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Total Covid-19 cases

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World

Confirmed

43,498,512

Deaths

1,151,971
Updated at 10/27/2020, 9:16:14 PM BST

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Global stocks suffered a heavy hit on Monday, while government bonds rallied and the US dollar snapped a losing streak in a rush of nerves about the fate of the economic recovery and a potential new set of lockdowns to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus cases could reach 50,000 a day by mid-October if more is not done to stop the spread of the virus in Britain, the government's top medical and scientific advisers have said, as they warned of a tough six months ahead.

Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will tell Congress that struggling small and medium-sized businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic may need “direct fiscal support”, rather than more generous lending from the central bank.

California became the third US state to confirm 15,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, even as it reported its smallest daily increase in fatalities in two weeks.

The US federal public health agency has said it mistakenly published a draft update to its recommendations, paving the way for a possible reversal on the recent guidance about whether the virus behind Covid-19 spreads through the air.

Northern Ireland has tightened coronavirus restrictions for the second time in less than a fortnight and warned of further steps to come as the pandemic escalates.

The US federal public health agency has said it mistakenly published a draft update to its recommendations, paving the way for a possible reversal on the recent guidance about whether the virus behind Covid-19 spreads through the air.

India has significantly reduced its coronavirus testing, lowering its daily tally of reported cases, as the South Asian nation was poised to breach the threshold of 100,000 infections a day.

US reports smallest rise in Covid deaths in two weeks

Peter Wells in New York

The US reported its smallest increase in coronavirus deaths in two weeks on Monday, while new infections again hovered around the 40,000 mark.

The national death toll rose by 287, according to data from Covid Tracking Project, down from 327 on Sunday and compared with 404 a week ago. It was the smallest daily increase since the Labor Day public holiday on September 7. Monday figures tend to be lower than other days of the week owing to weekend delays in reporting.

The national tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 39,467, up from 36,925 on Sunday and compared with 33,864 last Monday.

Among the notable daily increases were California (3,294), Kansas (1,674) and Michigan (1,575).

Florida (1,685) reported its smallest jump in new infections in about three months.

Texas (1,742) reported its smallest daily increase in new Covid-19 infections in almost two weeks, but revealed a large backlog of more than 7,000 historical cases.

That puts it on the cusp of becoming the second US state to confirm 700,000 infections since the start of the pandemic.

Owing to several days last week when the number of new infections rose by more than 40,000, the rolling seven-day average of cases in the US today reached a 20-day high of 41,115 a day.

Asia-Pacific equities open lower on fears of renewed lockdowns

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific stocks dipped on Tuesday after concerns over renewed lockdowns to control a resurgence of Covid-19 weighed on sentiment in Europe and the US.

The Kospi in Seoul shed 0.4 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was down 0.7 per cent. Futures point to a 0.4 per cent fall for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index.

Japanese markets are closed for a public holiday.

Those moves came after US and European stocks fell as rising infections in Europe sparked fears of a return to lockdowns and a renewed blow to the economic recovery from the pandemic.

The S&P 500 closed down 1.2 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.1 per cent.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 per cent.

Jay Powell says US small businesses may need ‘direct fiscal support’

James Politi in Washington

Jay Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, will tell Congress that struggling small and medium-sized US businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic may need “direct fiscal support”, rather than loans from the central bank.

In prepared testimony released ahead of his appearance before the House of Representatives financial services committee on Tuesday, Mr Powell sought to defend the Fed from criticism that its crisis measures have failed to help “Main Street” America as much as financial markets in recent months.

In particular, some lawmakers have pointed to the fact that the Fed’s flagship $600bn fund to lend to medium-sized companies needing assistance has barely been used because many potential borrowers and their banks feel the terms are too strict.

Read more here

Australian state Victoria reports 28 new coronavirus cases

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

The Australian state of Victoria reported 28 new coronavirus cases for Monday as the number of new infections remained below 30 for a fourth consecutive day.

The tally was above the previous day’s 11 cases, but the critical 14-day rolling average for metropolitan Melbourne fell to 32.8 from 34.4 a day earlier.

Lockdown restrictions will be eased at the end of the month if the 14-day average remains below 50.

The state recorded a further 3 deaths linked to Covid-19.

India and Pakistan ramp up remdesivir production under Gilead deal

Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi

India and Pakistan have ramped up production of the coronavirus drug remdesivir under a licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences, but onward distribution to other developing countries has been slow.

Vamsi Krishna Bandi, managing director at pharma company Hetero, said there was no longer a remdesivir shortage in India — the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in the world — and that the business had delivered about 800,000 doses of the drug domestically since starting production in June.

But while doctors in India are prescribing the experimental Covid-19 treatment, the majority of the 127 countries in the Gilead licensing deal have yet to start buying it.

Few countries “have actually put in a system for procurement”, said Mr Bandi, adding that few African countries in particular were placing orders. Hetero has exported to 25 countries, while Cipla, another Indian manufacturer, said it had only shipped to South Africa.

Read more here

New Zealand reports no new local cases for second day

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

New Zealand recorded no new local coronavirus infections for a second consecutive day on Tuesday.

The country, which discovered an outbreak in Auckland in August after almost three months of no community transmission, appears to have contained the latest wave of infections.

There are 61 active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand with three people currently receiving hospital treatment.

Measures to reduce the spread of the virus in Auckland will be eased further from midnight on Wednesday as the number of infections has come under control.

