Sheikh Mohammed, speaking after a weekend cabinet reshuffle, said an investigation into proposed post-pandemic measures would be led by Mariam Hareb Almheiri, pictured, the UAE food security minister.

The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, especially worrying for countries such as the Gulf federation of seven emirates, which is dependent on food imports.

“Our food and water security is part of our national security, and the sustainability of our food and water resources will ensure our sustainable development,” Sheikh Mohammed said, according to Wam.

8/24/2020, 4:20:19 AM

UK Treasury under fire over silence on virus loans

Michael Pooler and Robert Smith in London

The government has been criticised by politicians and campaigners for refusing to reveal the names of businesses that have secured state-backed coronavirus loans with a combined value of £52.7bn.

About 1.2m loans that each come with a government guarantee have so far been approved under schemes devised by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help businesses survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has provided regular updates on the number of loans authorised through the schemes, and their cumulative value, plus some information about which regions and industries have benefited.

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8/24/2020, 4:00:33 AM

India passes 3m cases as economy opens up

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India has now detected more than 3m coronavirus infections, and is now reporting more new cases daily than anywhere else in the world, as authorities move to further relax restrictions in a bid to revive the country’s flagging economy.

Nearly 57,700 Indian have died from complications due to coronavirus infections, the fourth-highest death count of any country in the world after the US, Brazil and Mexico.

In the past 24 hours, India detected more than 61,000 new infections — after touching an all-time high of 70,000 new cases on Saturday — bringing the total case count to 3.1m.

Hindus celebrated the annual Ganesh festival at the weekend, which included events such as immersing a clay idol of the elephant-headed deity in the waters off Mumbai, pictured. But tough restrictions prevented devotees from holding large celebrations and carrying out traditional rituals.

Despite the high death toll and severe disruption caused by coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has portrayed India as waging one of the world’s most successful battles against the pathogen, noting the country’s relatively low case fatality ratio.

But the virus has cast a long shadow over India, as schools have little prospect of reopening any time soon, and economic activity remains severely depressed.

New Delhi is continuing to ease restrictions on activities, as it seeks to revive the flagging economy.

This weekend, authorities announced it would now permit the resumption of film and television production as long as all crew members — except actors in front of the camera — wore masks on the set.

The city of Delhi is also permitting the re-opening of hotels, though the city is seeing a renewed rise in the daily case detection.

8/24/2020, 3:45:49 AM

Myanmar approved for multilateral loan of $250m

The Asian Development Bank said it would lend Myanmar $250m to help the government respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite a limited number of confirmed cases, Myanmar remains vulnerable to Covid-19, due to its limited public health system, a mobile population, crowded living conditions and limited water and sanitation infrastructure,” the bank said in a statement.

The money will be used to provide social assistance to the poor, including those in conflict-affected areas, ADB said.

Some would be diverted to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, “30 per cent of which are owned by women”, the lender added.

8/24/2020, 3:20:54 AM

Opinion: Pandemic shows US must make vital products

Kevin McCarthy, US House of Representatives minority leader

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we as a nation were forced at times to rely on other countries for supplies critical to our health and wellbeing. We must learn the lesson.

Our vulnerability to unreliable foreign supply chains for products we rely on, especially in emergencies, demands attention.

We must encourage a variety of domestic makers of medicines and personal protective equipment, so that we are less vulnerable when other supply chains fail, as they did in China earlier this year.

Read more here

8/24/2020, 3:00:39 AM

EmoticonQantas merges international and domestic operations

Australia’s Qantas Airways on Monday announced a thinning of its management ranks, as the carrier expects its international flights to be grounded indefinitely.

The airline said the chief executive of Qantas International, Tino La Spina, would leave the group on September 1 “in light of what is likely to be the extended grounding of this part of the airline”.

His responsibilities will be taken over by the domestic chief executive, Andrew David.

Group chief executive Alan Joyce said the Covid-19 crisis was “forcing us to rethink our business at every level”.

He said he expected international flights to be grounded until at least mid-2021.

Mr La Spina worked previously at the defunct Ansett airline in Australia and as chief financial officer of the National Express Group in the UK.

8/24/2020, 2:44:55 AM

China and Hong Kong report 41 new Covid-19 cases

China on Monday reported 16 new confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, all of which were imported.

There were five in Shanghai, three each in Fujian, Sichuan, and Yunnan, and one each in Shanxi and Shandong.

