What Moved Global Markets
– Coronavirus update: International concern about the spread of coronavirus outside China grew on Sunday with sharp rises in infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran. The government in Seoul put the country on high alert after the number of infections surged over 600 with six deaths. A focal point was a church in the southeastern city of Daegu, where a 61-year-old member of the congregation with no recent record of overseas travel tested positive for the virus.
– In Italy, officials said a third person infected with the flu-like virus had died, while the number of cases jumped to above 150 from just three before Friday. Almost a dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto with a combined population of some 50,000 have effectively been placed under quarantine. Iran, which announced its first two cases on Wednesday, said it had confirmed 43 cases and eight deaths.
– Chinese state television quoted China’s President Xi Jinping as saying on Sunday Beijing would step up policy adjustments to help cushion the blow on the economy from the outbreak. “The outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia will inevitably have a relatively big impact on the economy and society,” Xi said, though he added the effects would be short-term and controllable.
– Finance chiefs of the world’s top 20 economies vowed to monitor the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on global growth and act if needed, as they said loose monetary policy and easing trade tensions would prompt a pick-up in 2020 and 2021.
– Elon Musk’s SpaceX is looking to raise about $250 million, taking the private rocket company’s valuation to about $36 billion, CNBC reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the financing. The company plans to raise the amount at a price of $220 per share and the latest funding round is not expected to close until the second week of March.
What moved Crypto Markets (i.e. digital assets)
– JPMorgan published a wide-ranging report on blockchain this week, touching on the technology’s prospects for mainstream adoption and the viability of stablecoins such as the Facebook-backed Libra project. According to the 74-page report, banks are increasingly using distributed ledger technology (DLT) to build their settlement/clearing and collateral management systems. It also notes that “the crypto market continues to mature, and cryptocurrency trading participation by institutional investors is now significant.”
– Sweden’s central bank will soon trial a blockchain-based digital currency – but it’s still in its very early stages. Announced Thursday, Sveriges Riksbank’s e-krona pilot is the latest attempt at a central bank digital currency (CBDC) from an institution that for years fretted over basing any such project on distributed ledger technology (DLT). For now at least, the e-krona pilot is set to move forward on a limited basis. Built by Accenture and based on R3 Corda, Riksbank’s digital currency trials will run as a simulation through February 2021, at which point Riksbank could extend the project for another six years.
Fintech: Financial services startups raised less money in 2019 than they did in 2018 as VC firms looked to back late-stage firms and focused on developing markets, a new report has revealed. According to research firm CB Insights’ annual report published this week, fintech startups across the world raised $33.9 billion* in total last year across 1,912 deals*, down from $40.8 billion they picked up by participating in 2,049 deals the year before.
Healthtech: A newly designed artificial intelligence tool based on the structure of the brain has identified a molecule capable of wiping out a number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, according to a study published on February 20 in Cell. The molecule, halicin, which had previously been investigated as a potential treatment for diabetes, demonstrated activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and several other hard-to-treat microbes.
AI: With the help of AI and machine learning, researchers in psychiatry at the Canadian Biomarker Integration Network for Depression are collecting clinical and biological data during treatment interventions for people with major depression. AI helps to explore early clues to changes in behaviour and mood states using mobile health technologies, while scientists research promising applications of AI to suicide prevention. One of their goals is to identify early predictors of relapse and increased risk of suicidal behaviour.
Smart cities: In India, home appliances and consumer electronics brand Haier has launched 83 products in different categories, including some powered by Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Thing solutions. The new range included refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines and LED TVs. The company which has seen a 30 percent growth in its business in 2019 aims to break into the top three of the home appliances brands in the country by 2021.
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