Five Things - Asia

EU leaders are deadlocked over a stimulus package. U.S. President Donald Trump downplays the increase in U.S. coronavirus cases. And Australia faces its biggest budget deficit since World War II. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

EU Deadlock

European Union efforts to agree on a 750 billion-euro ($856 billion) stimulus package appeared to be faltering late Sunday local time as leaders were unable to reconcile differences over how much of the recovery fund should be distributed through grants versus low-interest loans. European Council President Charles Michel floated a new proposal that would reduce the size of handouts to 400 billion euros, down from an original 500 billion euros, according to an official familiar with the discussions. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, joined by his Austrian, Danish and Swedish counterparts, rejected the new offer, and stood by a pledge to limit grants to 350 billion euros. Germany and France, with the backing of most of the bloc, are insistent that at least 400 billion euros of the package must be handouts in order to shield the fragile economies of southern Europe from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. With investors already pricing in a deal after a series of bold announcements in recent weeks, leaders are under intense pressure to bridge their differences before financial markets open on Monday.

U.S. Cases Keep Rising

U.S. cases rose 2.2%, higher than the 1.9% daily average over the last week. The nation's deaths from Covid-19 reached 140,369, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. New York City is set for Phase Four reopening on Monday while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the city is on the brink of another stay-at-home order as new cases in California accelerated. Trump said — without evidence that the U.S. has the "best mortality rate" as a poll gave Joe Biden a 15 percentage-point lead over the president. Trump played down rising coronavirus cases in the U.S., saying many people experience nothing more than "sniffles," that positive tests are only up because of wider testing, and that the U.S. response is the "envy of the world." Talks on the next coronavirus stimulus package will start at the White House on Monday. Beijing authorities lowered the city's Covid-19 emergency response level after almost two weeks of no new domestic coronavirus infections.

Market Open

Stocks looked set for a mixed start to the week ahead of a ramp up in the earnings season. The euro edged lower as EU leaders failed to reach an agreement on a recovery package over the weekend. Futures dipped in Japan, and contracts were little changed in Hong Kong and Australia. S&P 500 Index futures edged up when they opened in Asia. The euro was modestly lower in early trading, while oil was flat. The S&P 500 ended higher on Friday and global equities are coming off the back of three weeks of gains as investors assess the potential for additional pandemic policy support and company results, with a flurry of earnings coming this week.

Budget Blowout

Australia's government will deliver an economic and fiscal update that's set to show the biggest budget blowout since World War II, while a second wave of infections delays the pivot of stimulus toward the recovery. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will forecast a budget deficit of A$191.5 billion ($133.7 billion)  around 10% of GDP  for the 12 months through June 2021, a Bloomberg survey of economists showed ahead of the release in Canberra Thursday morning. They estimate the budget shortfall was A$93 billion in the fiscal year that ended last month. A fresh Covid-19 outbreak has forced the lockdown of the Victorian state capital, Melbourne, and new restrictions for restaurants, cafes and bars in New South Wales.

Extradition Treaty

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab signaled the country will join its international allies in suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong after China imposed a national security law on the former British colony. Raab told Sky News he would update Parliament on Monday on the U.K.'s extradition arrangements with Hong Kong, less than a week after the nation banned the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies as a long-term supplier for its 5G networks over concerns about the security of its infrastructure. Raab also cited China's "egregious human-rights abuses" of the country's Uighur minority. Canada and Australia have already suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong.

What We've Been Reading

This is what's caught our eye over the past 24 hours:

And finally, here's what Tracy's interested in this morning

A long time ago, a financial journalist by the name of Charles Dow had the clever idea of creating an index to track booming railroad stocks. The methodology was simple: Take 11 transportation companies, add up their share prices, divide by 11 and use the result to track the performance of the market as a whole rather than force readers to fiddle with fractional share prices. The result was the first stock market index and the precursor to what would eventually become the Dow Jones Industrial Average — the average of a selection of stocks that Dow deemed most representative of the overall U.S. economy. Since then, such indices have become the bedrock of the stock market, with trillions of dollars directly tied to their performance.



Dow could have just stuck with his transportation index — railroad stocks then were the equivalent of tech stocks today. They attracted a ton of speculative inflows while rapidly transforming the economy and fostering new businesses (such as a mail-order business that would be pioneered by Sears & Roebuck). But he opted to create a more representative index for the purposes of diversification. It's easy to forget that nowadays.

Looking at the S&P 500 now, just five companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google) make up almost 20% of its market cap — up from about 9% just five years ago. A lesser-noticed development is that a number of companies whose fortunes are tied to the big tech stocks in one way or another have also jumped up the ranks — think Intel, Cisco, Adobe, Nvidia, and Paypal. If you throw in those companies, then a quarter of the index is now comprised of technology. You can make an argument that the preponderance of tech stocks in the S&P 500 is reflective of perfectly reasonably expectations about what the future of the economy might look like. But diversification it certainly is not.


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