Officially, China has 215 confirmed cases imported from abroad.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said late on Sunday that 25 additional confirmed cases had been reported in the territory.

8/24/2020, 2:20:42 AM

Don’t shun healthcare, government tells New Zealanders

New Zealanders have no reason to avoid the healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s health ministry said at the weekend.

Officials were responding to reports of people who are reluctant to get an ambulance or go to hospital.

“All of the [Covid-19] cases who are in hospital are isolated and carefully managed separately from other patients,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“Hospitals continue to be safe places to receive medical care, and people should feel confident going to hospital to receive treatment.”

New Zealand reported just three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.

One case, the ministry said, is epidemiologically linked to the cluster in Auckland that shut the country down this month after more than 100 days without community cases.

The others are imported, including a woman in her 20s who arrived on August 16 from Croatia via Switzerland and Hong Kong. The ministry did not provide the second person’s travel details.

There are now 114 active Covid-19 cases in the country of 4.9m, of which 18 are imported.

On Sunday the government slightly eased quarantine restrictions around the country’s largest city. People can now transit through Auckland without stopping to travel for work.

8/24/2020, 2:00:38 AM

England and Wales criminal trial backlog lengthens

Jane Croft in London

The UK government is facing mounting criticism over its efforts in England and Wales to deal with a backlog of criminal court cases which has caused some jury trials to be scheduled for 2022.

The backlog originates from a government miscalculation of the number of crown court hours needed to deal with criminal cases in 2019, but the issue has been made worse by the coronavirus crisis. Crown courts were closed and jury trials suspended between mid-March and mid-May.

The number of outstanding cases in crown courts in England and Wales increased from 39,549 in early March to 43,676 by July 26, according to HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Read more here

8/24/2020, 1:40:19 AM

Victoria records sharp drop in new daily case total

The Australian state of Victoria reported 116 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, a sharp drop over recent days.

Health officials had expressed optimism the surge was under control after two days in a row with fewer than 200 new cases, before the barrier was breached again at the weekend.

There were 208 new cases reported on Sunday, following 182 on Saturday.

Victoria, the second most populous state, reported 15 deaths on Monday and another 30 over the weekend.

The north-eastern state of Queensland cracked down on gatherings after two new cases were recorded on Saturday.

The new cases are relatives of workers at the state’s largest youth detention centre in Wacol, after six cases linked to the facility on Friday. None of the inmates have tested positive.

Gatherings in private homes and public spaces will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people, down from 30, in Brisbane, the state capital, and several other population centres in the state.

8/24/2020, 1:20:45 AM

Shares show little movement as virus battle heats up

Daniel Shane in Hong Kong

Shares across Asia-Pacific were little changed as investors assessed new measures in the region to combat coronavirus.

Japan’s Topix fell 0.1 per cent in early trading on Monday while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 benchmark was flat.

South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1 per cent as Asia’s fourth-largest economy considered strict new lockdown measures to combat its worst outbreak in almost six months.

Futures for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and mainland Chinese shares were slightly higher. Trading in both markets begins later in the morning.

Traders were also weighing up the latest implications for the health crisis in the US.

The Financial Times reported that President Donald Trump was considering bypassing normal regulatory procedures to fast-track an experimental Covid-19 vaccine from the UK ahead of US elections.

S&P 500 futures were 0.2 per cent higher while the dollar was a hair lower as measured against its trading peers.

8/24/2020, 1:00:29 AM

EU commissioner pressed to quit over Covid-19 rules violation

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has apologised for attending a large golf dinner in his native Ireland the day after the government imposed a ban on such gatherings, as pressure mounted on him to resign.

The apology came after Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister, and Leo Varadkar, deputy prime minister, issued a joint statement calling on Mr Hogan to consider his position.

The European Commission said on Sunday afternoon that Mr Hogan had been asked to provide a full report to its president, Ursula von der Leyen, so she can assess the situation.

The Irish commissioner provoked a furore by attending a dinner with 81 people organised by a golf society in the country’s parliament in violation of rules established in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Hours after issuing his apology, Mr Hogan disclosed that he was stopped by police “for using his mobile phone while driving” to the event.

The affair has already prompted the resignation of Dara Calleary, Ireland’s agriculture minister, the morning after a newspaper reported he was at the hotel event in county Galway.

