- ASX SPI 200 futures little changed at 7,304.00
- Dow Average little changed at 34,798.00
- Aussie down 0.5% to 0.7256 per US$
- U.S. 10-year yield rose 2.1bps to 1.4509%
- Australia 3-year bond yield rose 6bps to 0.30%
- Australia 10-year bond yield rose 15bps to 1.41%
- Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,750.42
- Brent futures up 1.1% to $78.09/bbl
Asia stocks are set to start the week under pressure with traders keeping an eye on China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis and the pace of economic recovery.
Futures fell in Japan, where the ruling coalition chooses a new leader this week who will probably be the next prime minister. Contracts were little changed in Australia and fell in Hong Kong earlier. The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China Index — which tracks some of the Asian nation’s largest firms listed in the U.S. — sank Friday. The S&P 500 edged up to eke out a weekly gain.
Investors will also be watching bond yields. Ten-year Treasury yields broke through the top of a range that’s held since mid-July, surpassing 1.40% and ending the week at 1.45% after hawkish messages last week from the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. The dollar was mixed versus peers.
A man claiming to be a part of an organized crime group threatened a “bloodbath” at a coronavirus vaccination center in Tokyo this weekend, and did so in a decidedly Japanese way: via fax, with a cover page titled “Death Threat.”
Despite repeated attempts to wean officials off fax machines, Japan remains hugely dependent on these technological relics that can feel out of place in the country that invented emoji.
(Quick note for younger readers: The fax machine scans paper to transmit messages using the telephone line. It’s like emails that are faster than mail, but sent by landline.)
Printed paper and handwritten documents are of high value here and considered the pinnacle of official records. Many government agencies depend on fax machines as a backup in case of natural disasters.
But that dependence also can lead to bureaucratic delays in essential functions, like reporting each new coronavirus infection by hand and faxing the details to the public health office. And it creates burdensome inefficiencies, like requiring job candidates to write their résumés by hand for each prospective employer.
Japanese officials recognize the need to digitize government functions. The outgoing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, launched a new digital agency to nudge civil servants into modernization. Taro Kono, who served as administrative reform minister for Suga and is now in the running to replace him, had led a crusade against the fax machine and was met with overwhelming resistance from bureaucrats.
Many argued against Kono’s efforts by noting that the fax remains a popular choice among the public and private businesses, who do not feel comfortable communicating with government agencies via email.
And the fax remains a go-to option for those airing their grievances.
Despite the threat of a potential violence sent to officials over the weekend, no one was harmed at Tokyo vaccination sites. The 38-year-old man who allegedly faxed the death threat to Tokyo police on Sunday was arrested, and police ramped up security at vaccination sites after receiving the threat, police told local media on Wednesday. The man admitted wrongdoing, saying he sent the death threat out of frustration after losing his job in the pandemic, according to a report by Japanese news outlet Mainichi.