Saudi Arabia keeps strategy under wraps in oil stumble

Anjli Raval

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister is keeping his options open while the recovery in oil prices splutters, setting up a potentially volatile period ahead.

Crude prices tumbled at the start of September after traders grew nervous that further potential lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus could fracture a fragile recovery in consumption.

But Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is reluctant to commit to any new measures to bolster the oil market, telling reporters last week that “anyone who thinks they will get a word from me on what we will do next, is absolutely living in La La Land”. His only two predictions were that the market would be “jumpy” in the months ahead, and that he would leave speculators “ouching like hell”.

Analysts say the lack of visibility on the market’s trajectory shows that the world’s biggest oil exporter wants to keep a range of choices to hand, from stricter enforcement of the record supply cuts agreed earlier this year by Opec and allies such as Russia, to promises of even tougher production restrictions.

Read more here

Coronavirus tracked

The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 31m cases confirmed globally and over 952,700 people known to have died.

The FT visual and data journalism team has analysed the scale of the outbreak around the world.

Latin America accounts for 40 per cent of daily recorded deaths linked to Covid-19. While a recent surge in infections in India means it is the country reporting the highest one-day tally for deaths.

Check out the team’s work here

Global economic recovery on track despite uptick in infections, says ANZ

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

The global recovery remains on track, despite fears of the economic hit from a “second wave” of infections, according to ANZ economists.

Governments have imposed “more modest” restrictions on movement to handle rising infections and countries have seen improved health outcomes, resulting in a smaller hit to economies compared with lockdowns in the first half of 2020.

“What hasn’t changed unfortunately is that it will still take quite some time in many economies for activity to return to pre-Covid levels,” said Richard Yetsenga, ANZ chief economist. “In the advanced economies this is unlikely to be until 2022, while in Asia, which has generally managed this crisis more effectively, it varies between 2020 and 2022.”

Policymakers have been able to adjust the response for the second wave and global trade has also recovered after being hit in the first half of the year.

The bank forecasts that economic growth in Asia outside China is unlikely to see a repeat of the “extreme contraction” in the second quarter of 2020, but that the recovery will be uneven.

Uncertain job prospects and changing containment policies will prolong the recovery in the region.

ANZ said it had revised its China GDP forecasts upwards on the expectation that the country will have a vaccine available by the end of the year. It now expects growth of 2.1 per cent for 2020.

China’s recovery appears to be “well on track” after the country controlled its initial outbreak and subsequent localised infection clusters, ANZ said, with positive signs from an uptick in consumer spending.

In Japan, the government has “resisted” imposing a second state of emergency, ANZ said, meaning that it is consumer and business caution that is “stifling the economy”.

The bank assessed the Japanese government’s “Go To Travel” campaign as having failed to boost domestic tourism spending. It forecast Japan’s economy would shrink by 6 per cent in 2020 and grow 2 per cent in 2021.

HSBC and StanChart sell-off worsens as virus concerns hit markets

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

A sell-off in shares of HSBC and Standard Chartered deepened as concerns that new waves of coronavirus could stall a global economic recovery hit stocks across Asia-Pacific.

Shares in both banks fell a further 2.3 per cent on Tuesday in Hong Kong, taking losses for each of the Asia-focused lenders to more than 7 per cent over two days.

The pair were among those named in media reports on Monday that alleged international banks had flagged $2tn in suspicious transfers to US anti-money laundering authorities. HSBC’s stock has more than halved this year as the Covid-19 crisis and tensions between the US and China have hit its business.

Elsewhere in the region, China’s CSI 300 of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed shares and Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng fell 0.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively, on Tuesday. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.7 per cent. Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.

The losses in Asia followed a rough session on Wall Street in which the S&P 500 shed 1.2 per cent on worries over the outlook for a global economic recovery. That came on the heels of a 3.4 per cent loss for London’s FTSE 100.

Read more here

Hong Kong Disneyland to reopen on Friday

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland will reopen from Friday at reduced capacity two months after it was closed as part of efforts to control a coronavirus outbreak in the city.

Visitors must book tickets in advance online, undergo temperature checks and wear face masks while in the park, Disney said. The park will not open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The latest closure came less than a month after the park reopened in June following government regulations that forced the resort to shut its doors in January.

The Hong Kong government allowed amusement parks to reopen last Friday after measures designed to control a “third wave” coronavirus outbreak managed to reduce the number of local infections.

Ocean Park, an amusement park with a zoo and aquarium, reopened on Friday.

Cancelled event claims prompt Beazley to double estimated losses

Oliver Ralph in London

Insurer Beazley has doubled its estimate of losses caused by the Covid-19 crisis, blaming an increase in claims on event cancellation cover.

The company said in April that it expected to pay out $170m for Covid-19 claims, net of the reinsurance that it buys to protect itself from large losses. On Tuesday it increased that estimate to $340m.

Beazley had previously assumed that events such as conferences would resume in September but that has not turned out to be the case.

“Conferences that were postponed earlier in the year are now being cancelled as are ones due to take place in the final quarter of this year which means our loss estimates have increased,” the company said in a statement. It also expects more claims on events due to be held in 2021.

The new figure assumes “a resumption to some form of normality” in the second half of next year. If that does not happen, Beazley said that the claims figure could rise by another $50m.

Johnson to set out tighter rules as UK outbreak worsens

Naomi Rovnick in London

Prime minister Boris Johnson will make a statement later on Tuesday on the next steps he wants Britain to take to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The UK recorded 4,368 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, according to government data, the third day out of the past four in which daily cases were above 4,000. The rise represents a marked increase from much of June, July and August when daily cases hovered around 1,000.

