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Amid massive turnover, Agios hires Biogen alum as new CFO; Scholar Rock, Everest Medicines lead the big CEO parade

Cecilia Jones
When Cecilia Jones started at Genzyme, there was next to nothing in Kendall Square.
“It was just us,” Jones said. “There wasn’t much…



Cecilia Jones

When Cecilia Jones started at Genzyme, there was next to nothing in Kendall Square.

“It was just us,” Jones said. “There wasn’t much to even go for lunch.”

Jones would work in Cambridge, MA, for the next 17 years — spending seven at Genzyme and 10 at Biogen, where she would go on to hold a VP role in finance — as Kendall Square and Cambridge grew into a biotech hub.

“It’s like night and day,” Jones said of the area now.

On Monday, Jones will return to Cambridge as the CFO of Agios, following a two-year stint at LogicBio (located less than 10 miles outside Cambridge).

Jones joins Agios as the biotech is going through a period of continuous churn. In late 2020, Agios announced it was selling off its entire cancer portfolio, including Tibsovo, an AML drug. Since then, it has pivoted to rare diseases, starting with Pyrukynd, a drug for pyruvate kinase deficiency, which got its first approval in February of this year.

In May, amid a larger market downturn, Agios laid off some 50 employees, and then in July, its CSO Bruce Car departed. Soon after, Jackie Fouse handed the CEO seat to Brian Goff, as Fouse transitioned to board chair.

When asked about the turnover at Agios, Jones said, “I asked them the same questions.”

But for Jones, Agios’ new look as a rare disease biotech was an attracting factor. She first worked in rare diseases at Genzyme, where she said she developed her passion for the field. “To me, being part of an organization that has the potential to make this positive impact on people with rare and genetically-defined diseases is incredibly rewarding. Obviously I don’t discover drugs, I don’t work in the lab, but I support the groups that do that,” Jones said.

On Goff coming on as CEO, Jones said, “That was actually one of the things that attracted me to the job too, is Brian has a lot of rare disease expertise and commercial experience with launching rare disease drugs, so I think he was a perfect fit to try to lead the company in the next phases.”

Jones moved to the US in 2000 to get her MBA from Harvard Business School. After graduating, she decided to stay in the US and landed her first job at Genzyme. “I had no background in biotech and had never worked in pharma or anything like that,” Jones said. “It was a completely new challenge for me. And this was also 20 years ago — I feel like biotech has become much more popular and much more known.”

“In Argentina,” Jones said, where she grew up, “definitely, biotech was very nascent, and nobody knew much about it.”

But Jones has stayed with the Boston-area biotechs.

“I question that every winter,” Jones joked. She then added, “I’ve stayed very loyal to Massachusetts. I still have my Argentina roots, and I do go back home every year, but it’s been 22 years now.”

Lei Lei Wu

Jay Backstrom

Scholar Rock founder Nagesh Mahanthappa took it upon himself to fill in as CEO when Tony Kingsley ultimately left for Versant protein stabilization biotech Stablix. But he’ll soon roll out the welcome mat for new chief executive Jay Backstrom, the R&D chief at Acceleron before Merck’s $11.5 billion M&A play last year. The ex-Celgene CMO and head of global regulatory affairs also adds to his collection of board appointments, which includes Autolus Therapeutics, Be Biopharma, Disc Medicine and Lava Therapeutics. When Backstrom gets settled on Oct. 20, Mahanthappa will relinquish his seat on the board of directors and become a strategic advisor.

Rogers Yongqing Luo

Everest Medicines has quickly filled the CEO slot that Kerry Blanchard left vacant in late August. Rogers Yongqing Luo had spent the last two years as president and general manager for Greater China at Brii Biosciences, and he helped get eight drugs past the finish line as Everest partner Gilead’s global VP and China general manager. In June, Everest celebrated its Trodelvy approval in China, and Gilead then shelled out $280 million upfront for rights to the drug in China and select countries in Asia. Ten days after the deal was made, Blanchard called it quits.

