Bargain hunting in a bear market
Looking for bargains in a bear market? Swisspartners CIO Peter Ahluwalia says some great deals await the brave of heart.
SNB to step up currency interventions
The Swiss National Bank refused to join the global rate-cutting frenzy today, signaling that it will step up currency interventions to stem the rise of the franc against the euro. Pictet’s Patrick Zweifel says the SNB made the right move and weighs in on helicopter money.
Ticino hospitals brace for surge in patients
Doctors near the Swiss border with Italy started seeing the first coronavirus patients in early March and the number has been rising ever since. “I think the situation right now is what Italy was experiencing about two weeks ago,” said Paolo Ferrari, chief medical officer at the Ente Cantonal Hospital in Ticino. He said hospitals have been setting up COVID-19 centers, but the combined capacity is still limited to 80 critically ill patients on respirators.
Small businesses switch to survival mode amid coronavirus
Switzerland went into lockdown less than a week ago but for many small businesses that’s already way too long. Panic is setting in as they watch their revenue dry up and their cash pot dwindle. “Small businesses are currently in survival mode, trying to secure liquidity and upcoming salary payments,” said Ramon Schalch, managing director of the cafe chain ViCAFE, which employs 93 people. Instead of espressos at their coffee bars, these days they’re only making money by selling coffee beans online. The business is putting all its hopes on “Kurzarbeit,” a government program that would cover 80 percent of employee salaries for companies that shut down because of the health emergency. Billions on the table The streets are clearing out after the Swiss government pressed pause on all leisure activities until at least April 19. Shops, restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms, and hairdressers are all closed as the number of coronavirus cases surges. The Federal Council is expected to present new measures on Friday to cushion the blow for small businesses, which make up the bulk of the economy. Last week, it announced a CHF 10 billion aid package to keep companies afloat. It includes CHF 8 billion for “Kurzarbeit,” or short-time work, and CHF 580 million in guaranteed bank loans. But some economists say that’s not nearly enough. One proposal put forward by Hans Gersbach and Jan-Egbert Sturm, two prominent professors at ETH Zurich, calls for a CHF 100 billion bailout fund that would be financed in part by the Swiss National Bank. “What we actually want to prevent is that these firms cease to exist,” said Sturm, director of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute. “We also hope that after the crisis is over, after the epidemic has been dealt with, that these firms can restart their businesses again.” Businesses demand help Within cantons, the take-up for aid has been strong. Zurich has received about 8,000 requests related to work stoppages in recent days, the Office for Economy and Labor said Thursday. Geneva said it has received 600 queries about short-time work from companies and about 33,000 from worried employees since last week. Geneva and Basel are rolling out tens of millions of francs in measures to support local businesses, mainly in the form of guarantees for bank loans. Carole Chappuis is one of those searching for options. She runs two yoga studios in Geneva and Lausanne with around 30 employees combined. “We are lucky if we survive,” she said by phone. “We have enough liquidity until the end of April but if it extends any longer, we will have to choose between a line of credit or bankruptcy.” Zurich-based indoor cycling studio Velocity hopes to avoid laying off employees as a result of COVID-19. “It is sadly unclear from both the government and our insurance provider if there will be any compensation for the complete loss of revenues,” said owner Mallory Nieman.
Coronavirus could cost the world 25 million jobs, UN says
The economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by as much as 25 million people, the International Labor Organization warns. Sangheon Lee, the UN body’s head of employment policy, said that nonstandard workers—those working in the gig economy, the self-employed, and particularly young people—were likely to be most at risk.
Coronavirus: closed restaurants, open kitchens
Restaurants may be closed, but kitchens are still open for business. Here’s how Switzerland’s small businesses are trying to survive the coronavirus shutdown.
Swiss government urged to set up bailout fund
The Swiss government should set up a CHF 100 billion fund—about 15 percent of GDP—to help businesses survive the coronavirus crisis, two prominent economists say. They also say the Swiss National Bank should contribute to the fund, which would complement the CHF 10 billion in state aid already pledged by the Federal Council.
Three Asian cities show Europe how to fight coronavirus
China’s draconian measures for controlling the coronavirus outbreak on the mainland cannot be easily replicated by nations in the rest of the world, which don’t have the same top-down power structure. But successful action taken in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan can serve as better examples, says Steven Jiang, a CNN senior producer based in Beijing. His comments come after the WHO urged Europe on Tuesday to ramp up its efforts and take bold action.