The government lifted the pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 on Monday evening, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.

Read more on Mr Johnson's expected announcements here.

https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/status/1308092375940521985?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet

Whitbread to cut 6,000 jobs as pandemic crisis bites

Alice Hancock in London

Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn, plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs while demand remains well below last year’s levels as the coronavirus pandemic stalks the travel trade.

Total sales of food and hotel rooms in the UK remained almost 40 per cent less than at the same point in 2019 despite strong demand in tourist hotspots and a rise in bookings over the summer, the pub and restaurant group said on Tuesday.

With the government’s job support scheme running out in October, Whitbread said it had taken the “the very difficult decision” to enter into consultations that could result in up to 6,000 jobs being lost across the company as well as reductions in working hours.

The FTSE 100 company has already undertaken a £1bn rights issue to help see it through the crisis as well as reducing capital expenditure and suspending its dividend.

Hotels have suffered acutely under coronavirus restrictions, limited by government curbs to hospitality businesses and the precipitous drop in international travel as a result of border closures and quarantine rules.

Whitbread, which typically enjoys a largely domestic audience, said that despite 98 per cent of its UK hotels being open by the end of August, sales in the three months up to that point had been 75 per cent below last year’s figures.

In the six months to end of August, which includes the period of lockdown that started at the end of March in the UK, total sales for its whole estate - comprising hotels in the UK and Germany - were 77 per cent less than in 2019.

“It has been clear from the beginning of this crisis that, even as restrictions are eased and hospitality businesses such as ours reopen their doors, demand would be materially lower than [last year’s] levels for a period of time,” said chief executive Alison Brittain.

Kingfisher to return furlough payments as profit rises 23%

Jonathan Eley in London

DIY group Kingfisher said it intends to repay £23m it received in furlough payments from the UK government after the chain’s profits recovered strongly.

The company will not be taking the “job retention bonus” of £1,000 per employee offered by the government for retaining staff, and has repaid the money it borrowed under the Bank of England’s financing scheme.

Adjusted pre-tax profit for the six months to July 31 was up 23 per cent at £415m, Kingfisher said on Tuesday, significantly ahead of the £361m average of analysts’ forecasts compiled by the company.

Sales were down 1.3 per cent at £5.9bn, as a big increase in online sales and a strong recovery in reopened stores offset the temporary closure of all outlets in its two main markets early in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kingfisher has benefited from a surge in spending on homes and gardens as people adapted their houses for working from home, using money they would have spent on holidays or entertainment.

Gove tells workers to stay at home to stem virus surge

Sarah Provan

Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, has told workers to stay at home if they can, as the UK government turns back on its message over recent weeks to encourage a return to offices to revive city centres.

The hospitality industry, meanwhile, faces more restrictions as pubs and restaurants will have to close by 10pm from Thursday.

"If it is safe to work in your workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it," Mr Gove said on Radio 4's Today programme, but he added that if workers are able to work from home they should.

The government had planned to launch a campaign at the beginning of this month with messages and flyers to lure workers back to their offices.

On a second two-week lockdown, he said that "by taking the action that we are taking now, we hope that this will prevent the need for further restrictions in the future".

Common sense should dictate how much social mixing there is, Mr Gove said.

"The rule of six is simple, straightforward and well understood," he said, adding that common sense means hosting a party of 20 at home would be out of the question.

"We should exercise common sense and restraint," he said. "Common sense dictates that there are types of social event that would be excessive and risky, but others that we could support and allow."

"Some will say the measures are too restrictive, some will say they are too permissive - we are trying to strike a balance," he said.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is due to chair an emergency cabinet Cobra meeting on Tuesday and will discuss the coronavirus crisis with the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He will give a televised address to the nation later on Tuesday.

With additional reporting from Harry Dempsey

BoE governor stresses no negative rates for now

Chris Giles in London

Andrew Bailey made it clear on Tuesday that the Bank of England was not about to push interest rates below zero in the near future.

Speaking on a British Chamber of Commerce webinar, the BoE governor said the central bank needed to be able to be sure it could set a negative rate, but that did not mean it was about to pull the trigger and use the policy.

The bank has said since August that negative rates were in its toolbox of monetary policy levers and, in the minutes of its September Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the BoE said it was now looking at the practical implications of using the policy.

"It would be a cardinal sin if we stated we had a tool in the box we didn't think we could use in practice," Mr Bailey said. "It is no surprise we're going to do this work."

That work would take some time, the governor said, indicating that there was no rush to impose negative rates. He said "nobody should read more into" the statement in the minutes than that the BoE wanted to know whether banks were able to set a negative rate if the MPC decided to use it.

The governor was downbeat on the economy, saying "the hard yards are ahead of us", with coronavirus cases rising, a weak labour market and persistent scars from the crisis likely to depress activity for a long time.

Wetherspoons to cut up to 450 jobs at airport pubs

Harry Dempsey in London

JD Wetherspoon has written to employees at its six UK airport pubs to warn them that hundreds of jobs are at risk, following a collapse in traveller numbers.

The pub chain is seeking to reduce 400 to 450 jobs, or more than 40 per cent of jobs at its airport pubs from Heathrow to Glasgow, as travel companies caution on a slower return in passengers than expected and the hospitality industry faces a curfew across the UK.

“The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports,” said Wetherspoons chief executive John Hutson.