Mark Rothera

Mark Rothera has resurfaced as president and CEO of San Diego cancer biotech Viracta Therapeutics. In February, Rothera stepped aside as chief executive of UK RNAi player Silence Therapeutics and left his CFO, Craig Tooman, in charge with little explanation, but our Max Gelman indicated that Tooman’s M&A credentials could’ve been a factor in his appointment. Silence has cycled through a number of CEOs in the last five years, from Ali Mortazavi to David Horn Solomon (now with Pharnext) to Rothera’s appointment in September 2020 after his stint as CEO of Orchard Therapeutics. Viracta’s lead program, a combination of nanatinostat and valganciclovir (nana-val), is in a Phase II trial for relapsed/refractory Epstein-Barr virus-positive lymphoma.

Abigail Jenkins

→ A new era has dawned at Gamida Cell, where Julian Adams is retiring and Abigail Jenkins has replaced him as president and CEO. Formerly the chief commercial and business officer at Lyndra Therapeutics, Jenkins was business unit head of vaccines at Emergent BioSolutions, exiting the Baltimore company just as things really started to go sideways with the production of J&J’s Covid-19 jab. Gamida Cell’s decision day with the FDA on its cell therapy omidubicel is Jan. 30, 2023. Amber Tong has more on Adams’ retirement.

Matthias Alder

Gain Therapeutics has promoted Matthias Alder to CEO, as Eric Richman concentrates on his duties as a board member and senior advisor. As we pointed out at the time, Alder came to the protein misfolding biotech almost a year ago as COO, moving on from his CBO post at Autolus. From 2014-17, he was EVP, business development & licensing, general counsel and corporate secretary for Sucampo Pharmaceuticals. Richman is a 12-year MedImmune vet who took over as Gain’s CEO in July 2020 and guided the Bethesda, MD biotech to its modest IPO in March 2021, but its stock $GANX has taken a beating ever since, an unsurprising turn of events in the current bear market.

Jodie Morrison

→ There’s a changing of the guard at Q32 Bio, now teaming up with Horizon on the anti-IL-7Rα antibody ADX-914: Atlas Venture partner Jodie Morrison has been named acting CEO as former Goldfinch Bio exec Michael Broxson walks out the door. Morrison — the former chief executive at Cadent Therapeutics until it was sold to Novartis — takes a seat on the board and she’ll also preside over Q32 Bio’s program for complement disorders, ADX-097, which is in an early-stage trial.

→ One week removed from ex-Trillium chief Jan Skvarka’s appointment to the board of directors, Zentalis has poached Carrie Brownstein from Cellectis, naming her CMO. While she was medical chief at Cellectis, Brownstein started her tenure inauspiciously when a patient death prompted a clinical hold of the French biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T drug for multiple myeloma, a study that would resume four months later. Brownstein, a former senior medical director at Roche and a Regeneron oncology vet, was VP of global clinical R&D during her three years at Celgene.

Piyush Sharma

Alnylam has made a pair of appointments as it claims a win with patisiran in ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy. Piyush Sharma (chief ethics & compliance officer) is a Pfizer alum who was head of compliance at Alexion once it became part of the AstraZeneca universe. And Evan Lippman (Alnylam’s first chief corporate development and strategy officer) says goodbye to Alessandro Riva’s crew at Intima Bioscience, where he was president and COO. During a four-year run with Takeda, Lippman served as SVP, head of corporate development, M&A and valuation.

Eliseo Salinas

Eliseo Salinas’ next landing spot is with Delix Therapeutics, the Boston neuro biotech that launched in 2019 and nabbed $70 million in Series A financing almost exactly a year ago. Salinas, who signed on as R&D chief at Delix, had the same title at Passage Bio and split the scene in the midst of a reorg in March that refocused the pipeline and shaved off 13% of the staff. (CEO Bruce Goldsmith would later step down.) In May 2021, Salinas took over as interim medical chief when Gary Romano resigned mere days after CFO Richard Morris also decided to pack his bags. Prior to his time at Passage Bio, Salinas was CSO at Shire and Acadia Pharmaceuticals.