Switzerland races to avoid becoming the next Italy in coronavirus crisis
Switzerland is in a desperate race against time as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to rise rapidly. The government on Wednesday reported 2,772 confirmed cases of the disease, an increase of more than 500 from Tuesday. The death toll climbed to 21 from 14. Officials are imploring people to observe restrictions on social contact to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Daniel Koch, head of the federal health office, says the country may have just 10 days to get the situation under control. Switzerland is in a lockdown, with shops, restaurants, sports centers, and schools all closed, and there are bans on public and private gatherings. It has mobilized up to 8,000 military members to assist civil authorities and medical personnel. But concerns are growing that the country may follow the same course as Italy, where the health care system is on the verge of collapse. The situation across the region “does not look very accommodating,” Vontobel analysts said in a note Wednesday. “Harsher measures are needed to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing.” The government is preparing additional economic relief, on top of the CHF 10 billion aid package presented last week. “The Federal Council today discussed additional measures to cushion the economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic,” spokesman André Simonazzi said in a tweet. He said the decision will be announced Friday. The statement comes amid news reports that several big banks are working on a plan to support cash-strapped businesses. Credit Suisse said it is “actively involved” with the federal government, the Swiss National Bank, and the financial supervisor FINMA on ways to provide liquidity and loans for companies. UBS declined to comment. The SNB is expected to leave rates unchanged at its policy meeting on Thursday, but it may take other measures to shore up the economy. Like much of the world, Switzerland is headed for a recession in the coming months, the KOF economic institute said Tuesday. While Swiss officials have said helicopter money is out of the question, the concept is finding favor in the U.S., where the government is considering sending USD 1,000 checks directly to Americans to help them make ends meet during the outbreak. Switzerland is urging nationals traveling abroad to return home after the EU restricted entry to the 27-nation bloc. The country, which is not an EU member, shares a border with France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. All are now closed to foreigners in both directions. The European Business Aviation Association called on the EU and Switzerland to consider “all recovery and relief measures to ensure business continuity” for an industry that employs 370,000 people across the region. “We have been receiving reports of operators’ aircraft grounded, airport closures, and staff being put on leave across Europe due to the rapidly evolving crisis and travel restrictions,” Athar Husain Khan, secretary general of the EBAA, said in a statement Wednesday.
Couriers to the rescue
A Swiss tech start-up is rejiggering its model to help communities during the coronavirus lockdown. LuckaBox usually focuses on deliveries for businesses, but now it is opening its last-mile courier app to the broader public so that high-risk and vulnerable people can get food and medicine delivered to their door.
The coronavirus blues
The coronavirus crisis is serving as a source of e inspiration for musicians and governments seeking to educate people about the disease and to help people cope with confinement.
Switzerland needs more widespread coronavirus testing, says EPFL’s Salathé
Switzerland should have started testing more liberally a long time ago to slow the spread of the coronavirus, says Marcel Salathé, an associate professor at EPFL and an expert in digital epidemiology. While it would be very challenging to ramp up testing now, “in the long run, it’s the only way to get this under control,” he said.
Europe resorts to unprecedented restrictions on public life
Europe hunkered down Tuesday, with borders, schools, and businesses closed across the region and a police lockdown underway in the worst-hit countries. Governments have drastically curtailed movement and social contact as the number of cases continues to surge. France ordered a nationwide lockdown Monday, joining Italy, Spain, and Greece. In the UK, the most vulnerable were told self-isolate for 12 weeks. Switzerland and Germany stopped short of mandating citizens to stay home. The Swiss Federal Council on Monday expanded business closures to include shops, restaurants, sports facilities, museums, cinemas, and hairdressers. Grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and pharmacies remain open. Germany also clamped down on public life. Schools and gatherings of more than 100 people had already been banned since Friday. President Simonetta Sommaruga appealed to people to strictly adhere to the new rules on gatherings and closures. Failure to do so could imperil country’s health care system and prevent the sick from getting urgently needed medical attention, she said. Borders slam shut across Europe Europe as a whole moved to restrict entry, while individual countries also tightened borders. Aside from trucks in transit or carrying goods, Switzerland is open only to citizens, residents, and commuters. The government mobilized as many as 8,000 members of the military to provide medical services, transport the ill, and assist with border checks. They may also be used to construct “improvised infrastructure,” the government said without elaborating. With tens of millions of people confined to their homes, the list of large manufacturers shutting down is growing. Volkswagen said Tuesday that it would close most of its European plants for two weeks because of uncertainty over demand for cars and supplies of parts. The aircraft manufacturer Airbus also suspended production in France and Spain this week as a precaution against the spread of the virus. More and more economists are predicting the pandemic will cause a global recession. The Swiss economy will also slump during the first half of the year, with export industries hardest hit, before slowly returning to growth, the Swiss Economic Institute KOF said Tuesday. Page Break Page Break Roche rolls out COVID-19 tests Roche has started shipping the first 400,000 COVID-19 tests to laboratories across the U.S. to begin patient testing under an Emergency Use Authorization, the Swiss drugmaker said Tuesday. CEO Severin Schwan told CNNMoney Switzerland on Monday that the company is in talks with regulators to make its drug Actemra available to treat the secondary effects of the coronavirus infection. Stocks in Europe struggled for direction. The FTSE 100, the DAX and the CAC 40 were all down about 1 percent in afternoon trading. The three major U.S. indexes opened higher but quickly slipped into the red in choppy trading a day after Wall Street recorded historic declines. Switzerland has recorded 2,269 confirmed cases of the virus, including 14 deaths. Globally, more than 185,000 people have contracted the disease and more than 7,400 have died. “We know things will get worse before they get better,” Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset said at a news conference late Monday. “But they will get better.”
Neighbors mobilize against coronavirus
Communities are using social media to organize grocery shopping or help with other basic needs for people confined to their homes. Hilf-jetzt.ch, a platform set up on Friday, lists 300 groups that offer assistance to those coping with the coronavirus outbreak. Tanya König spoke to Alessandro Iacono, co-founder of the platform, to find out more.