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News from China
China's consumer inflation eases to 5.2 pct
10th March 2020

 China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, grew 5.2 percent year on year in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday.

 
The reading, in line with market expectations, eased slightly from the 5.4-percent gain in January. On a monthly basis, consumer prices edged up 0.8 percent.
 
Food prices, which account for nearly one-third of weighting in China's CPI, went up 21.9 percent year on year last month, contributing 4.45 percentage points to the index rise as the novel coronavirus outbreak disrupted market supplies and demands.
 
Restrictions on flows of transport and people, as well as business closures during the period have affected food supplies, while rising demands among stay-at-home residents to hoard foods combined to push up prices, NBS official Zhao Maohong said.
 
In the first two months, CPI went up 5.3 percent year on year on average, up 3.7 percentage points from the same period last year.
 
Tuesday's data also showed China's producer price index, which measures inflation at the factory gates, fell 0.4 percent year on year last month.
Source: Shanghai Daily,March 10, 2020
IMFC pledges to provide necessary support to mitigate COVID-19's impact
5th March 2020

 The policy-setting body of the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday pledged to provide necessary support to mitigate the economic and financial impact from the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

 
"The economic and financial impact has also been felt globally, creating uncertainty and damaging near-term prospects," the International Monetary and Financial Committee said in a statement after holding a teleconference call, chaired by Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Lesetja Kganyago and Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva.
 
"We have called upon the IMF to use all its available financing instruments to help member countries in need," the IMFC said, adding that the IMF's 189 member countries "stand united" to address the global challenges related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
 
"We are confident that, working together, we will overcome the challenge facing us and restore growth and prosperity for all," the IMFC said.
 
Following the conference call, the IMF announced that it is making available about 50 billion U.S. dollars through its rapid-disbursing emergency financing facilities for low-income and emerging market countries in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
"We know that the disease is spreading quickly. With over one-third of our membership affected directly, this is no longer a regional issue — it is a global problem calling for a global response," Georgieva said Wednesday at a joint press conference with World Bank Group President David Malpass.
 
The IMF chief said she is "particularly concerned about our low-income and more vulnerable members — these countries may see financing needs rise rapidly as the economic and human cost of the virus escalates."
 
The World Bank Group also announced Tuesday that it is making available an initial package of up to US$12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
In January, the IMF had projected global growth to improve to 3.3 percent this year from 2.9 percent last year. Then in February, it revised down 2020 global growth to 3.2 percent.
 
"Under any scenario, global growth in 2020 will drop below last year's level," Georgieva said at Wednesday's press conference.
Source: Shanghai Daily,March 6, 2020
US stocks resume downward trend amid skepticism of Fed rate cut
4th March 2020

 Wall Street stocks suffered another rout on Tuesday, while the yield on US Treasury bonds slid to new all-time lows as investors panned the Federal Reserve's surprise interest rate cut.

 
The US central bank slashed its key interest rate by a half point to a range of 1.0-1.25, a bigger cut than usual, saying the move was needed because "coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity."
 
US stocks initially cheered the Fed announcement, but soon pulled back, resuming a market downturn that pummeled Wall Street and eroded most of the ground won in Monday's big rally.
 
European stocks finished higher, but well below session highs as doubts began to emerge about the Fed's move, with many commentators arguing that lower interest rates will not be able to address the economic dislocations of a spreading coronavirus.
 
Across the world, 3,155 people have died from the virus.
 
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank announced their Spring meetings in April will become a virtual event.
 
"The Fed's emergency rate cut was supposed to boost confidence but it may wind up raising fears that the coronavirus is likely to cause a major economic downturn," economist Joel Naroff said.
 
Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said the Fed's action "could ultimately erode market psychology because when you act that quickly, that aggressively in that short amount of time, it does raise a concern that things are going to get potentially must worse than what was presumed."
 
The Dow finished down 2.9 percent, a loss of nearly 800 points, to 25,017.41.
 
Dollar weakness
 
The Fed's move followed an earlier announcement from G7 finance ministers declaring "they are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase."
 
The Fed was the first top-tier central bank to act, but Australia and Malaysia had already cut borrowing costs earlier in the day.
 
AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam said he suspected the Bank of Canada would follow suit at its policy meeting on Wednesday.
 
Following the Fed's move, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond slid below 1 percent for the first time. US government debt serves as a refuge that tends to attract buyers during periods of uncertainty.
 
The dollar also weakened against the euro and other leading currencies.
 