8/24/2020, 12:53:12 AM

Americans go back to movies despite continuing pandemic

Anna Nicolaou in New York

The first big US film release since the pandemic drew more than $4m in box-office sales, in a tentative sign that Americans are ready to come back to the movies after a five-month shutdown.

Unhinged, a thriller starring Russell Crowe, managed to earn $4.06m across 1,823 cinemas in North America according to ComScore. Jeff Bock, box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, called the results “a surprisingly robust start”.

Leading US exhibitors AMC and Regal reopened locations across the country last week. Their task: to safely lure audiences back, snap Hollywood out of its hibernation and revive the $40bn movie industry.

Read more here

8/24/2020, 12:40:37 AM

Covid-19-positive Australians sought for sensory survey

Australians who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being urged to participate in a global survey to help scientists learn more about the impact of the virus on the senses of smell and taste.

“We need more data from Australians confirmed or presumed to be Covid-19 positive to help fill the gaps of knowledge about the dramatic impact on the loss of sense of smell and taste,” Eugeni Roura, a University of Queensland nutritional chemosensing scientist, said at the weekend.

Prof Roura is part of a UQ team working with the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research to undertake the survey in Australia.

“Research published by the GCCR has found that … a significant loss in the sense of smell is an accurate predictor of Covid-19,” he said in remarks published on the UQ website.

“Covid-19 penetrates deeper, causing the death of olfactory neurons which transmit information to the brain — and this is what results in an acute and often long-lasting loss of the sense of smell,” Prof Roura added.

Daniel Hwang, another UQ researcher, said Covid-19 was also associated with severe impairment of chemesthesis — the ability to sense food’s chemical properties such as the “heat” from spice and the “cooling” effect of mint.

“This information is important, not only because it is predictive of Covid-19 but also because the loss of appetite associated with the loss of sensing may slow down the path to recovery,” Dr Hwang said.

8/24/2020, 12:20:39 AM

Eurozone industry fears rebound will be short lived

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

European manufacturing’s bounceback from its pandemic-induced crash this spring is slowing — and in Germany, the region’s industrial heartland, executives worry that the recovery could soon run out of steam, leaving them with years of painful rebuilding ahead.

Manufacturing activity and output in the eurozone continued to rise in August, according to the IHS Markit flash purchasing managers’ eurozone manufacturing index published on Friday, but at a slower rate than in previous months.

While German manufacturing activity continued to increase, there was a surprise contraction in France and some economists expect to see a softening in Italy and Spain when their sentiment data is published next week.

Read more here

8/23/2020, 11:54:42 PM

Raid on Peru club violating Covid-19 rules kills 13

Gideon Long in Bogotá

At least 13 people have been crushed to death or asphyxiated in a nightclub in Peru after police raided it to enforce coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.

Officers raided the Thomas Restobar club in the capital Lima on Saturday night, the interior ministry said.

More than 100 people inside rushed for the only exit to escape prosecution and became trapped on a staircase leading to the street.

Several revellers at the club in the Los Olivos district were injured and police arrested at least 23 people amid the chaos.

Of the dead, 11 had coronavirus, and 15 of those arrested tested positive, the ministry said.

Friends and relatives waited outside a local clinic early on Sunday awaiting news of the injured.

Peru has been under one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, although it has done little to help.

The country has recorded more than 575,000 cases of the virus – the sixth highest total in the world – and has the highest death toll per capita in Latin America, with more than 27,000 deaths.

The government has been gradually easing the lockdown in recent weeks in a bid to revive one of the worst-hit economies in the world, but still has strict bans in place on social gatherings.

Many commentators say that although the rules in Peru are tough, many people are simply ignoring them – hence the high coronavirus numbers.

8/23/2020, 11:40:24 PM

Johnson calls for sending children back to school

Sebastian Payne in London

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has appealed to parents in England to send their children back to school next week, warning that pupils’ life chances will be harmed if they stay at home from fear of the coronavirus.

The government is under pressure to ensure a successful reopening of primary and secondary schools next month after it struggled with efforts to get some pupils back into classrooms before the summer holidays.

The resumption of schooling is seen by Downing Street as vital to boosting the economy and allowing parents to return to work, as well as critical for pupils, many of whom were last in classrooms just before the lockdown in March.

Read more here

8/23/2020, 11:20:24 PM

Global dividends hit by record 20% fall in 2nd quarter

Global corporate dividend payouts in the second quarter fell nearly 20 per cent over the previous three months, according to asset manager Janus Henderson.