The company said: “We should emphasise that no firm decisions have been made at this stage.”

Wetherspoons, known for its cheap drinks and outspoken founder Tim Martin, announced in August that it would cut a third of jobs in its head office but it has not revealed any sweeping cuts for workers in its pubs.

Germany's coronavirus recession shallower than feared, Ifo says

Martin Arnold

The German economy is recovering quicker than expected from the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Ifo Institute in Munich, which predicted Europe’s largest economy would shrink 5.2 per cent this year.

Ifo’s new forecast for the country was an upgrade from its previous prediction a few months ago that it would contract by 6.7 per cent.

“The second-quarter decline was smaller than we had feared and the current recovery is proceeding better than we had expected,” said Timo Wollmershäuser, head of forecasts at Ifo, adding that there was still “enormous” uncertainty over how the virus would develop.

The upgraded forecast by Ifo follows similar moves by the German government, Bundesbank and Deutsche Bank and is the latest sign that Germany is coming through the pandemic in better shape than most of the region’s other big countries.

Ifo said the pandemic would still take a toll on Germany’s labour market and public finances. The number of unemployed would rise from 2.3m last year to 2.7m this year, before slowly retreating again, it said.

After years of budget surpluses, Ifo forecast that the government would have a budget deficit of €170.6bn this year, declining to €86.9bn next year and €68.4bn in 2022. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, is due to unveil next year’s budget on Wednesday.

Johnson has 'lost control' of pandemic crisis, Labour leader claims

Naomi Rovnick and Sarah Provan in London

Britain’s opposition leader has accused the prime minister of having “lost control” of coronavirus testing and said a second national lockdown would be a result of “government failure”.

Speaking at the Labour Party’s annual conference, which is being held online this year, Keir Starmer claimed prime minister Boris Johnson was “just not serious” in his handling of the pandemic.

The comments follow widespread criticism of the government’s testing system by members of the public in England who have been unable to book appointments, or have been forced to drive tens of miles away to secure a test. Health minister Matt Hancock admitted last week that England’s testing regime had “operational challenges” that would take “weeks” to resolve.

Sir Keir’s comments, at his first party conference as Labour leader, come ahead of a televised address from Mr Johnson on Tuesday evening. The prime minister is expected to tighten restrictions again to curb the spread of the virus, after a resurgence of cases.

The Labour leader said:

This is the time for leadership. I’ve tried to be constructive. I appreciate that these are unprecedented times and that governing is difficult. I’ve tried to be fair, to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

But now, with one of the highest death rates in the world, and on the threshold of one of the deepest recessions anywhere, I’m afraid there is no doubt.

This government’s incompetence is holding Britain back.

Total cases of the virus in Britain have now topped 400,000, according to Johns Hopkins university.

Munich orders face masks in busy outdoor areas

Erika Solomon in Berlin

The German city of Munich has unveiled mask-wearing requirements for popular outdoor areas in response to rising coronavirus cases, as the country grapples with the highest number of cases since in April.

The Bavarian capital has surpassed a national threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 residents for seven consecutive days, a point at which local governments must tighten regulations or impose local lockdown measures.

In Munich, that seven-day rate is 55.59. In response, the city mayor imposed the wearing of face masks in the most populous and central public squares and streets of Munich. Bavaria is considering alcohol bans in certain hotspot areas.

Germany's Robert Koch Institute reported almost 2,300 daily cases on Saturday, the highest since April, with 922 infections recorded on Monday.

In Bavaria, health authorities said every second coronavirus infection is someone between the age of 15 and 34.

Demand for last-minute domestic flights has soared, SkyScanner says

Harry Dempsey in London

Travel seekers have shifted towards searching for last-minute, one-way, domestic flights in response to government-imposed coronavirus restrictions, booking website SkyScanner said.

The rising popularity in searches for domestic flights, as opposed to international ones, is set to benefit low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair with their lower cost base and flexible pricing, SkyScanner predicted.

The volume of searches for flights within a week has been volatile, surging in August as travellers sought to take advantage of the narrowing window to go on a trip as coronavirus-related restrictions loomed.

The global average of travellers searching for one-way tickets peaked at 15 per cent higher in March compared with a year earlier before easing slightly to be up 10 per cent. Meanwhile, searches for domestic flights have been 10 per cent higher.

People rushed to return home before lockdowns began, while travellers from Australia, South Korea and Italy lead the sustained interest in one-way tickets as people choose where to see out the pandemic, the company said.

SkyScanner said that the overall traffic on its site was down between 60-70 per cent from June compared with the previous year.

UK house sales climb for second month thanks to stamp duty break

Valentina Romei in London

UK house sales were boosted for a second month by a stamp duty holiday that promises to take thousands of pounds off the cost of moving home until March.

Residential property transactions rose 15.6 per cent in August from the previous month, HM Revenue & Customs said. This extended July's 14.5 per cent increase, with the two months mostly reversing a fall in housing market activity during the UK’s coronavirus-related lockdown, which began in March.

“Every home sold means more jobs protected,” Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, said in a statement. “But this isn’t just about the housing market. Owners doing up their homes to sell and buyers reinvesting stamp duty savings to make their new house feel like a home are also firing up local businesses, supporting, creating and protecting jobs across the country.”

The housing market has helped to protect nearly 750,000 jobs, the Treasury said, and supported strong sales of household goods.

However, an economic recovery over the summer risks being derailed as Covid-19 infections rise, localised and national restrictions are being put in place and the prospect of another lockdown looms.

