Welcome to our wrap for investors of the key coronavirus news this week.

By the numbers

Australian deaths: 66, up 47 per cent on last week
Australian cases: 6,521, up 8 per cent on last week

Global deaths: 145,568, up 77 per cent on last week
Global cases: 2,159,450, up 50 per cent on last week

While Australia’s percentages have been steadily tracking lower since we launched this column, the global figures have been heading in the opposite direction.

The ASX All Ordinaries closed up 1.41 per cent on April 17 at 5,544.70 points.

The Dow Jones 30 futures, an indicator for how the ASX will open the following trading day, was up 3.37 per cent at 5pm on April 17 to 24,196 points.

 

What governments have been doing

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is ramping up the language around an economic reopening, as the states maintain high levels of caution around a possible second wave of infections.

Morrison was preparing the nation for the worst on Melbourne’s 3AW radio on Friday, saying the damage to the economy was the “biggest we have seen since the Great Depression” and that it “is going to hit like a truck”.

This week the National Cabinet agreed to a set of conditions that need to be met before restrictions are lifted and this won’t be for at least four weeks.

The conditions include “situational awareness” of COVID-19 in the community; a finalised and adequately resourced surveillance plan; better understanding of modelling; mature public health capacity; mature health system capacity; advanced technology for contact tracing; and assurance of PPE supply lines.

Australia is likely about two years from a publicly available vaccine, so mitigation rather than preventing another COVID-19 outbreak entirely is increasingly how governments are thinking.

This may feel slow to some, but feel for New Zealanders who have been locked into virtual home detention for a month: the trans-Tasman jealousy began in earnest this week.

New Zealanders are asking why Australians are a) allowed to buy takeaway coffees, b) go to liquor stores and c) buy clothes online, and they can’t, when both countries appear to have a good handle on COVID-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may lift the restrictions slightly on Monday to allow people to see partners who don’t live with them, have takeaways and food delivered, and allow a single person such as a relative into their “bubble”.

 

What investors are saying

Investors in the World Bank’s pandemic bonds will be happy — the $US320bn bond won’t pay out, yet.

The bond was designed to fund the poorest countries in times of epidemics but the conditions are so stringent the bond, which matures in June, doesn’t yet meet the payout criteria.

Investors around the world are jumping on board telehealth, with $1.3bn sunk into the sector in the March quarter.

The March crash proved just how much policymakers and regulators have learned from the GFC. Janus Henderson global head of fixed income Jim Cielinski says there are four ways it differed to the last market upheaval, indicating that new ideas and new financial instruments are living up to their hype.

And while the bulls among us are expecting boom times in the next six weeks as home-grown manufacturing and education have their hey-days, for the common man and woman life is likely to be pretty grim for a while yet (if job ads are anything to go by).

Americans are predicting they’ll feel comfortable getting out and about again three to six months after the curve flattens. There’s no data on how Australians feel, but they may not be up to spending like they used to.

Businesspeople are feeling pretty low about the whole situation too.

 

What companies have been up to

Ticker Company Price April 17 6 month return 1 week return Market cap
1ST 1ST GROUP LTD 0.047 -30 88 $21.7M
MPH MEDILAND PHARM LTD 0.15 -50 50 $46.9M
ONE ONEVIEW HEALTHCARE PLC-CDI 0.062 -75 40 $8.7M
ADR ADHERIUM LTD 0.033 -46 30 $11.9M
WNB WELLNESS AND BEAUTY SOLUTION 0.013 -32 18 $17.6M
NET NETLINKZ LTD 0.053 -71 15 $130.7M
IHL IMPRESSION HEALTHCARE LTD 0.063 -25 15 $47.3M
MX1 MICRO-X LTD 0.175 -46 9 $43.8M
HCT HOLISTA COLLTECH LTD 0.17 143 6 $46.8M
FOD FOOD REVOLUTION GROUP LTD/TH 0.067 -4 6 $49.3M
BKL BLACKMORES LTD 78.17 -8 4 $1.3B
EHH EAGLE HEALTH HOLDINGS LTD 0.14 12 0 $51.6M
GTG GENETIC TECHNOLOGIES LTD 0.008 11 0 $23.4M
GSS GENETIC SIGNATURES LTD 1.8 47 -3 $258.1M
WSP WHISPIR LTD 1.45 -6 -3 $153.5M
LSH LIFESPOT HEALTH LTD 0.057 14 -3 $4.6M
BIT BIOTRON LTD 0.096 30 -4 $70.2M
HT8 HARRIS TECHNOLOGY GROUP LTD 0.03 12 -5 $3.6M
JAT JATENERGY LTD 0.05 -12 -6 $48.6M
DEM DE.MEM LTD 0.15 -42 -6 $27.2M
PAA PHARMAUST LTD 0.105 -36 -7 $25.1M
MSB MESOBLAST LTD 2.23 25 -11 $1.3B
AEI AERIS ENVIRONMENTAL LTD 0.57 107 -13 $138.1M
UCM USCOM LTD 0.26 126 -15 $39.7M
ZNO ZOONO GROUP LTD 1.62 1100 -18 $284.2M

Rapid HIV and COVID-19 test kit maker Atomo Diagnostics (ASX:AT1) broke the IPO drought, gaining 125 per cent on the day it listed this week.

Who knew divorce lawyers would be so happy about a pandemic? More than that, who knew ASX investors could get access to this “economically resilient” industry? Well now you do, through Australian Family Lawyers (ASX:AFL).

Fear is also still driving gold prices, benefiting companies like miner Capricorn Metals (ASX:CMM), Twenty Seven Co (ASX:TSC), NTM Gold (ASX:NTM) and even Chilean venture Tesoro Resources’ (ASX:TSO).

Buy now, pay later stocks are at the extreme end of the current market volatility, with shares in Afterpay (ASX:APT) crashing then coming back 29 per cent in a day this week.

Afterpay, along with the rest of the ASX buy now, pay later sector, have all delivered returns of 100 per cent or more since their lows in March — but not without taking shareholders on a white knuckle ride along the way.

In an explicit rebuke to the childrearing experts who, until now, have claimed only disaster can come from kids and screens, certain education companies are set to be some of the key winners from the COVID-19 restrictions as the schools worldwide go digital.

iCollege (ASX:ICT) saw record cash collections of $3.17m for the March quarter, and Kip McGrath Education Centres (ASX:KME) reckons it’s doing ok from the shift online.

A number of companies have only just jumped on the COVID-19 bandwagon and investors, fearful of missing out on the kind of gains seen by the early movers in February, are clutching at every headline that includes the word ‘COVID-19’.

This week the new additions to the coronavirus playlist include MGC Pharma (ASX:MXC), PharmAust (ASX:PAA) and Genetic Technologies (ASX:GTG), which joined the list on Friday, Starpharma (ASX:SPL) and Nanoveu (ASX:NVU), Adherium (ASX:ADR) after Pennsylvania-based HGE Health agreed to integrate its asthma monitoring software into its telemedicine platform, and Genetic Signatures (ASX:GSS) and Mesoblast (ASX:MSB).