In this briefing:
- Governments and Policies Adapting to Critical Known Unknown
- Costs of and Response to COVID-19
- Korean Air Lines: COVID-19 Could Lead to Breach of Debt Covenants
- Fault Lines and Positive Surprises: Buy Car Makers
- Tracking the Daily COVID-19 Cases for 10 Major Countries
We argued in Lack of US market & macro volatility both reassuring and troubling that “the market’s willingness to look through domestic political and geopolitical events suggests that only a significant exogenous or endogenous shock currently beyond markets’ radar screens (an “unknown unknown”) is likely to really move the needle”.
That unknown unknown, a “black swan” event, has turned out to be a global viral pandemic on a scale not seen since the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.
The coronavirus outbreak is now three months old but governments, central banks, corporates and households still face a critical known unknown, in our view, namely the total number people who had the coronavirus, acquired immunity and are no longer contagious and who currently carry the coronavirus and are thus potentially infectious.
This includes people who have not been clinically tested – more than 99.9% of the world’s population. We estimate that only 3.3 million people (4 out of every 10,000) have been tested for coronavirus, although testing data are patchy and often released with a lag. The main reason so few people have been tested is the still limited capacity to rapidly and reliably test a very large number of people.
In econometric terms that is a very small sample from which to extrapolate country-wide trends. One implication is that the actual mortality rate may be far smaller than reported.
The high number of tests-per-capita conducted in countries such as South Korea has been posited as an explanation for their relatively low number of coronavirus-related deaths. However, other factors have likely been at play, including the timing of clinical tests, demographics, national health systems’ capacity to treat infected patients and the timing and efficacy of self-isolation and self-distancing policies, including country “lockdowns”.
For now what policy-makers know they don’t know will likely continue to influence country-specific containment plans, as well as domestic measures to support economic growth while ensuring the functioning of financial markets.
As the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic shifts from Europe to the US and the number of deaths and infection cases reach new highs, the costs of the crisis are beginning to be revealed. In Singapore economic activity contracted in 1Q20 at a faster pace than at the worst point during the GFC while Chinese industrial profits were down 38% in the first two months of the year. Despite this we are cautiously optimistic that Asian economic activity led by China will pick-up in the second half of the year. We are much more worried about advanced economies where policy mis-management threatens to tip the world economy into recession.
In this report, we analyze Korean Air Lines (003490 KS) with regards to the global COVID-19 outbreak which is likely to lead to a breach of debt covenants resulting in a need for a massive capital raise and government bailout.
South Korea’s government has already pledged loans of 300 billion won ($250 million) for the entire airlines in Korea. However, this is a TINY amount compared to the total amount needed to save this industry. This is also less than 1% of the $60 billion that the U.S. government has promised to its own air transport industry.
Going forward, a question mark about Korean Air is guessing which airliner that the Korean government will bail out since it seems clear that it will not be able to bail out all the airlines in Korea. Because of the dire situation right now, there has also been an idea of a potential merger between Korean Air Lines (003490 KS) and Asiana Airlines (020560 KS).
COVID-19 is a beast that will likely have the greatest-ever negative impact on the global airline industry in the past century. Many airlines are likely to become bankrupt in the next couple of years. There will be an intense industry consolidation. Korean Air faces an enormous challenge in the midst of this global COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to lead to a breach of debt covenants resulting in a need for a massive capital raise and government bailout.
Where are the weakest points in the global economy that could send activity into a tailspin and threaten the banking system? Italy would seem to be the prime candidate for collapse. The economy was already flirting with recession but will definitely enter one when first quarter 2020 data are published. Weak economies are always the most vulnerable when an external shock hits. Italy’s banks are bound to require a bailout from either the government or the ECB – neither of which are well placed to provide the capital.
In this report, we provide an update of the new cases of COVID-19 among 10 major countries, including the top 10 countries with COVID-19 cases (excluding China). From our previous report, Tracking the Daily COVID-19 Cases for 7 Major Countries (More Hope!), we have added three more countries including Switzerland, U.K., and the Netherlands due to their rapid increase in new cases in the past week.
A combination of the U.S. Fed’s “QE Infinity,” U.S.’s $2 trillion stimulus bill, and growing optimism that the new cases of COVID-19 can be controlled in the U.S. and Europe have helped to stage turnaround of major equity markets around the world including S&P500 and KOSPI. We continue to believe that the peak daily cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. are likely to be in this 2 week period from March 23rd to April 5th. Numerous European countries included in the top 10 countries for COVID-19 cases are also likely to experience their peak daily cases during this period.
The number of COVID-19 cases has surged in the U.S. in the past week. According to the COVID Tracking Project, there were 418,810 people that were tested for this virus as of March 25th, up nearly 10x from on March 16th. As of March 25th, 15.2% of the people that were tested had positive results, up from 10.0% on March 16th.