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Asian shares ease from six-month highs on U.S.-China trade angst



Asian stocks retreated from six-month highs on Friday as conflicting signals from China and the United States on progress made in trade talks deflated market hopes of a near term truce to end their damaging tariff war.

In a sign of the anxiety, the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures and German DAX futures eased 0.35 per cent each in early European trading while London’s FTSE futures slipped 0.24 per cent.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.3 per cent. The moves contrast with Thursday’s surge of optimism in global markets on news Beijing and China have agreed to roll back tariffs on each others’ goods as part of the first phase of a trade deal.

Multiple sources familiar with the talks said the plan faced fierce internal opposition at the White House and from outside advisers.

Worries the pact could fall apart as there was still no specific agreement for a phased rollback prompted some investors to sell heading into the weekend.

MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.4 per cent at 535.20 points after rising to 538.77, a level not seen since early May. For the week, it is so far up about 2 per cent.

Tokyo’s Nikkei, which earlier in the day climbed to a 13-month high, gave up some of the gains to be last up 0.26 per cent.

Chinese shares also reversed course from earlier gains with the blue-chip index flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.6 per cent.

“The noise coming from Washington DC was not quite so upbeat, with reports of conflicts amongst White House advisors on the merits of the plan,” said Jeffery Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“That said, despite the lack of detail and a concrete timeline for even signing an interim trade deal, progress does at least appear to be being made.

As ever, the caveat here is the unpredictable nature of the White House.”

In commodities, prices for livestock and grains, which have been highly sensitive to any the trade tensions, were subdued across the board.

Soybean futures were little changed on lack of follow-through interest after rallying as much as 1 per cent on Thursday.

Prices of lean hogs, which are expected to be in high demand in China amid a deadly swine fever outbreak, also managed only modest gains before settling near recent lows on Thursday.

Crude oil was also lower with U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude losing 22 cents to 56.93 dollars per barrel. Brent was down 11 cents at 62.18 dollars.

Safe haven gold, which tends to rise during times of uncertainty, was a tad firmer at 1,469.2 dollars per ounce, having hit a five-week low of 1.460.7 dollars on Thursday.

As investors wound back their buying in safe assets, the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yields jumped to 1.9730 per cent on Thursday to a three-month peak, and last stood at 1.9069 per cent.

Moves in the currency market were restrained. The dollar was treading water at 109.24 yen, after reaching a five-month high of 109.49 the previous day.

The offshore yuan traded at 6.9779 yuan per dollar, slipping away from a three-month high of 6.9530 per dollar in U.S. trade on Thursday.

The euro was steady at 1.1052 dollars, having marked a low of 1.10355 dollars in U.S. trade, its weakest since Oct. 16.

That left the dollar index unchanged at 98.117 after hitting three-week highs of 98.236 on Thursday.

Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Felix Ajide


Accelerating increase of COVID-19 cases seen in South Asian countries as Bangladesh records biggest daily jump




Asia-Pacific countries are still facing a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday as Bangladesh recorded its highest daily increase, while India became the seventh country in the world in terms of infections.

Bangladesh confirmed 2,911 new cases, the highest daily rise since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country on March 8, bringing the total to 52,445.

A total of 37 more people including 33 men and four women died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 709.

Bangladesh had earlier recorded highest 2,545 cases in a 24-hour period on Sunday.

India’s federal health ministry on Tuesday morning reported 204 new deaths and 8,171 positive cases during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 5,598 and total cases to 198,706.

In Indonesia, the confirmed cases in Indonesia rose by 609 within one day to 27,549, and the death toll increased by 22 to 1,663.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines climbed to 18,997 after the Department of Health reported 359 more infections on Tuesday.

The number of recoveries further climbed to 4,063 after 84 more patients have recovered, and the death toll also increased to 966 after 6 more deaths were reported.

Malaysia reported 20 new cases, pushing the national total to 7,877, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Of the new cases, 15 are imported cases while the five local transmissions were made up of 3 foreign nationals and two locals.

No new death is reported with the total standing at 115.

South Korea recorded 38 more infections compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Tuesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,541.

The daily caseload stayed above 30 for two straight days due to small cluster infections from religious gatherings in the metropolitan area.

New Zealand announced no new case on Tuesday for 11 consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.


