News in South Africa 16th March:
1. Coronavirus declared a national emergency:
Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is now officially a state of disaster in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday night.
That means travel bans for people from some countries, schools shutting down – and a prohibition on any event involving the gathering of more than 100 people.
With South Africa’s economy already feeling the pinch of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa promised that the government is on the verge of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact.
Most major universities across the country have suspended classes with immediate effect.
2. US Fed slashes interest rates:
The Federal Reserve swept into action on Sunday to save the US economy from the fallout of the coronavirus, slashing its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero and promising to boost its bond holdings by at least $700 billion.
In remarks underlining the sense of urgency, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told a hastily assembled press briefing by telephone that the disruption to lives and businesses meant second quarter U.S. growth would probably be weak and it was hard to know how long the effects would last. That left a clear role for fiscal policy to help cushion the blow.
“The thing that fiscal policy, and really only fiscal policy can do, is reach out directly to affected industries, affected workers, and we’ve seen some of that so that’s an important job,” he said. “We do know that the virus will run its course and that the U.S. economy will resume a normal level of activity. In the meantime, the Fed will continue to use our tools to support the flow of credit.”
3. Oil prices under pressure:
Oil prices came under big pressure again overnight, with the WTI oil price briefly dipping below $30. Brent crude oil was last 6% weaker at $31 a barrel.
4. No load shedding today:
Eskom released a power update on Sunday evening saying that it did not expect to implement load shedding on Monday even though the possibility of load shedding for the rest of the week remained high.
On Sunday the power utility was able to suspend load shedding altogether by 12:00 noon as a result of low demand and improved system capacity, according to a previous power update.
“Following improvements in the generation system during the weekend, no load shedding is expected tomorrow (Monday).
5. Sasol rallied on Friday:
After a horrific week, Sasol staged a 36% rally on Friday. Still, it lost almost 70% of its value on the week.