Its Global Dividend Index indicated total payouts fell by $108.1bn to $382.2bn, equivalent to an underlying decline of 19.3 per cent and the worst quarterly drop since the index started at the end of 2009 after the global financial crisis.

More than a quarter of companies reduced their second-quarter dividends, and more than half of this group cancelled them altogether.

“Despite the cuts witnessed so far, we still expect global dividends to exceed $1tn this year and next,” said Jane Shoemake, Janus Henderson’s global equity income investment director.

For shareholders, the worst-affected regions were Europe and the UK, where payouts fell by two-fifths. France saw total dividends reach their lowest level in at least a decade.

Healthcare and communications company dividends proved most resistant to cuts, while financial services and consumer discretionary payouts were particularly vulnerable.

“A temporary halt in dividends does not change the fundamental value of a company, though it can affect short-term sentiment, and it remains important for income investors to be diversified both by geography and sector,” said Ms Shoemake.

8/23/2020, 11:00:36 PM

Minnesota man charged over $841,000 payout

A Minnesota construction company owner has been charged with fraudulently obtaining $841,000 from the US Paycheck Protection Program designed to help small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyle Brenizer, 32, of St. Paul, faces wire fraud and money laundering charges after he allegedly submitted two false and misleading PPP applications, the US justice department alleges.

While the first was denied, the second was submitted using another name and was approved.

The US government said Mr Brenizer falsely stated that his company, True-Cut, had an average monthly payroll of more than $330,000 for about 30 employees.

8/23/2020, 10:25:59 PM

Mexico reports ‘catastrophic’ 60,000 deaths

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Mexico surpassed its “catastrophic” worst-case scenario of 60,000 Covid-19 deaths over the weekend, and is shaping up as one of the worst health and economic casualties of the global pandemic.

Latin America’s second-biggest economy, which has the world’s third highest overall coronavirus death toll, hit the grim milestone on Saturday, when the health ministry reported 60,254 and 556,216 confirmed cases.

Hugo López-Gatell, the health under-secretary who is in charge of Mexico’s Covid-19 strategy, predicted in June that 30,000 to 35,000 people could die and “in a very catastrophic scenario [the death toll] could reach 60,000”.

Mexico’s Liga MX premier football league played without spectators at the weekend but fans congregated outside stadiums, including the Jalisco arena in Guadalajara, pictured, to cheer Atlas in its 1-0 defeat of Querétaro on Sunday.

8/23/2020, 10:09:40 PM

S Korea on brink of near-lockdown nationwide as virus surges

Edward White

South Korea is on the brink of shutting down schools, suspending sports events and recommending employees nationwide work from home, as the country struggles to contain its worst coronavirus resurgence in nearly six months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control on Monday reported 266 new infections, marking close to 3,000 new cases over the past 10 days as an outbreak, mostly linked to church groups, has spread from Seoul across the country.

“We are facing a serious situation on the verge of a large-scale, nationwide pandemic,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, the KCDC chief, warned on Sunday.

South Korea has a three-stage classification system for social distancing. Health officials are considering moving the country Level 3, the strictest stage, from Level 2.

This would mean all school, kindergarten and day-care centres either move to online classes or close, all gatherings are restricted to fewer than 10 people and office workers not considered essential are told to work from home, among other measures.

The decision facing officials comes after moves over the past week to reinstate social distancing across the country and restrict travel in and out of Seoul.

The latest surge in South Korean infections comes after the government in Seoul won international praise for its rapid deployment of mass testing and tracing in response to the outbreak in February and March, underscoring the risk countries face from new Covid-19 outbreaks despite having efficient systems for monitoring and suppressing outbreaks.

Officials have blamed the resurgence in part on the Sarang Jeil Church, a conservative church group.

More than 800 of the church’s members have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the country’s biggest cluster since the virus swept through the quasi-Christian religious sect, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, in February and March.

8/23/2020, 10:04:33 PM

Singapore probes new case of unknown origin

Singapore at the weekend detected the lowest number of migrant workers with coronavirus since August 12, building confidence the city-state has curbed its spread through labourers’ dormitories.

The health ministry reported just 43 new cases on Saturday, the lowest since the 30 found 10 days earlier.

Singapore recorded 73 worker cases on Sunday, marking 13 consecutive days of sub-100 new case tallies.