Lisa French

→ Pulled to the surface from the quicksand of bankruptcy and opioid litigation, Mallinckrodt has recruited Lisa French as chief commercial officer after last week’s FDA approval of terlipressin. French replaces Hugh O’Neill and comes from Merck spinoff Organon, where she was the US women’s health business unit lead. She had a nearly 30-year career with the pharma giant that concluded as associate VP, US marketing lead for the HPV franchise before her move to Organon. Branded as Terlivaz, terlipressin earned the OK for adults with hepatorenal syndrome, but it does come with a black box warning.

Shulamit Ron-Bigger

Aktis Oncology is on easy street — first house down — following an $84 million raise in late August, and as the radiopharmaceuticals space continues to heat up, Matthew Roden’s squad has installed Shulamit Ron-Bigger as COO. Leaving Big Pharma behind, Ron-Bigger had led strategy and operations for Bristol Myers Squibb’s research and early development organization.

Glenn Pauly

→ As Alzheon touts its Alzheimer’s drug ALZ-801 without any clinical data to show for it — and the Framingham, MA biotech has a penchant for patting itself on the back a bit too hard with the data it does gather — it’s enlisted Glenn Pauly as head of commercial. Pauly has familiarity with the space from his days at Biogen, where he was US western division general manager and VP in charge of commercialization for the ill-fated Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. After holding sales roles at Genentech from 2008-17, Pauly became AstraZeneca’s senior director, market access, respiratory biologics.

Gemma Brown

→ AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 partner Vaccitech has elevated Gemma Brown to CFO after a year as the Oxford spinout’s head of financial reporting. Brown had previously held a number of roles, including senior manager at EY from 2012-21. Despite AstraZeneca’s clash with the EU on supply issues, and concerns over blood clots with the Covid-19 vaccine it co-invented, Vaccitech’s IPO exceeded nine figures in April 2021, but its stock $VACC is down more than 75% since its Nasdaq debut. Regarding the development of Vaxzevria, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the BBC in June, “I don’t think I would do anything differently from what we did.”

Phillip Samayoa

→ Coming off a major letdown with its hemophilia A gene therapy in which shares were routed, Generation Bio has promoted Phillip Samayoa to chief strategy officer. When he was a principal at Atlas Venture from 2016-18, Samayoa co-founded Generation Bio and Dyne Therapeutics, joining Generation Bio’s team as senior director (and then VP) of strategy and portfolio development. After co-founding Codiak BioSciences during his time at Flagship Pioneering, Samayoa jumped over to Merck as director of MRL Ventures Fund.

→ To start this month, Ashleigh Palmer’s Provention Bio took out a $125 million loan with Hercules Capital before the FDA reaches a verdict on the BLA resubmission for anti-CD3 type 1 diabetes drug teplizumab. This week the New Jersey biotech has lined up NIBR human resources vet Sarah O’Brien as chief people officer. The former head of HR in North America for Sobi, O’Brien had been chief people officer before with Relay Therapeutics and, since last year, Ardelyx. Provention is trying to get off the mat with teplizumab after receiving a CRL for the ex-Eli Lilly drug in July 2021.

Cindy Cao

Cindy Cao has replaced Bill Tente as chief regulatory officer of Humacyte, although Tente will stick around at the Laura Niklason-led regenerative medicine shop as an executive advisor. She had led regulatory affairs and quality assurance at Ascentage Pharma since 2018, but Cao has plenty of Big Pharma experience from Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Bristol Myers. One more quick note: Former Air Force Surgeon General Bruce Green has joined Humacyte’s board of directors.

