Mint Lite is a quick update to bring you up to speed on all the news you need to know—and some things that are just fun to know—in five minutes before you start your day
Protests against George Floyd’s killing continue, and companies like Nike and Amazon have spoken out against racism. Corporates usually don’t show solidarity but this time, speaking up seems to be an imperative. Even Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg has said he will consider changes to the policy that led the company to retain controversial posts by US President Donald Trump on Floyd’s death. For the rest of the news to catch up on before you start your day, here’s Mint Lite.
India is emerging from a strict 70-day lockdown today, even as coronavirus cases are rising. Malls, restaurants and places of worship will open up as the government is anxious to restart the economy but experts are worried that the spread has not been fully contained and cases could spike. Concerts, sporting events and political rallies are still banned. India, with 247,678 cases (as of 5pm Sunday) has now become the fifth most-affected country after it surpassed Spain, which has 241,310 infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. India’s health ministry, however, has confirmed only 239,698 cases and 6,929 deaths till 5pm on Sunday. Globally, cases crossed 6.9 million on Sunday as numbers surge in Brazil and India. About 30% of those cases are in US though the fastest growing outbreak is in South America, which accounts for roughly 16% of all cases. Globally, deaths from the novel coronavirus have crossed 400,000.
Miners stuck with gems
The pandemic has devastated the diamond world. Jewellery stores closed their doors, India’s cutting and polishing artisans have been forced to stay at home for 70 days, and De Beers had to cancel its March sale because buyers couldn’t travel to view gems. De Beers and Alrosa have moved to defend their market. They refused to cut prices, instead allowing buyers to renege on contracts. They’ve reduced production to control stock levels. Yet the diamonds keep piling up. The five biggest producers are probably sitting on excess inventories worth $3.5 billion, according to Gemdax, a specialist advisory firm, Bloomberg reports. The figure could reach $4.5 billion by the end of the year, or about one-third of annual rough-diamond production. There are some signs of recovery. Chinese retailers are open and India has allowed manufacturing to restart in Surat at 50% capacity. The main Indian trading offices are allowed 10% of employees on site.
Indian leaders came late to the coronavirus discussion. And when they did, they focused more on health and administration than the economy or the poor, as our Plain Facts analysis of 23,115 tweets posted by 20 selected Indian leaders across the political spectrum between 30 January and 30 May shows (see chart). India reported its first coronavirus case on 30 January, but it would not be more than a month before most top political leaders in India even acknowledged covid-19 on social media. In the pre-lockdown period, the selected politicians mentioned the virus in 18% of their tweets, and this rose to 45% in the hard Phase II lockdown. But as the economy reopened, the figure fell to 38%. The exception is chief ministers, who are grappling with this health crisis and half of whose tweets still relate to the virus.
Europe plays it safe with bonds
European governments are taking no chances as they tackle the challenge of borrowing record amounts of money to fund coronavirus relief efforts and keep their economies shored up. National treasuries are increasingly turning to bond syndications, a way of selling debt that guarantees the target amount will be raised, though at a higher price than a conventional auction. Italy raised record amounts both during its April offering and at one in the last week. UK is set to follow suit next week. Germany also may be lining up a sale. JPMorgan Chase estimates that around 30% of this year’s government debt issuance (worth about $198 billion) was through syndications, where a group of banks underwrite the offering, all but guaranteeing that the target amount gets sold. That’s around a third more than what’s normal for the time of year. For more, read Mark to Market.
New studies change WHO line on masks
World Health Organization has said that simple face coverings are no longer enough protection against the coronavirus. It’s advised people to wear a three-layer fabric mask—absorbent cotton closest to the face, a polypropylene layer, then a synthetic layer that is fluid-resistant—when physical distancing is not possible. The elderly and other people at high risk should wear N95 medical-grade masks. In April, it had said there was not enough evidence to show that healthy people should wear masks but as new studies emerge, including the latest funded by the global health body itself, on the ways the virus spreads, advisories are changing. Several countries, including India, Germany and Spain, have made wearing masks in public compulsory. Others like the UK now have to rethink rules. WHO has suggested that small businesses make masks to generate employment, and in India, masks have also entered the vocabulary of traditional artists such as Madhubani painter Ambika Devi.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @shalinimb
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