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London to offer COVID-19 risk assessments to Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers: mayor




Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in London will have access to risk assessments after reports showing they have a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced Monday.

The risk assessments — which will be open to those working across the Greater London Authority family, including Transport for London, The Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade — will consider the physical and mental health needs of all vulnerable staff, including BAME, older and those with pre-existing conditions, said City Hall in a statement.

“Far from being a great leveller, the coronavirus crisis has exposed the unacceptable major inequalities in our society,” Khan said.

“This pandemic must be a wake-up call to our country and we need the Government to show their commitment to tackling these great injustices and immediately commission an independent public inquiry that will properly address this issue,” he added.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white men and women, after taking into account age and socio-demographic factors.

City Hall published Monday a new research to further understand this disproportionate impact, comparing coronavirus cases in London to a range of measures including ethnicity, job security, poverty, deprivation, age and a range of health conditions.

The study from City Hall’s Intelligence Unit shows the highest COVID-19 death rate in London is an area of Newham, where 82 percent of the population are BAME, one in three is in insecure employment and there are high levels of deprivation, obesity and diabetes.


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Robot delivers meals to customer at Asian restaurant in Vienna, Austria




Robots deliver meals at an Asian restaurant in Vienna, Austria, on May 28, 2020. An Asian restaurant in Vienna uses robots to deliver meals in order to reduce unnecessary contact between waiters and customers during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Xinhua/Guo Chen)

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South, Southeast Asian countries continue to see rapidly rising COVID-19 cases




Some South and Southeast Asian countries continued to witness rapidly rising COVID-19 cases with Bangladesh reporting 1,166 new cases in one day Tuesday, bringing the country’s total cases to 36,751.

Afghanistan and Indonesia confirmed their daily new cases at 658 and 415 respectively.

Bangladesh Tuesday reported 21 more deaths and 1,166 new COVID-19 cases, a senior health ministry official told a television media briefing.

Prof. Nasima Sultana, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health, said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh has reached 36,751.

Afghanistan on Tuesday reported 658 new COVID-19 within the past 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 11,831, the country’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed.

“A total of 1,152 suspected cases were tested within the past 24 hours, out of which 658 cases were tested positive COVID-19,” the ministry said in a statement.

The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 415 within one day to 23,165, with the death toll adding by 27 to 1,418, Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official, said at a press conference here on Tuesday afternoon.

The pandemic has spread to all the 34 provinces in the country.

The Philippines on Tuesday reported 350 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 14,669 since the highly infectious disease emerged in the country in January.

The Department of Health (DOH) said in a daily bulletin that the number of recoveries climbed to 3,412 after 89 more patients recovered. The death toll also increased to 886 after 13 more patients have succumbed to the viral disease.

Malaysia reported 187 new COVID-19 cases, with most of them identified in an immigration detention center, pushing the national total to 7,604 cases, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

This is the second daily increase of over 100 in a row after authorities identified clusters among foreign detainees in three immigration detention facilities since last week.

India’s federal health ministry on Tuesday morning said 146 new deaths and an additional 6,535 positive cases were reported since Monday in the country, taking the number of deaths to 4,167 and total cases to 145,380.

On Monday morning the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 138,845, and the death toll was 4,021.

South Korea reported 19 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Tuesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,225.

The daily caseload hovered below 20 for the second consecutive day, and two more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 269.

New Zealand reported no new case of the COVID-19 for four consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

The total number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 remains at 1,154.

Australia’s Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham asked the state and territory governments to come up with clear pathways to remove their border restrictions on Tuesday.

The governments of some states and territories have resisted calls to ease their border closures, which were set in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As the number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Nepal, the country plans to increase testing for the COVID-19 substantially to identify the cases early, Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli said on Monday.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, a central statistics body of the Nepali government, an estimated population of Nepal as of Monday stands at 29.96 million.


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Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to mount in some Asian countries, with Bangladesh, India recording biggest daily increase




More confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in some Asian countries on Wednesday, with Bangladesh and India confirming the biggest daily jump.

Bangladesh reported the biggest daily increase of 1,617 new infections, taking the total to 26,738.

Sixteen more people died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll in the country to 386.

India also witnessed the largest single day spike as 5,611 positive cases were reported, bringing the total cases to 106,750 as of Wednesday morning.