"The problem for the Fed and other central bankers is that rate cuts cannot solve a health crisis," said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.
 
"While the Fed may have hoped that easing early and aggressively would reassure investors, it did the complete opposite by highlighting the extent of the central bank's concern."
 
Lien said the Bank of Japan and Bank of England have both signaled more stimulus ahead, but adding that "we haven't heard much from the European Central Bank." 
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 4, 2020
As epidemic bites, gyms seek to keep fit through online workouts
2nd March 2020

 The coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been healthy for gyms and fitness clubs in Shanghai. Closed until further notice, their workout rooms are empty. Many have been trying to tide themselves over by offering exercise programs online.

 
The younger generation especially is keen on fitness and worried about be­coming couch potatoes in the absence of regular gym workouts.
 
To make sure that doesn’t happen, Wang Xu, who was born in 1989 and works as an analyst for a market re­search firm, began a 45-miniute daily dance class on TikTok in early February. The course she is taking has attracted about 1,000 other people and received 3,000 “likes.”
 
Wang and many others of her gen­eration believe that exercise helps strengthen their immune systems needed to fight virus infection. By ex­ercising at home, they have avoided the risk of contact with other sweaty bodies at the gym.
 
Wang also shares exercise tips with friends via WeChat, restoring some of the social ambience of a gym.
 
Many gyms in China are now lives­treaming classes. Tera Wellness Club, Will's, Pure Fitness and other popular gyms provide online courses on plat­forms such as TikTok and Yizhibo. It’s a way for them to hold onto members and even attract new clients.
 
Most of the courses run for less than an hour, with diversified choices that include dance, yoga, leg and core ex­ercises, and body combat. Some gyms also livestream classes in nutrition and home cooking as added incentive for people to continue a healthy lifestyle.
 
“Most gyms started online stream­ing courses since early February,” said Ted Li, owner of a fitness club in Putuo District of Shanghai. “Our members really want to exercise at home after the extended Spring Festival holiday. Gyms have asked their fitness coaches to teach basic courses online to meet the demand."
 
The prowess of coaches and the con­tent of classes are key to reach a broad audience. Good coaches attract more users. That requires adapting to online instruction techniques.
 
“As a coach, I need to pay attention to the interaction with the audience, adjust the course in a timely manner, control the time and maintain a stable network,” he said.
 
There are many restrictions for peo­ple exercising at home, he said. For one, many apartments are small and don’t leave much room for workouts. Then, too, the noise of an exercise routine may disturb neighbors.
 
Handling classes when networks aren’t working at optimum levels is another hurdle.
 
Free courses
 
Gyms release their course schedule in advance on their WeChat official accounts so that people can arrange times and prepare in advance. There are day courses for those staying home and evening courses for those who have gone back to work.
 
Gyms are providing courses on free livestreaming platforms like Tiktok and Yizhibo for the duration of emergency measures during the viral outbreak. These stopgap measures for gyms and fitness clubs stung by the epidemic have attracted large numbers of follow­ers, though they may not have helped the lost incomes of fitness coaches who are staying at home.
 
Beyond that, some fitness apps are providing in-home online workout courses for a fee.
 
Whatever the methodology, the fit­ness industry is biding its time and waiting to see how fast the epidemic will be controlled.
 
“A lot of people phone to ask me when the gym will reopen,” Li said. “But very few are willing to come back too quickly.”
 
His gym has been closed since late January, but he still has to pay the rent. Thankfully for his cash flow, his land­lord has reduced the rent by a third.
 
The Shanghai government is well aware than small businesses like gyms are facing difficulties. It has promul­gated 28 measures aimed at helping businesses weather the epidemic.
 
Among those measures, smaller business renting premises from state-owned enterprises have had their rents waived for February and March.
 
Also, large commercial buildings, shopping malls and industrial parks have been encouraged to reduce rent for tenants.
 
Li’s business, located in a commercial building, has benefited from the policy. He said he is currently seeking infor­mation about other assistance that may be available to help tide him over.
 
Once the epidemic has passed, the betting is that gyms will see a flood of customers returning. Staying fit is popular in Shanghai, and the fitness industry still retains its strong busi­ness model.
 
At present, Shanghai gyms are closed until further notice. Most gyms said that cardholders will not be charged during the closure period, which means their fitness memberships will be extended.
Tera Wellness Club said the company is hoping to reopen as soon as possible, depending on government require­ments. Pure Fitness said it will notify customers once the closure is lifted.
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 2, 2020,

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