“Strong activity levels are beginning to look artificial and may not last for long,” said Shaun Church, director at mortgage broker Private Finance.

The FTSE 350 real estate index has reversed a two-month gain to fall 6 per cent since the start of September.

Eurozone households forced to save amid lack of spending opportunities

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Most of the extra money people have put aside in the eurozone since the coronavirus pandemic started was “involuntary saving” because they could not buy goods or services during the lockdown, the European Central Bank said on Tuesday.

A much smaller part of the extra savings was the result of more prudent behaviour by people deciding to save more because they were worried about the greater probability of losing their job, the ECB said in its monthly economic bulletin.

As shops closed and tourism ground to a halt in March, the savings rate in the eurozone shot up from 12.5 per cent of disposable income at the end of last year to 16.8 per cent in the first three months of this year — its highest level since Eurostat records started in 1999.

The ECB said that based on consumer surveys it expected another “sharp increase” in the savings rate in the second quarter of this year, estimating it would rise close to 30 per cent. Household deposits at eurozone banks rose by a record €190bn in the three months to June, more than double the same period of last year.

Using EU survey results on households’ future unemployment expectations as a guide to how much of the extra cash being hoarded by households was the result of more cautious behaviour, the ECB said it only contributed less than 10 per cent of the new savings.

More than two-thirds of the increased cash hoarding in the first and second quarters resulted from “forced savings”, the central bank estimated.

“Most of this unexplained residual seems to be attributable to constraints on the consumption of many goods and services during periods of lockdown and therefore constitutes an estimate of forced savings,” it said.

However, the ECB also pointed out that the “contribution of precautionary savings is large in historical perspective, even though it appears small relative to forced savings”.

Breaking news

Boris Johnson says UK has hit 'perilous turning point' as cases rise

George Parker and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe

Boris Johnson has set out tighter Covid-19 restrictions in England, arguing that the measures will help to stop the virus spread in social settings and work.

The UK prime minister, in a House of Commons statement to MPs, confirmed plans to close all pubs, restaurants and bars at 10pm in a move that has alarmed the hospitality sector, along with a range of other restrictions.

“We have reached a perilous turning point,” Mr Johnson said on Tuesday. “This is the moment when we must act.”

He wanted to shield the economy from the risk of “much sterner” restrictions later on, adopting the principle of “a stitch in time saves nine”.

He will deliver a televised address to the nation at 8pm.

Boris Johnson: new England restrictions may last six months

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

Boris Johnson has said that the new coronavirus restrictions he has just outlined to the House of Commons could last for half a year.

The prime minister told MPs he recognised the impact that the measures would have on businesses, stating: "I'm sorry this will affect many businesses just getting back on their feet, but we must act.”

But while Mr Johnson stressed that the measures were not a return to the full lockdown of March, he added:

We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass testing. But unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will stay in place for six months.

Government reserves right to use more 'firepower', Johnson says

George Parker and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe

The UK prime minister said the government reserved the right to use “further firepower” if the R number, the reproduction rate for the virus, failed to fall below 1.

Boris Johnson said this in a statement to the House of Commons in which he unveiled more coronavirus-related restrictions that he expects to be in place in England for six months.

Face coverings will be extended to include those working in retail and hospitality and to passengers travelling in taxis, Mr Johnson said on Tuesday. Weddings and wedding receptions will be limited to 15 people. Indoor team sports of more than six people will be banned.

More Covid-19 guidance to business, such as requiring hospitality venues to provide table service only, would be put into law to strengthen enforcement powers. “Businesses could be closed or fined if they break the rules,” he said.

Fines for members of the public failing to wear a mask when required would rise to £200 for a first offence.

The prime minister confirmed that workers will be encouraged to work from home where possible, repeating what cabinet office minister Michael Gove had said earlier. The decision turns away from the government's efforts at the beginning of this month to encourage workers back to their offices in an attempt to revive city centres.

Staff in retail and indoor hospitality will need to wear face masks, Mr Johnson said.

The rule of six will be extended to include all adult team sports, while starting from Monday only 15 people will be able to attend weddings.

Mr Johnson's statement comes a day after the government's top advisers warned that the rise in daily cases could accelerate to as much as 49,000 by the middle of next month if infections sustain their rate of doubling every seven days.

'These restrictions were not inevitable', says Labour party leader

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

The leader of the opposition Labour party took a dim view of the UK government's approach to fighting the coronavirus crisis, while supporting tighter rules on socialising and the hospitality industry.

"These restrictions are necessary but they were not inevitable," Keir Starmer said in the House of Commons on Tuesday. “The government doesn’t have a clear strategy,” he said.

Sir Keir criticised the government’s lack of clarity and its about-face on a return to work in offices and the problems with the testing system. He blamed Boris Johnson’s government for not preparing the NHS Test and Trace scheme, which has been overwhelmed by demand for tests in recent weeks.

Sir Keir pressed the government to offer more financial support for people affected by the tougher measures. Ending the government furlough scheme “in one fell swoop would be a disaster”, he added.

The scheme is due to come to an end next month.

Companies in England seek to reverse back-to-office plans

Daniel Thomas in London

Companies across England were left scrambling to reverse plans to return thousands of staff to their offices on Tuesday after the government abandoned its push to get more people working in towns and city centres.

The government has encouraged workers to return to offices since August, ramping up the pressure on businesses to bring back employees after schools returned at the start of September given fears over the damage caused by the coronavirus lockdown to city centre economies.