→ Returning from a nearly two-year break that he described on his LinkedIn as, “Retired. Golfed. Shaved a few strokes off my handicap,” ex-Shire HR chief Peter Lasky is making all the clutch putts as chief people officer of Waltham, MA antibody biotech DynamiCure. Before he worked on his game, Lasky was SVP, human resources at Deciphera and the chief HR officer at Wave Life Sciences.

Oliver Ernst

Neuway Pharma, which is working on new ways of delivering drugs to the brain, is ushering in some new changes to its exec team with the promotion of Oliver Ernst to CEO and the appointment of Thomas Christoph as chief development officer. Ernst joined Neuway in 2019 as COO and managing director — having formerly served in roles at Brainlab and BASF. Ernst takes over the reins from co-founder, Heiko Manninga, who will continue to serve as CSO and managing director. Meanwhile, Christoph joins the German company from Gruenenthal, where he led pharmacology and preclinical development teams.

Ruth Thieroff-Ekerdt

→ Aging-focused Cambrian BioPharma has pulled in Ruth Thieroff-Ekerdt as EVP of clinical development. Thieroff-Ekerdt formerly served as scientific advisor at Organon and acting CMO at Forendo. Her career also spans stints as CMO at Sojournix, Aptalis, Strongbridge and Kaleido and R&D roles at Bayer.

→ Université Libre de Bruxelles spinoff NeuVasQ Biotechnologies has locked in Emmanuel Lacroix as CEO and company director. Lacroix hails from UCB Ventures, where he was founding VP and partner. Earlier in his career, Lacroix was with UCB and Cellectis.

Beth Burnside

→ Austin, TX-based Maxwell Biosciences has brought aboard three new execs with the appointments of Tony Verco (CMO), Beth Burnside (SVP of R&D strategy), and Donald Treacy (SVP, development operations). Verco joins up with the team at Maxwell with experience under his belt from roles at Shelton Clinical Research Consultants, Medwell Capital, Endpoint Research and AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, Burnside has had gigs at Lowery Creek Consulting, QRxPharma, MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals and Shire; while Treacy has served at Magothy Consulting Group (CEO), MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals (SVP of development and manufacturing operations), and Shire (senior director of analytical sciences).

Scott Chaplin

Berkeley Lights is bringing in some firepower with the appointment of Scott Chaplin as chief legal officer and corporate secretary. Chaplin joins from Shield AI, where he was chief legal and people officer. Prior to Shield, Chaplin was with Vista Outdoor, Alliant Techsystems and Stanley.

→ CDMO ViroCell has brought on Susan Nichols as CBO. Nichols currently has a seat on the board of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. Nichols brings with her experience from her time as an executive officer at Propel BioSciences and CEO of Falcon Therapeutics.

Sek Kathiresan

Jason Coloma’s Maze Therapeutics has reserved space for Verve Therapeutics CEO Sek Kathiresan on the board of directors. Verve’s Phase Ib trial is ongoing with its cardiovascular drug — a single base editor named VERVE-101 — and Kathiresan’s crew has teamed up with Vertex in a gene editing deal worth $60 million upfront.

Charles Baltic is succeeding Christine White as chair of MEI Pharma’s board. A board member at the San Diego cancer biotech since 2011, Baltic had been a senior advisor with Needham & Company, where he was also managing director and co-head of healthcare banking.

Eric Ende

Eric Ende will take over for Herbert Conrad as chairman of Matinas BioPharma on Oct. 1, although Conrad will stay on the board. Ende, an ex-Merrill Lynch biotech analyst, also sits on the boards of Avadel Pharmaceuticals and NeuBase Therapeutics.

→ One of the few biotechs willing to brave the Nasdaq elements with an IPO this year, PepGen has welcomed Habib Dable to the board of directors. This is the third time in as many months that the former Acceleron CEO has popped up in this part of Peer Review after board appointments at Blueprint Medicines and Albireo.

