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


By the numbers

Australian deaths: 91
Australian cases: 6,752
Global deaths: 227,705
Global cases: 3,195,316

The ASX All Ordinaries closed up 2.45 per cent on April 30 at 5,597.70 points.

The Dow Jones 30 futures, an indicator for how the ASX will open the following trading day, was up 0.33 per cent at 4.47pm on April 30 to 24,648.5 points.


What governments have been doing

While COVID-19 is increasingly being viewed in the rear view mirror, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia is warning governments not to become complacent.

It released a survey this week showing that while the country has 1639 ICU beds, it still only has enough of the ventilator drug propofol for 774 of those beds.

The federal government is focused on continuing to build its stockpiles but has also started the journey towards economic recovery, kicking off with the launch of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

A priority will reportedly be massive retraining programs to prevent a similar decade-long slump in employment, as happened after the “recession Australia had to have” in 1990-91. But reform will also include industrial relations and consider leaving in place the light-touch regulatory compliance processes and changes to the public infrastructure such as telehealth and virtual courtrooms.

State governments are preparing for a collective interest bill of $1.6bn on the debt raised to fend off COVID-19, drought and bushfires, says ANZ. By June 2021, total debt is expected to hit $290bn.

But the federal government is wondering whether it’ll be able to bank some of the $130bn slated for the JobKeeper wage subsidy, if the economy recovers faster than expected.

It’s been nudging states and industries to move a bit faster in opening up, with varied success, while fending off threats from the Chinese ambassador that if Canberra doesn’t back off its China-made-COVID-19-in-a-lab claim, it’ll stop buying Australian goods.


What investors have been saying

“By the time we get into the second half of the year we’ll start to see a recovery, and in 2021 especially both the US and Australian economies will be growing at boom levels.”

An economic boom with a corresponding financial markets spike is increasingly the consensus among bullish investors and economists around the world.

The bears are still out and about, though, and their view is that social lockdowns will last longer than anyone expects and more pain is to come.

But then bears have been saying this since early 2009 and so far they’ve been right once, in March.

This week several economists said the next few quarters’ of data would be frightening, but thanks to the high level of government intervention a recovery will be underway by next year. 

UBS director Richard Sleijpen said while the government and banking stimuli provided the first rebound it was not clear where the next bounce would come from, so he’s keeping a close eye on financial guidance from listed companies.


What companies are up to

Cellular medicine company Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) is now a front-runner for COVID-19 treatments, after moving into phase two studies for its stem cell treatment after getting promising initial results on US patients with moderate to severe symptoms.

The company wants to find out whether its stem cell treatment — remestemcel-L — will provide a survival benefit for “moderate/severe acute respiratory distress syndrome” caused by the virus.

Miners are getting among it, with Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) hiring a number of coaches from the West Coast Eagles AFL team to provide personal motivation and advice on health, nutrition and wellbeing to its workers, while BHP has offered its caravans to provide temporary facilities to help the local women’s shelter and police in Newman.

Small cap retailers are preparing to reopen — whether the state they’re in has done so or not. Only NSW, Queensland, WA and the NT have announced lower restrictions so far.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made Europe more determined than ever to secure its own battery supply chain and drastically reduce its reliance on China.

That’s the sound of music to people like Keith Coughlan, managing director of lithium explorer European Metals Holdings (ASX:EMH), who says Europe is ploughing so much money into his industry it eclipses pretty much every other western economy.

And in a time of crisis, people do not turn to plant-based meat.

This is a fact that has become universally know following images of Beyond Meat’s stock surrounded by empty shelves in supermarkets during the worst of the stockpiling panic.

All of which is great news for ASX small cap Wide Open Agriculture (ASX:WOA), which makes real meat but with an ethical edge.