Long social distancing

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! ScoMo is now up in Queensland, where yesterday he inked a deal with the Palaszczuk government “to deliver $1.8 billion worth of infrastructure that will transform the [south east QLD] region”.

The new spending comes after a whirlwind trip to Western Australia last week where several commitments were made, and includes:

  • an upgrade to the Gabba Brisbane Metro Station ahead of the 2032 Olympics;
  • cash for the Council of Mayors (SEQ) Liveability and Innovation Economy Funds;
  • “resource recovery infrastructure” to help manage waste and “progress the region to a circular economy”; and
  • “digital connectivity projects” to, well, improve “digital connectivity”.

Spending galore, getting chummy with state Premiers and crossing off all the favourite buzzwords. It’s election season all right!


Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change

AUD/USD

74.0

-0.1%

AUD/CNY

4.70

-0.4%

AU Bond

2.69

+6.5%

US Bond

2.32

+7.8%

ASX200

7,279

-0.2%

S&P500

4,461

-0.0%

Brent (bbl)

116.2

+7.7%

Gold (oz)

1,935

+0.4%

Iron ore (t)

152.2

-0.9%

Bitcoin

41,157

-0.2%

Ethereum

2,919

+2.0%

Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries.

The US S&P500 started the week largely unchanged, falling -0.04% after Fed chair Jerome Powell cautioned that the central bank must move “expeditiously”, because “The labour market is very strong, and inflation is much too high.”

The Brent crude price shot up another 7.7% due to an attack on Saudi oil facilities and news that “European Union nations considered joining the United States in a Russian oil embargo”.

Locally the ASX200 lost -0.22%, falling throughout the day after a strong start following gains in the US on Friday.

Growth sectors such as tech (+2.46%) performed well while the biggest drag on the market was the industrials sector (-1.24%), dominated by toll road operator Transurban Group (-2.43%), which had a poor day along with other so-called value stocks such as biotech giant CSL (-1.47%).


Food for thought

Millions of Americans still have no desire to go back to their pre-COVID activities.
Millions of Americans still have no desire to go back to their pre-COVID activities. Source

Forget “long COVID”, there’s a new term floating around called “long social distancing”, which researchers used to describe the millions of people who “have no intention of ending some pandemic behaviours even if the threat from the coronavirus and its variants were to fully subside”.

In February around 13% of the 5,000 US residents surveyed said they would not return to pre-COVID activities completely, a figure that has remained between 10-15% throughout the pandemic (see chart above).

It’s a bit of a puzzle, according to Nicholas Bloom, a co-author and professor of economics at Stanford:

“I can understand that people in July 2020 are terrified. At the time, about 11 percent of people surveyed reported they would have no return to pre-Covid activities. But in February 2022, the latest monthly report from the economists, the figure was slightly up, to nearly 13 percent. Weighted for the national work force, that’s about 20 million adults.”

The pandemic will have long-lasting effects and we’re unlikely to fully return to the patterns of trade and specialisation seen prior to 2020. Some other insights from the research include:

  • “54% of unemployed respondents are exclusively considering or prefer jobs allowing them to work from home.”
  • “25% of sampled persons not working and not looking for work cite infection concerns as a reason”, half of which would work “if they were guaranteed to find a job allowing them to work from home”.
  • Women are more concerned about workplace infection than men and “are more likely to say they prefer jobs allowing them to work from home”.

The latest survey results are available here.


Chewing the fat


Bits and bytes

🤝 The Australian government will “invest” $A280 million in India in a deal which includes the “sharing of renewable energy technology, defence and space cooperation and a new Centre for Australia-India Relations”.

🧐 Bit of a slippery slope, this one: “If re-elected, the Morrison government will introduce new laws to parliament… [creating] more regulatory power to counter misinformation and disinformation online”.

🏥 The WA government removed its ban on elective surgeries in private hospitals after just two days, because “the increase [in COVID-19 patients] has been slower than expected”.

😬 Whoops. Newly elected South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said he “absolutely ruined” his victory speech by forgetting to thank his wife.

🙅‍♂️ Ukraine’s government ignored a deadline given to it by Russia to surrender the surrounded city of Mariupol by 05:00 Moscow time if it wanted safe passage for an estimated 300,000 trapped civilians.

🕵️‍♀️ Pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published a Russian death figure of 9,861, with 16,153 wounded, before promptly deleting the article. If accurate it would exceed even US intelligence estimates of Russian fatalities in Ukraine.

🕊️ China’s ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, said China isn’t sending “weapons and ammunitions to any party”, and that his country “will do everything” to de-escalate the conflict but “condemnation doesn’t solve the problem”.

📈 Germany’s producer prices, a potential leading indicator for consumer prices, shot up +25.9% in February from a year earlier, the largest increase on record. The survey date was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…

🔬 Another trial, another poor result for ivermectin: “The anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin did not reduce Covid-19 hospitalisations in the largest trial to date”

🦠 A new paper found that Omicron breakthrough infections provide “reduced protection against reinfection or infection from future variants”, compared to Delta breakthroughs.

✈️ Hong Kong will allow flights from nine countries starting from 1 April, including Australia. The government will also halve quarantine on arrival to 7 days and social-distancing measures will be relaxed in phases starting from 21 April.

⚡ Apparently Tesla’s can fly, although we suspect this might void the insurance.

🚘 “Until last summer, Khalid Payenda was Afghanistan’s finance minister, overseeing a $US6 billion budget. Now, seven months after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Payenda is an Uber driver in the Washington, DC metro region.”

🙏 “A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 plane carrying 133 people on board has crashed in Guangxi province… a mountainous region.”