There were a total of 87 cases on Sunday, including 13 imported and one of unknown origin.

“There is one case in the community today who is currently unlinked,” the ministry said on Sunday. “Epidemiological investigations of the cases are in progress.”

The ministry said all the identified close contacts of the cases have been isolated and placed in quarantine.

8/23/2020, 10:03:24 PM

Australians liken travel bans to N Korean diktats

Jamie Smyth in Sydney

Australian residents who have had their request for a travel exemption rejected say their country’s tough Covid-19 travel rules are more typical of North Korea than a liberal democracy.

Apart from banning residents and citizens from leaving the country, the centre-right Liberal-National government has closed its borders to non-residents and implemented caps of 4,000 passengers on the number of expats permitted to return each week.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said the measures were needed to tackle an outbreak of Covid-19 in Victoria, which was caused by breaches in Australia’s hotel quarantine system for returning residents.

Read more here

8/23/2020, 10:02:55 PM

UK Japanese food chain Wasabi files for insolvency

UK casual-dining chain Wasabi has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, said it had launched a company voluntary arrangement to stave off its financial troubles.

The sushi and bento chain is to undergo “a financial and operational restructuring programme” involving extra funding from its investors.

Wasabi employs about 1,500 people in its 51 UK outlets, mostly in London. Some restaurants might be closed, the company said.

Founded by Korean businessman Dong Hyun Kim, Wasabi sold a minority stake to Capdesia Group in 2019.

Wasabi said in a statement it had held “constructive engagement with landlords
regarding … rents” and had appointed KPMG to run the CVA.

“Grab-and-go food retailers have been some of those businesses most significantly affected by the Covid-19 crisis,” said Paul Berkovi, KPMG’s head of UK leisure restructuring.

8/23/2020, 9:56:53 PM

US public pension plans face ‘vicious cycle’

Chris Flood in London

Coronavirus, disappointing investment returns and declining interest rates pose a triple threat to the health of the US public pension system, which is haemorrhaging cash and heading for a record funding shortfall.

The total funding gap for the 143 largest US public pensions plans is on track to reach $1.62tn this year, significantly higher than the $1.16tn recorded in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to Equable Institute, a New York-based non-profit think-tank.

The weak financial condition of the US public pension systems poses severe risks for the living standards of millions of employees and retired workers.

Read more here

8/23/2020, 9:42:26 PM

News you might have missed …

Large US corporate bankruptcies are running at a record pace this year and set to surpass the levels of the financial crisis in 2009. As of August 17, 45 companies with assets of more than $1bn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a common way for distressed businesses to reorganise, according to New Generation Research.

US stocks this week hit a record high, back losses inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. But share prices of a fifth of S&P 500 companies were more than 50 per cent below their all-time highs on Friday and the average stock in the index is 28.4 per cent below its peak, according to Cornerstone Macro, a research group.

Frantic buying by Malaysian retail investors of hot stocks such as rubber glove makers has driven trading volumes on the country’s stock exchange to record highs, prompting the bourse to consider steps to curb the frenzy. Turnover in the year to date has already topped last year’s total by 20 per cent at 143.8bn ringgit ($34.5bn).

The French champagne industry cartel of growers and producers last week agreed to a sharp cut to the annual grape harvest as sales have collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic. “Champagne is synonymous with partying,” said David Faivre of Champagne R. Faivre. “And the whole world isn’t doing that right now.”

UK business activity stood at its strongest level in almost seven years in August, according to the latest purchasing managers’ index, rising to 60.3 from 57 in July. Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said “staycations” and the “eat out to help out” scheme, pictured, would boost service-sector growth in August.

Hedge fund Gammon Capital has chalked up a 600 per cent gain so far this year, ranking it as one of the world’s best performers, thanks to well-timed bets on volatility during the coronavirus-driven market ructions. The New York firm, correctly wagered on soaring volatility in early March.

Nippon Paint has agreed to a $12bn deal that will combine it with Singapore’s Wuthelam Holdings to create a regional titan. Masaaki Tanaka, Nippon chief executive, warned the effects of Covid-19 had been severe, particularly for the automotive paint business once expected to deliver strong growth in China.

The cost of London’s east-west Crossrail rail line has ballooned to nearly £19bn, with the heavily delayed project now not expected to open fully until mid-2022 as the pandemic compounded engineering problems. The price tag was expected to rise to £18.7bn, more than £450m over the last estimate in November.

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