(Bloomberg) — Markets brace for another wild week as the coronavirus keeps spreading and an oil price-war is thrown into the mix. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince moves to consolidate his grip on power. And Apple’s Tim Cook gives employees around the world the option to work from home amid an “unprecedented event.” Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
Crude oil prices slumped more than 20% and U.S. equity futures plunged over 3% at the open Monday in Asia, as a price war for crude threatened an already fragile global economy hit by increasing coronavirus worries. Japan’s yen was up about 1% against the greenback in early trading, while the Mexican peso tumbled along with Canada’s dollar. Equities in the Middle East plunged on Sunday as Saudi Arabia slashed the price of its crude after producers failed to agree on supply cuts. Stocks in Asia looked set for more declines and bond yields slid in Australia and New Zealand. Global markets are on course for another rocky week with sentiment battered as the virus continues to spread and cause more disruption to economies. The oil-price war comes just as U.S. stocks fell back into a correction and Treasury yields chalked up fresh all-time lows. The European Central Bank will provide food for thought when it decides on interest rates on Thursday.
About half of the world’s countries now have cases of Covid-19, and the death toll outside China is approaching 700. Italian fatalities have now overtaken South Korea’s death count, while France banned large gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus. U.S. officials went on Sunday talk shows to brace Americans for more changes to their daily routines as a result of Covid-19, from reduced travel to cancellations of large events. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has closed its schools indefinitely. Research shows there is a “tipping point” before coronavirus kills; here’s where that lies. And you can read the latest updates on the virus here.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s swoop against potential royal challengers shows his concerns about his grip on power outweigh the risk of unnerving investors already wary of his brazen tactics. Authorities on Friday rounded up the brother and a nephew of Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, on the grounds they were plotting a coup, according to a person familiar with the matter. The crackdown comes as the kingdom faces an economic downturn that could imperil progress on the prince’s ambitious plans. The kingdom’s de facto ruler, who’s aggressively changed social norms despite possible backlash, has big plans to transform his country into a modern powerhouse. The arrests on treason allegations that could carry the death penalty are unprecedented against such senior relatives.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook offered employees at most of its global offices the ability to work from home and called the coronavirus outbreak an “unprecedented event” and a “challenging moment.” This policy impacts “areas with the greatest density of infections,” Cook said, referring to the company’s corporate offices in the Santa Clara Valley and Elk Grove areas in California, Seattle, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the U.K. It’s an extension of the company’s move last Friday to encourage employees in California and Seattle to work remotely. It’s far from the only company to implement a work-from-home policy amid Covid-19, but Apple is uniquely impacted given its global presence and supply chain based in China. The spread of the virus forced Apple last month to remove its guidance of at least $63 billion in revenue for the March quarter. The company has already seen supply constraints for iPhones and iPad Pros due to the virus and analysts believe further product delays are possible.
Hong Kong police arrested 17 people in connection with suspected homemade bombs that have been discovered over the past two months. Police held 12 men and five women, aged between 21 and 53, after conducting overnight raids on 22 properties, senior superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau Lee Kwai-wah said at a media briefing Sunday. They seized about 1.5 kilograms of explosives and 2.6 tonnes of chemicals, Lee said. Improvised bombs exploded at three different locations in the city between late January and early last month, he said.