A total of 140 new deaths were recorded in the country, taking the number of deaths to 3,303.

In Indonesia, the total cases rose by 693 within one day to 19,189, and the death toll increased by 21 to 1,242.

The Philippine health department on Wednesday reported 279 new infections, bringing the total number in the country to 13,221.

In a daily bulletin, the Department of Health said 89 more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the number of recoveries to 2,932, and five more patients have died, bringing the death toll to 842.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia totaled 7,009 after 31 new cases were reported, according to its health ministry.

Among these new cases, 21 are local transmissions, 10 are imported cases.

No new fatalities had been reported, leaving the total at 114 deaths.

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health said that 492 people, including 262 in the capital city Kabul, have been tested positive over the last 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 8,145.

A total of 188 patients have died and 390 others have recovered since the outbreak in mid February.

Solomon Islands authorities started to enforce the scheduled lockdown around the capital city Honiara area from Wednesday morning, local media reported.

During the 36-hour lockdown, no one will be allowed to leave their residence. All businesses will be closed during that period. No vessels will be allowed to leave or arrive at the Honiara port after 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday until after 6:00 a.m. on Friday.

Cambodia on Wednesday lifted a ban on foreign travelers from the United States, Iran, and four European countries after the kingdom has reported no new infections for more than a month.

The ban lifting came after the country has detected no new infections since April 12, and all 122 patients in the kingdom have recovered.

South Korea reported 32 more cases compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Wednesday, raising the total number of infections to 11,110.

The daily caseload rose above 30 in nine days. Of the new cases, eight were imported, lifting the combined figure to 1,189.

New Zealand recorded no new cases again on Wednesday, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases remaining at 1,503, according to the Ministry of Health.


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Asian universities call for solidarity in fight against COVID-19




Fifty-seven universities from 12 Asian countries have jointly called for global solidarity to fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, signed by members of the South and Southeast Asian University Network and released on Tuesday, the group suggests stronger cooperation and mutual assistance through difficulties during the fight against the pandemic.

The statement put forward 10 proposals to universities and colleges around the world, including actively supporting the anti-pandemic efforts made by governments of all countries, giving full play to the advantages of scientific research and strengthening of international cooperation in vaccine research and development, material support and experience sharing.

It also called on universities to fulfill social responsibilities in terms of educating the public and popularizing knowledge and skills in COVID-19 prevention.

The statement was co-signed by 27 Chinese universities and 30 overseas universities from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The South and Southeast Asian University Network was established in 2018 in Kunming, capital of southwest China‘s Yunnan Province, and has become an important platform for regional people-to-people exchanges.

Based on the statement, the secretariat of the South and Southeast Asian University Network will host a series of online workshops themed “Fighting against COVID-19 in Campus and Online teaching during the outbreak” for member universities to share experiences.


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Coronavirus’ economic impact could hit $8.8tln, says Asian devt. bank 



Global economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic could reach up to 8.8 trillion dollars, or nearly 10 per cent of the world economy’s output, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Friday.

The Manila-based bank said the forecast for the pandemic’s impact under a long containment period of six months was more than double its assessments in March and April, as well as the projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Under a short containment period of three months, the global economic output would lose 5.8 trillion dollars, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of gross domestic product, the bank said in its updated report.

In the Asia-Pacific region, economic losses could range between 1.7 trillion dollars under a three-month containment period and 2.5 trillion dollars under a six-month scenario, the report said.

China, where the pandemic began in December, could suffer losses between 1.1 trillion dollars and 1.6 trillion dollars, it added.

“These (losses) will be difficult to recoup.

“Furthermore, we cannot discount the possibility of a financial crisis, if the pandemic could not be contained in time to prevent large defaults and bankruptcies,” the report said.

Border closures, travel restrictions and lockdowns will likely cut global trade by up to 2.6 trillion dollars.

While global employment decline will be between 158 million and 242 million jobs, with Asia and the Pacific comprising 70 per cent of the total losses.

The bank further forecast that labour income around the world will drop up to 1.8 trillion dollars, 30 per cent of which will be felt by economies in the region.

The report, which covers 96 outbreak-affected economies with more than four million COVID-19 cases, added that previous assessments factored in shocks to tourism, consumption, investment, trade, and production linkages.

