Global markets fall as COVID cases hit a grim new milestone

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Happy Monday. It’s a risk-off morning as COVID-19 cases hit yet another grim milestone. Investors are selling as the rise in infections, mostly in the Americas, accelerates, dashing hopes for a rapid global economic recovery.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update

Asia

  • In afternoon trade, the Asia indexes are bombing, with Tokyo’s Nikkei down more than 2%.
  • China is sending a blunt message to the U.S.: butt out of our domestic affairs or the Phase One trade deal will be in jeopardy.
  • On cue… In a page pulled from the Huawei playbook, the U.S. is pressuring allies to stop doing business with Nuctech, a cargo- and luggage-screening specialist that has a big presence at European airports and ports.

Europe

  • The European bourses started the week on a down note with the Stoxx Europe 600 falling 0.2% at the open.
  • “More idiotic rubbish”… That’s what Ryanair thinks of the U.K.’s move to relax its controversial quarantine rules for travelers arriving from select European countries.
  • What’s this? Positive sentiment around Brexit? The EU and Britain enter an intense period of negotiations today, and there’s more optimism these days they could finally agree to a trade deal.

U.S.

  • The major averages closed Friday down for the week as a spike in coronavirus cases spooked investors. Here’s how they fared: the Dow (-3.3% last week) S&P 500 (-2.9%) and the Nasdaq (-1.9%).
  • Facebook‘s woes continued over the weekend. Starbucks joined big-name advertisers Patagonia, Diageo, Verizon, Ben & Jerry’s and Coca-Cola in pausing their ad spend on the social media platform as the “#StopHateforProfit” campaign gathers steam. The pull-back has cost Mark Zuckerberg about $7 billion as shares crashed on Friday.
  • Fracking pioneer Chesapeake Energy Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this weekend, one of the biggest casualties of the collapse in energy demand.
  • The week-ahead calendar: Case-Shiller home price index (Tuesday); Consumer confidence index (Tuesday); FOMC minutes (Wednesday); the June nonfarm payrolls report (Thursday) and Eurozone unemployment (Thursday); Independence Day holiday observed; U.S. markets closed and no Bull Sheet (Friday).

Elsewhere

  • Gold is up.
  • The dollar is down.
  • Crude is falling as well. Brent is down about 1%, trading at roughly $40/barrel.

COVID-19 timeline

For the second time in the past three weeks, the Dow and S&P fell last week as investors could no longer ignore the bleak coronavirus numbers. Since Memorial Day (May 25), U.S. states, particularly in the South and West, have hit one new infection record after another. Gone are the mission-accomplished open-for-business pronouncements from May. They’ve been replaced by the unthinkable: re-closing orders. In towns and cities across the United States, this will be the first time in anyone’s memory that Independence Day will feature closed beaches, canceled parades and fireworks shows, plus shuttered bars and restaurants.

Calling off summer fun will have a significant impact on the U.S. economy.

It’s not just the U.S., of course. Regional outbreaks and infection clusters are being reported from Australia to Europe. And over the weekend, we hit another brutal milestone: 10 million confirmed cases worldwide since the start of the outbreak.

If you’re like me, you probably find the numbers both numbing and a bit abstract. 10 million sounds bad. But how bad is it, exactly? I went through the data this morning and built a short timeline. One of the big shockers to me: the first COVID death was declared less than six months ago. As of yesterday, there are more than 500,000.

The WHO reported another scary data point this weekend: the most global infections in a single day. It’s the nature of pandemics to speed up and march from town to town, city to city. And we’re seeing that with COVID. It took roughly three months to go from zero to 1 million infections. Now, we’re seeing roughly 1 million new cases per week. By the end of the summer, we’re on pace for the case load to double again.

It’s a public health issue. It’s a political issue. It’s a markets issue. And, first and foremost, COVID is a societal issue. It’s a crisis that will linger long after the numbers start to show some improvement.

***

Postscript

My wife and I managed to find summer camp options for our girls this week. As is the case in much of the world, Italy has severely limited—if not outright canceled—kids’ summer activities. If you find one, you have to book well in advance and even do a bit of haggling with the organizers to secure a space for your kid in these numbers-restricted programs.

My one daughter is down in Rome, in a stifling gym, at gymnastics camp. The other is attending a weeklong science-and-nature camp with her cousin in Perugia. My 8-year-old niece, always the sharpest person in the room, attended the camp last week and explained to me how it works.

Niece: In our group, there are seven kids. That’s it. And we have to stay at least one meter apart from each another at all times.

Me: How do you keep Italian kids one meter apart at all times?

Niece: We all have a bracelet. It buzzes if you get too close to another child.

Me: Does it work?

Niece: Yes, but we figured out how to disable it.

Me: 🙄

***

Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you here tomorrow.

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
[email protected]

A note from my Fortune colleagues on a timely new initiative:

Many companies are speaking out against racial injustices right now. But how do they fare in their own workplaces? Black employees in the corporate world, we want to hear from you: Please submit your anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here. https://bit.ly/WorkingWhileBlack

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