But just three weeks later, the prime minister announced an abrupt U-turn on the policy following a surge in Covid-19 infections, leaving companies frantically rethinking plans for office staff for the rest of the year. 

Several major employers of tens of thousands of people in offices around the UK told the Financial Times on Tuesday that they would reassess their plans in line with new government guidance.

Alistair Elliott, chairman of property company Knight Frank, who had been encouraging more staff to return to its head office as the “default” place of work, said the business would “respond and adapt” to fit the government advice.

“We will do what’s right for our people,” he said. Knight Frank has about 340 people back in its head office in London and had been aiming to double that number as it reconfigured its layout to comply with social distancing rules.

Read more here.

UK business groups raise concerns over Covid-19 restrictions

Valentina Romei

Business associations raised their concerns about the economic impact of more restrictions in England, with some experts calling for improved testing capacity and a plan to support businesses and jobs over the autumn.

“These new measures will inevitably put the brakes on the economic recovery,” said Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, a non-party political organisation.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, outlined tighter restrictions that could last six months and included early closures for pubs, bars and restaurants. He reiterated the government's advice to work from home.

Workers were invited to go back to workplaces over the summer in an attempt to revitalise city centres. The U-turn will “cause frustration”, said the IoD's Mr Barker.

“Renewed advice to work from home where possible will keep our town and city centres under great economic pressure, just as people were starting to make their way back,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general at the CBI employers' body.

The six-month timeframe “will come as a shock to many”, she said, adding that the government should “turbo charge testing regime to help control the virus quickly”.

She called for more schemes to substitute those expiring in the autumn. “There must now be a new plan to support businesses this autumn," she said.

“We’ve already suffered from six months of disruption linked to this virus, and small businesses and the self-employed will be dismayed at facing another six months of restrictions,” said Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, a business organisation. “Policymakers now urgently need to map out the support measures that will follow-on from the job retention scheme, cash grants announced earlier this month and emergency finance initiatives.”

“These measures will impact business and consumer confidence at a delicate time for the economy,” said Adam Marshall, director-general at the British Chambers of Commerce. "Businesses, their employees and customers need to see a clear road map for the existing restrictions ... This must include transparent trigger points, and clarity about the support available to protect jobs and livelihoods.”

Tom Stainer, chief exectutive at Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale, a not-for-profit consumer group, said that the curfew was “an arbitrary restriction that unfairly targets the hospitality sector and will have a devastating impact on pubs, jobs and local communities”.

Scotland adopts stricter measures on household visits than England

Mure Dickie in Edinburgh and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

The Scottish government has announced a nationwide ban on most household visits, going further than coronavirus restrictions announced by the UK government earlier on Tuesday for England.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, told the parliament at Edinburgh that her government would match the UK government’s 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and would retain its longstanding call to people to work from home where possible.

But Ms Sturgeon said such measures would not be enough to curb growing Covid-19 infections that Scotland’s testing and tracing system suggested often resulted from contacts within people’s homes.

“Any serious effort to reduce [the spread of Covid-19] must take account of this key driver of transmission,” the first minister said. “Today’s measures are an attempt to avoid the need for another lockdown.”

A household ban is already in place in Glasgow and a number of nearby surrounding council areas, where Ms Sturgeon said it appeared to have been having an impact on the spread of the virus.

There will be some exemptions to the ban for household visitors including for the provision of informal childcare.

She made clear the government was not ruling out the possibility of introducing “circuit breaker” temporary stricter restrictions, possibly during mid-term school holidays in October, as a way of further reducing transmission.

Ms Sturgeon announced financial support for low income people asked to self-isolate, but said Scotland would not follow the UK government’s move to introduce large fines in England for those who fail to comply.

“Our judgement at this stage … is that supporting people to do the right thing is much more effective than threatening harsh punishments if they can’t,” she said.

European consumers less gloomy in September

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

European consumer confidence picked up in September despite the recent rise in coronavirus infections across the region, according to the European Commission’s monthly survey.

The commission’s consumer confidence indicator for the 19-country bloc rose 0.8 points to minus 13.9, based on a survey carried out in the first three weeks of this month.

The indicator has bounced back from near-record lows at the peak of the pandemic in April, but it remains well below the long-term average of minus 11.1. The commission said consumer confidence in the wider EU rose 0.6 points to minus 14.9.

Europe’s pandemic-stricken economy is expected to rebound strongly in the third quarter after suffering a record postwar recession in the first half of the year.

But there are concerns that the recovery could be weighed down by the impact of fresh restrictions imposed to contain rapidly rising coronavirus infections, which have returned close to peak levels in some countries such as Spain and France.

US existing home sales maintain strongest pace since 2006

Matthew Rocco

Sales of previously owned homes in the US remained at their highest level since 2006 in August, as record low mortgage rates and buyers seeking more space continued to stoke the market.

Existing home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6m units last month, a gain of 2.4 per cent against July, the National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday. It was the strongest pace of sales since December 2006 and matched economists’ forecast. Sales were up 10.5 per cent year-on-year.

“Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR. “Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3% and with continued job recovery.”

The US housing market has helped lead the economy’s rebound from the depths of the coronavirus crisis in the spring. Existing home sales have risen for three months running, fuelled by falling interest rates and pent-up demand following coronavirus-related shutdowns. Demand for more spacious dwellings during the pandemic has also added to growth.

The supply of available homes remains low, Mr Yun said. He noted that wildfires in California have contributed to a rise in lumber prices, a challenge for homebuilders.