Lauren Silvernail

Under the leadership of CEO Julie Eastland, Harpoon Therapeutics has elected ex-Revance CFO and CBO Lauren Silvernail to the board of directors. The Allergan vet just spent four years as CFO and EVP of corporate development at Evolus.

Winston Kung is headed to the board of directors at Merck’s T cell engager partner Janux Therapeutics. Kung is a Celgene vet who handles the roles of COO and CFO at p53 biotech PMV Pharma.

→ CNS-focused Pasithea Therapeutics has brought in ex-Biosense CEO Alfred Novak to the board of directors after Yassine Bendiabdallah’s exit. Last week, Pasithea named Merit Cudkowicz to its scientific advisory board.

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New findings on hair loss in men

A receding hairline, a total loss of hair from the crown, and ultimately, the classical horseshoe-shaped pattern of baldness: Previous research into male…



A receding hairline, a total loss of hair from the crown, and ultimately, the classical horseshoe-shaped pattern of baldness: Previous research into male pattern hair loss, also termed androgenetic alopecia, has implicated multiple common genetic variants. Human geneticists from the University Hospital of Bonn (UKB) and by the Transdisciplinary Research Unit “Life & Health” of the University of Bonn have now performed a systematic investigation of the extent to which rare genetic variants may also contribute to this disorder. For this purpose, they analyzed the genetic sequences of 72,469 male participants from the UK Biobank project. The analyses identified five significantly associated genes, and further corroborated genes implicated in previous research. The results have now been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Credit: University Hospital Bonn / Katharina Wislsperger

A receding hairline, a total loss of hair from the crown, and ultimately, the classical horseshoe-shaped pattern of baldness: Previous research into male pattern hair loss, also termed androgenetic alopecia, has implicated multiple common genetic variants. Human geneticists from the University Hospital of Bonn (UKB) and by the Transdisciplinary Research Unit “Life & Health” of the University of Bonn have now performed a systematic investigation of the extent to which rare genetic variants may also contribute to this disorder. For this purpose, they analyzed the genetic sequences of 72,469 male participants from the UK Biobank project. The analyses identified five significantly associated genes, and further corroborated genes implicated in previous research. The results have now been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Male-pattern hair loss is the most common form of hair loss in men, and is largely attributable to hereditary factors. Current treatment options and risk prediction are suboptimal, thus necessitating research into the genetic underpinnings of the condition. To date, studies worldwide have focused primarily on common genetic variants, and have implicated more than 350 genetic loci, in particular the androgen receptor gene, which is located on the maternally inherited X chromosome. In contrast, the contribution to this common condition of rare genetic variants has traditionally been assumed to be low. However, systematic analyses of rare variants have been lacking. “Such analyses are more challenging as they require large cohorts, and the genetic sequences must be captured base by base, e.g., through genome or exome sequencing of affected individuals,” explained first author Sabrina Henne, who is a doctoral student at the Institute of Human Genetics at the UKB and the University of Bonn. The statistical challenge lies in the fact that these rare genetic variants may be carried by very few, or even single, individuals. “That is why we apply gene-based analyses that first collapse variants on the basis of the genes in which they are located,” explained corresponding author PD Dr. Stefanie Heilmann-Heimbach, who is a research group leader at the Institute of Human Genetics at the UKB at the University of Bonn. Among other methods, the Bonn researchers used a type of sequence kernel association test (SKAT), which is a popular method for detecting associations with rare variants, as well as GenRisk, which is a method developed at the Institute of Genomic Statistics and Bioinformatics (IGSB) at the UKB and the University of Bonn.

Possible relevance of rare variants in male-pattern hair loss

The research involved the analysis of genetic sequences from 72,469 male UK Biobank participants. Within this extensive data set, Bonn geneticists, together with researchers from the IGSB and the Center for Human Genetics at the University Hospital Marburg, examined rare gene variants that occur in less than one percent of the population. Using modern bioinformatic and statistical methods, they found associations between male-pattern hair loss and rare genetic variants in the following five genes: EDA2R, WNT10A, HEPH, CEPT1, and EIF3F.

