Summary: New Zealand, the UK, EU and the United States all slammed their borders shut over the weekend to stop the spread of omicron, which has already turned up in London, the Netherlands and Sydney. Watch out this afternoon to find out in the post-cabinet presser whether your region turns red or orange from Friday. 

Omicron strikes early Global stocks fell 2.2% on Saturday morning on fears about the new omicron variant of covid emerging in South Africa. Oil prices fell 10% and the US 10-year bond yield fell 16 basis points to 1.48%, which was its biggest fall since March 2020. European stocks fell 3.7% in the worst rout seen in over a year. The NZ dollar dipped to touch 68.2 USc.

‘It’s there already’ New Zealand, the UK, the EU and the US scrambled to close their borders to South Africa and its neighbours, but cases were discovered in the Netherlands, the UK, and two were found in New South Wales. Britain announced the reimposition of mask mandates in public and on public transport. Israel closed its borders to all foreigners.

Luxon just ahead Christopher Luxon is reported to have slightly more support in National’s caucus than Simon Bridges with just over a day to go until a caucus vote for a new leader. Judith Collins’ support for Luxon has handed him a wodge of conservative MPs who had backed her, including Maureen Pugh, Harete Hipango, David Bennett and Andrew Bayly. Luxon’s mentor, John Key, was reported to be working the phones for Luxon, but that was denied later in the weekend. 

Orange or red? Cabinet meets early this afternoon to decide which colour traffic light various regions will adopt from Friday. Auckland is expected to be put into red, along with regions with significant case numbers such as the Waikato and Northland. PM Jacinda Ardern has said no one will start at green. The South Island is expected to start at orange. The live question is whether the rest of the North Island starts at red or orange. The decisions are due to announced in the post-cabinet news conference at 4pm.

Ready to beep? The traffic lights decisions will dominate for businesses preparing their mandates and QR code readers, while everyone else (except for the 15% not fully vaccinated) will have to ensure they have their vaccination certificates downloaded and put in digital wallets or printed. The Ministry of Health announced on Friday just over 2.0m New Zealanders had their certificates and over 400 pharmacies were now able to print certificates.

Coming up this week Today will be dominated by further omicron fallout on markets, although NZ stocks already fell 1.3% on Friday. There are Reserve Bank sector lending stats for October on Tuesday to show how much bank lending to home buyers is slowing, if at all. Stats NZ produces building consents data for October on Wednesday. The Reserve Bank publishes stats on household balance sheets for the Sept quarter on Friday. Global markets will be watching US jobs (non-farm payolls) figures for Nov on Saturday morning. Economists expect jobs growth of about 563k in Nov, up from 531k in Oct. 

From BusinessDesk’s correspondents today: 

  • Paul McBeth reports George Kerr’s Pyne Gould Corp is racing to work out what to do with its Torchlight fund before the distressed asset vehicle’s life expires at the end of the month; and,
  • Jenny Ruth’s weekly column out this morning is about how many companies are such poor guardians of their customers’ data.

Just in case you missed it:

  • The NZX fell 1.3% on Friday on omicron fears (BusinessDesk);
  • Brian Gaynor wrote his weekend column on the latest dramas at KiwiRail and goes deep into its history. He suggests partial privatisation could be the best solution;
  • Rebecca Stevenson’s On The Money column on Saturday includes the latest nuggets of news around the business world, including a sneaky peek at a Youtuber’s super car in Auckland; and,
  • Paul Little’s column yesterday includes an interview with Max Rashbrooke on his book about wealth inequality.