The median price for existing homes, which rose above $300,000 for the first time ever in July, was up 11.4 per cent year-on-year to $310,600.

Total housing inventory hit 1.49m units at the end of August, down 0.7 per cent from July.

UK retailers adapt to new mask requirement

Jonathan Eley in London

A British retail trade group has expressed support for requiring staff to wear masks despite some businesses worrying about the extra costs and demands on staff.

The British Retail Consortium's director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said that retailers "support all necessary safety measures including the use of face coverings for all staff”. He said companies have already spent hundreds of millions of pounds to implement safety measures.

Some retailers question the extra costs involved in meeting the tightened government policy on masks, announced by UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

"Politicians are reaching for things they can be seen to do," said one senior executive in the sector. "But empirical evidence does not support the view that mask wearing is helpful" except in certain circumstances. The person added that using and disposing of masks in accordance with best practice could result in considerable extra costs.

Mask wearing has been mandatory for customers in England since July, although retailers have been reluctant to ask their staff to enforce the requirement. The legal requirement for staff to wear them is a change in policy.

Most retailers have so far not required staff to wear masks. Some have preferred visors on the grounds that they are less intimidating to customers and more comfortable to wear for extended periods. Visors are generally thought to be less effective at limiting the spread of the virus.

European Council president in quarantine after Covid exposure

Joshua Oliver in London

European Council president Charles Michel has cancelled an EU leaders summit planned for Thursday and gone into quarantine after one of his security guards tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Michel tested negative for the virus on Monday, his spokesman said, when he also had a meeting with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, according to his schedule. The former Belgian prime minister is following official health advice to quarantine after close contact with the infected security officer last week.

The council, which is composed of the leaders of EU member nations, was due to hold a special two-day meeting in Brussels to discuss the bloc’s coronavirus economic stimulus plan and foreign relations. The summit has been postponed to the first week of October.

Florida's positivity rate jumps to highest in a fortnight

Peter Wells in New York

Daily coronavirus testing in Florida is hovering around its lowest level in two weeks, but the latest figures on Tuesday showed the positivity rate in the state has jumped to its highest mark over the same period.

Over the past 24 hours, Florida conducted 44,908 tests for Covid-19, authorities revealed this morning, up from the 43,191 on Monday that was the fewest number of daily tests in at least a fortnight.

Of those, 2,470 people tested positive for Covid-19, up from 1,685 yesterday and compared with 3,116 last Tuesday.

Even though the overall number of tests rose slightly over the past day, the percentage of people in Florida who tested positive for the first time jumped to 5.88 per cent from 4.31 per cent yesterday and compared with 4.2 per cent on Tuesday last week.

This was the highest percentage of first-time positive tests since a reading of 5.92 per cent reported on September 9.

The statewide death toll rose by 99, up from 21 on Tuesday and compared with 146 a week ago.

Ralph Lauren to cut jobs in ecommerce push

Joshua Oliver

Ralph Lauren will cut 15 per cent of its staff as the retailer tries to boost online sales after the coronavirus pandemic hit brick and mortar retail.

The fashion brand plans to shed 3,700 jobs by the end of March as it restructures its marketing and merchandising department and invests in new technology to adapt to the sharp turn to ecommerce as customers avoid stores.

The company said it expects to take a charge of between $120m and $160m to implement the changes, which it said will save up to $200m next financial year.

The cuts come during a strategic review, announced in August, after the company swung to a net loss of $127.7m in the three months to the end of June, when many of its stores worldwide had to close because of the pandemic. The company said it will take further steps as it reviews staffing, real estate costs and its portfolio of brands, which include Chaps and Club Monaco.

Ralph Lauren will report second quarter results in October.

US becomes first country to top 200,000 Covid deaths - Johns Hopkins

Peter Wells in New York

The US became the first country in the world to record 200,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures on Tuesday from one widely-followed data provider.

There have been 200,005 deaths attributed to the virus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is nearly 63,000 more than second-ranked Brazil.

The US has also confirmed more infections than any other country, with 6.86m cases of Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak, according to Johns Hopkins University, ahead of about 5.56m cases in India, which has the second-highest tally.

Globally, 965,893 people have died from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data on Tuesday, while 31.37m people have tested positive.

Covid Tracking Project, which the Financial Times uses for analysis, put the overall US death toll at 191,920, according to its most recent data that were reported on Monday evening. Their figures can differ from that of Johns Hopkins University because of various reasons including time lag, different data capture methods and data definitions.

Over the past week, the US averaged 781 deaths a day, according to data on Monday from Covid Tracking Project. Despite elevated numbers over the height of summer, the seven-day average has not topped 1,000 a day for a month.

UK records almost 5,000 new cases as fresh restrictions rolled out

Naomi Rovnick and John Burn-Murdoch in London

The UK reported close to 5,000 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, in data that emerged just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled new restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus in England.

Government figures added 4,926 positive test results on Tuesday, in the latest sign of recorded infections climbing.

This appeared to be the highest number of cases since early May, although Britain’s testing capacity has tripled since then.

And while the data shows the number of cases that could be reported on Tuesday, these cases were spread across people who took their tests across the past several days, including more than 100 whose samples were taken on Wednesday last week.

Earlier on Tuesday Mr Johnson, who is also set to address the nation at 8pm, warned the public that the government’s latest batch of restrictions could last for six months, unless a vaccination is proven or the pandemic situation “palpably” improves.

