US tops world in Covid-19 cases, overtaking China and Italy

The United States on Thursday (March 26) took the grim title of the country with the most Covid-19 infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed US$5 trillion (RM21.6 trillion) to stave off global economic collapse. More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus, overwhelming healthcare systems even in wealthy nations and triggering an avalanche of government-ordered lockdowns that have disrupted life for billions. In the US, more than 82,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19, edging out Italy, which has reported the most deaths, and China, where the virus was first detected in December in the metropolis of Wuhan. The Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest number ever recorded. Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation as nearly half of the country has closed to “non-essential” businesses. (The Star Online)

S&P affirms Malaysia’s currency ratings, Outlook stable

S&P Global Ratings affirmed the country’s foreign and local currency ratings with a “Stable” outlook as it remains confident in the core credit strengths, including its robust external position and highly credible monetary policy settings. The rating agency had on Friday affirmed Malaysia “A-/A-2” Foreign Currency And “A/A-1” Local currency ratings. It said the stable outlook reflected its expectation that Malaysia’s strong external position, monetary flexibility, and well-established institutions will remain in place over the next two years. However, it said that it may raise the sovereign credit ratings over the next 24 months if the economy expands considerably faster than its forecast, and in turn produces a fiscal performance that’s better than we expected, reducing debt further than anticipated. On the other hand, its ratings on Malaysia could face downward pressure if economic growth suffers a deeper or more prolonged downturn than its currently expected. (The Star Online)

Malaysia sees another 235 new cases and four deaths

Malaysia has seen its biggest increase in Covid-19 cases with 235 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,031. The death count is now 23 after four more fatalities were reported. Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said based on initial investigations, 60 of the new cases reported were linked to the tabligh gathering at Masjid Jamek, Sri Petaling. 16 patients were discharged yesterday, raising the total recoveries to 215. He said 45 cases were being treated in intensive care, with 32 of these needing ventilators. 80 health ministry staff members were tested positive for Covid-19. (The Star Online)

(Source: The Star)

‘Unfit’ property developers will fall

With the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia extended for another two weeks to April 14, property sales galleries will remain closed and construction works halted until then. Property developers may have a slight buffer from unbilled sales to cushion the near term impact of the MCO but those with high gearing and bad credit record are in a precarious situation, said RHB Research Institute senior analyst Loong Kok Wen. Although Bank Negara Malaysia’s six-month loan deferment package would offer much needed help, developers still need to bear operational costs such as salaries. She also expects listed developers to revise their sales target lower and announce weaker results in the upcoming quarters. Nevertheless, “Although there are currently very little demand in properties, but with some demand suppressed now, it might result in a pent up of sales upon recovery of the market,” Loong added. (The Edge)

S’pore to extend VEP validity period for Malaysia-registered vehicles till June

Singapore will be extending the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) validity period for Malaysia-registered vehicles till June 30 this year. The extension was given to make it easier for Malaysian workers to remain here for an extended period amid the developing Covid-19 situation, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA). It noted there is no need for Malaysian motorists to submit any application for this extension. “They will, however, need to ensure they have sufficient value in their Autopass cards for Singapore’s VEP fee, Reciprocal Road Charge (for foreign cars only), ERP charge and toll payments before driving out of Singapore. They should also update their vehicle insurance validity dates using the VEP digital service to cover the full duration of their stay in Singapore,” it said. (NST Online)