Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day
Cyclists pass pedestrians as they cycle along a road in China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

(Bloomberg) --

A Chinese doctor dealing with the coronavirus has died, Paul Singer has his eyes set on Softbank and Uber surpassed Wall Street estimates by knuckling down on spending outlays. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

A Chinese doctor who issued an early warning about the coronavirus outbreak has died, the hospital where he worked said, ending hours of confusion about his status. Meanwhile, the city of Wuhan told residents to begin reporting their body temperature daily, and the large port city of Tianjin said it would restrict residents’ movement, part of steps across the country to stop the virus from spreading. But as countries place more restrictions on travelers, the Chinese government voiced anger in Beijing. On the companies front, Tesla temporarily closed its stores in the nation and Fiat Chrysler reportedly warned that a China-related parts shortage could force it to idle a European plant. Elsewhere, even the world's priciest shopping strip can't retain customers in the wake of the virus, which has left at least 632 dead and over 28,000 infected. It’s prompted the world’s best-performing insurance firm to seize on the health concerns to offer Thailand’s first policy to cover the novel coronavirus. And in Chinese hospitals, robots are taking center stage.

Asian stocks were set for a mixed session Friday, amid record highs for European and U.S. shares, as investors mulled the impact of the spreading coronavirus and awaited the latest data on the American economy. The dollar climbed. Futures were flat in Japan and dipped in Hong Kong. The S&P 500 Index posted modest gains to extend the week’s rally amid strong corporate results. Treasuries were steady ahead of Friday’s U.S. labor market report. Gold edged higher and the yen dipped. Oil advanced for a second day on hopes that OPEC and its allies would further curb oil production. 

Legendary activist investor Paul Singer is taking on one of his most high-profile targets yet: Masayoshi Son. Singer’s Elliott Management has built a stake of close to $3 billion in SoftBank, according to people familiar with the matter. The New York-based hedge fund believes SoftBank is one of the world’s most undervalued companies and could easily finance a share buyback of as much as $20 billion by trimming investments in companies like Alibaba, Sprint and others. Elliott has already held discussions with SoftBank’s leadership team including founder Son, the people said. The firm thinks SoftBank’s net asset value could be about $230 billion, but that it trades at a huge discount because of concerns around its Vision Fund, as well as how the failed initial public offering of WeWork last year was handled. SoftBank’s U.S.-traded shares jumped as much as 12% Thursday after the Wall Street Journal first reported the investment. They closed at $46.49 apiece in New York giving the company a market value of about $97 billion.

Boeing has discovered a new software problem on the grounded 737 Max, but the company said the flaw won’t set back the goal of returning the plane to service in mid-2020. The planemaker identified the issue during flight testing and notified the Federal Aviation Administration last month, according to an email Thursday from Boeing. The problem was that an indicator light, designed to warn of a malfunction by a system that helps raise and lower the plane’s nose, was turning on when it wasn’t supposed to, the company said. “We are incorporating a change to the 737 Max software prior to the fleet returning to service to ensure that this indicator light only illuminates as intended,” the company said. The new software problem complicates Boeing’s efforts to return the Max to service by mid-2020, even if it doesn’t derail the recently extended timetable. FAA chief Steve Dickson, told reporters in London that a certification flight for the grounded jet could occur in the next few weeks — a key regulatory step in allowing the aircraft to start flying passengers again.

Uber has proved it can keep growing. It edged out Wall Street’s expectations last quarter, with bookings up 28% and a loss that was narrower than what analysts had predicted. With gross bookings hitting $18.1 billion in the fourth quarter, the demand for transportation and food delivery orders has shown any signs of waning. Its a figure that includes the total value of rides, food orders and other businesses, and it’s closely watched by investors. But it’s Uber’s efforts to rein in spending that is proving to be especially effective: The San Francisco-based company reported an adjusted loss of $615 million, compared with a $713 million average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The loss, which excludes interest, taxes and other expenses, was $817 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The stock rose as much as 3.7% in extended trading. Uber is trying to more closely connect its various services and increase usage among the more than 100 million customers who open the app each month. The company is investing in electric bicycle and scooter rentals and experimenting with helicopter rides and temporary staffing.

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