The new projections also take into account the increase in trade costs affecting mobility and tourism, supply-side disruptions affecting output and investment, as well as government policy responses that offset the impact of the pandemic.

Policy interventions by governments around the world, such as fiscal and monetary easing, increased health spending and direct support to cover loses in incomes and revenues, can help soften the impact of the pandemic by as much as 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

The ADB urged governments to double their stabilisation packages, noting that “the current size of macroeconomic stimulus for some countries in the region (is) still small relative to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Japan partially lifts nationwide emergency state, cases continue to soar in South Asian countries




The containment of the COVID-19 pandemic has been in progress in the Asia-Pacific region as Japan partially lifted its nationwide state of emergency on Thursday, however, the cases in some South Asian countries continued to soar.

The Japanese government decided to lift a nationwide state of emergency for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures where the COVID-19 has been less prevalent, with the move coming ahead of the planned deadline of May 31.

Bangladesh reported 1,041 new COVID-19 cases, dipping slightly from Wednesday’s high of 1,162, bringing the total number of the cases in the country to nearly 19,000.

The Afghan health authorities recorded 413 new COVID-19 cases across the country, the biggest daily increase since the outbreak of the pandemic in February, an official of Ministry of Public Health confirmed.

India’s federal health ministry said 134 new deaths from COVID-19 and an additional 3,722 positive cases were reported since Wednesday in the country, taking the number of deaths to 2,549 and total cases to 78,003.

The recovery rate of COVID-19 patients increased to 36.63 percent, India’s federal health ministry said.

India’s federal junior minister for indigenous alternative medicine systems Shripad Y Naik said they were working on four traditional medicine formulations to treat COVID-19 infection and the trials will start soon.

The Indonesian government announced 568 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the archipelagic country to 16,006.

There were also 15 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 1,043, the government’s spokesperson for the COVID-19-related matters Achmad Yurianto said at a press conference.

The Philippines’ daily tally of COVID-19 infections rose by 258, bringing the total number in the country to 11,876.

South Korea reported 29 more cases compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight, raising the total number of infections to 10,991. One more death was confirmed, bringing the death toll to 260.

The daily caseload hovered around 30 for five straight days as a cluster infection was found from clubs and bars at the multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon in Seoul.

New Zealand released Budget 2020 “Rebuilding Together,” which established a 50 billion New Zealand dollars (30 billion U.S. dollars) COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

The fund targets stimulus investment to protect existing jobs, create new ones and provide support for workers to retrain and for business to survive. It also supports those sectors most affected by the virus.

New Zealand reported no new cases for three consecutive days, as the country moved down to Alert Level 2 Wednesday midnight to restart the economy.


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Documentary “Asian Americans” premieres amid coronavirus-related discrimination




A five-episode documentary series entitled “Asian Americans” has launched in the U.S., with its first two episodes premiering on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on Monday.

The series delivers “a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever, as America becomes more diverse and more divided while facing unimaginable challenges,” PBS said on its website.

Led by a team of Asian American filmmakers, the series examines the significant role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity, from Chinese rail workers’ long-forgotten contribution in the 1850s to modern refugee crises in a globally connected world.

During a digital town hall recently organized by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) in connection with the series’ premiere, U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu said that for many Asian Americans, it’s not just the health risks of the coronavirus that are cause for concern right now, but also “the anti-Asian bigotry that this pandemic has incited.”

“There’s no better time to reflect on the history of contributions of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community,” said Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to U.S. Congress.

“This is especially true when it comes to addressing anti-Asian hate crimes,” she added.

“We must continue to push back against the xenophobia every time it rears its ugly head … Our history has shown us that Asian Americans have often been used as it goes in times of crisis,” she noted. “We are seeing this again today, which is why it is more important now than ever that we stand united and make our voices heard.”

The rest of the documentary’s three episodes will air on Tuesday. The premiere is also a part of the films and performances program of San Francisco’s Asia-Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month.

The month of May has been celebrated as APA Heritage Month for the past 15 years in San Francisco.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s APA events cannot take place as usual.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed called for the fighting of discrimination and hate amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the virtual opening of APA Heritage Month.

“During this global pandemic, the APA communities are facing unfair treatment, prejudice, and threats simply because of who they are,” she said. “There is no place for discrimination and hate in our city or our country.”


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