Saying the virus was at a “perilous” turning point, the prime minister reversed an earlier campaign to get employees back into offices and encouraged them once again to work from home.

He also ordered pubs and other licensed premises to close at 10pm, restricted the numbers of people who can attend weddings and play indoor sports and ordered hospitality venues to only provide table service.

The government, Mr Johnson said, could deploy the army to help police enforce the new rules.

Pandemic will destroy 100m jobs worldwide in 2020, UN group says

Jonathan Wheatley in London

The Covid-19 pandemic will destroy at least 100m jobs worldwide this year and push between 90m and 120m people in the developing world into absolute poverty, the UN Conference on Trade and Development warned on Tuesday.

In its annual trade and development report, Unctad said the world faced “a massive uptick in sickness and death” as a result of widening income gaps in the wake of the pandemic.

The developing world faced “another lost decade”, it said, as rising spending on health, declining tax revenues, a collapse in export earnings and pending debt repayments exposed a financing gap of $2tn to $3tn, which the international community had failed to address.

The report cautioned against a response to the economic damage brought by coronavirus similar to policies adopted in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

“If governments opt for premature fiscal tightening in an attempt to bring down public debt and businesses adopt an aggressive cost-cutting strategy in an attempt to boost exports, the recovery will likely fizzle out, with a double-dip recession a real possibility in many countries in 2022,” it said.

California reports smallest increase in cases in a week

Peter Wells in New York

California reported its smallest increase in new coronavirus cases in a week on Tuesday and its widely followed positivity rate hit 3 per cent for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

A further 2,630 people tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, authorities revealed this afternoon, down from 3,294 on Monday. It was the smallest increase since 2,235 new infections were reported last Tuesday.

California conducted nearly 131,300 tests over the past day, representing a rebound from recent weeks when testing efforts were hampered by the wildfires burning throughout the state.

The rolling 14-day average of test positivity today hit 3 per cent for the first time.

Deaths in the state rose by 53, down from 31 on Monday and compared with 66 last Tuesday.

UK’s Boris Johnson set to address the nation

Adam Samson

Boris Johnson is set to address the UK after he earlier warned the country was at a “perilous turning point” on Covid-19.

The prime minister unveiled earlier on Tuesday measures to stem the fresh surge in the virus, including forcing pubs in England to close at 10pm and telling people to work from home if they can.

Mr Johnson’s remarks come after government data released on Tuesday showed the country recorded almost 5,000 new cases of Covid-19, a rise of a magnitude not seen since May.

Johnson calls on ‘joint resolve’ of British people to tackle Covid surge

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, on Tuesday evening called for “joint resolve” and urged the public to comply with the new coronavirus measures.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Johnson said the virus had begun to spread in an “exponential way” and warned that the coming months will be “unquestionably difficult”.

Mr Johnson reiterated the new measures announced earlier this afternoon, which included guidance to work from home, a 10pm curfew for bars and pubs and fines of £200 for failing to comply with the rule of six.

The prime minister stressed that while he was reluctant to impose the new measures, he had the backing of the main parties within parliament and believed that it would be the best way to prevent a surge in cases and deaths.

He said: “And, of course, I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted.”

However, Mr Johnson also warned that the government would not hesitate to impose further restrictions if it became apparent that the public were not complying with the new measures.

“We have to acknowledge this is a great and freedom-loving country; and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches — too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected,” he added.

“But if people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further. We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine; and this way we can keep people in work, we can keep our shops and our schools.”

Wall Street snaps losing streak as tech rebounds

Matthew Rocco

US stocks steadied on Tuesday, snapping a four-day losing streak that came amid renewed concerns over the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Consumer discretionary and technology stocks led the rebound on Wall Street, with the benchmark S&P 500 rising 1.1 per cent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.7 per cent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5 per cent.

In tech, shares in Amazon jumped more than 5 per cent after analysts at Bernstein upgraded their rating on the stock to a buy. Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet also recorded gains.

Homebuilders gained on data that showed existing home sales maintained their strongest pace since 2006 last month. The Dow Jones US home construction index climbed 3.8 per cent, with Lennar and DR Horton surging more than 4 per cent.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was fractionally higher at 0.672 per cent. The dollar index rose 0.4 per cent.

Nike beats expectations thanks to sales growth in Europe and China

Sara Germano in New York

Nike’s sales returned to growth in Europe as initial shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic abated, though the world’s largest sportswear maker by revenue reported continued declines in its core North American market and its wholesale business.

Nike said virtually all of its owned retail stores across the world were open in its most recent three month period ended in August, though “we continue to experience year-over-year declines in physical retail traffic across the marketplace due to Covid-19 impacts and safety-related measures.”

Those challenges amounted to a slight decline in overall revenues to $10.6bn, down 1 per cent from the same period a year ago, while net income rose 11 per cent to $1.5bn. Both figures exceeded Wall Street expectations of $9.2bn and $760m, respectively, according to analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ. Nike shares rose nearly 8 per cent in after-hours trading on Tuesday to $126.

Nike’s business in two of its most competitive regions, greater Europe and greater China, had revenue gains during the period, with growth of 5 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively. Sales in Nike’s home market of North America, its largest by revenues, fell 2 per cent to $4.2bn. The company also reported double-digit growth in its direct-to-consumer sales.

Despite Nike’s ongoing emphasis of its shift to owned retail, the company’s outlook on wholesale orders — its core business — remains a concern for investors, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs. About two-thirds of Nike brand revenues in its most recent fiscal year came from sales to wholesale customers.

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