Prior to the analyses, EDA2R and WNT10A were already considered candidate genes, as based on previous analyses of common variants. “Our study provides further evidence that these two genes play a role, and that this occurs through both common and rare variants,” explained Dr. Stefanie Heilmann-Heimbach. Similarly, HEPH is located in a genetic region that has already been implicated by common variants, namely the EDA2R/Androgen receptor, which is a region that has consistently shown the strongest association with male-pattern hair loss in past association studies. “However, HEPH itself has never been considered as a candidate gene. Our study suggests that it may also play a role,” explained Sabrina Henne. “The genes CEPT1 and EIF3F are located in genetic regions that have not yet been associated with male-pattern hair loss. They are thus entirely new candidate genes, and we hypothesize that rare variants within these genes contribute to the genetic predisposition. HEPH, CEPT1, and EIF3F represent highly plausible new candidate genes, given their previously described role in hair development and growth.” Furthermore, the results of the study suggest that genes that are known to cause rare inherited diseases affecting both skin and hair (such as the ectodermal dysplasias) may also play a role in the development of male-pattern hair loss. The researchers hope that the puzzle pieces they have discovered will improve understanding of the causes of hair loss, and thus facilitate reliable risk prediction and improved treatment strategies.

The research was supported by funding from the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn. Prof. Dr. Markus Nöthen, Director of the Institute of Human Genetics at UKB and co-author of the study, is a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) “Life and Health” at the University of Bonn. The publication costs in open access format were funded by the DEAL project of the University of Bonn.

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Canadian dollar edges higher as retail sales rebound

Canada retail sales climb 2% The Canadian dollar has posted losses on Friday. In the European session, USD/CAD is trading at 1.3446, down 0.28%. Canada’s…



  • Canada retail sales climb 2%

The Canadian dollar has posted losses on Friday. In the European session, USD/CAD is trading at 1.3446, down 0.28%.

Canada’s retail sales jump

Canada’s retail sales rebounded in impressive fashion on Friday. Retail sales in July jumped 2% y/y, following a -0.6% reading in June and beating the 0.5% consensus estimate. On a monthly basis, retail sales rose 0.3%, up from 0.1% in June but shy of the consensus estimate of 0.4%. The good news was tempered by the August estimate, which stands at -0.3% m/m and would be the first decline since March. The Canadian dollar showed little reaction to the retail sales release.

The Bank of Canada doesn’t meet again until October 25th and policy makers will have plenty of data to monitor in the meantime. The BoC has been walking a tightrope that will be familiar to most central banks, that of trying to balance the risks of over and under-tightening. The difficulty in finding the right balance was highlighted in the BoC summary of deliberations of the policy meeting earlier this month.

The BoC decided to hold the benchmark rate at 5.0% after concluding that earlier rate hikes were having an effect and slowing economic growth. The summary indicated that policy makers were concerned that a pause might send the wrong message that rate cuts might be on the way. With inflation still above the BOC’s target, the central bank is not looking at rate cuts and stressed at the September meeting that rate hikes were still on the table and that inflation remained too high.


USD/CAD Technical

  • USD/CAD is testing resistance at 1.3468. The next resistance line is 1.3553
  • 1.3408 and 1.3323 are the next support lines

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Quantitative Tightening Is Not Biggest Threat To Global Yields

Quantitative Tightening Is Not Biggest Threat To Global Yields

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The Bank of England’s…



Quantitative Tightening Is Not Biggest Threat To Global Yields

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The Bank of England’s quantitative tightening program shows that unwinding central-bank bond portfolios, even with outright sales, need not be disruptive for markets. The greater risk for US and global yields comes from positive stock-bond correlations driving risk premia wider.

The BOE has been a pioneer and a thought leader in QT. While the Fed and ECB have only allowed bonds to run off naturally to help achieve their balance-sheet contraction goals, the BOE has sold gilts outright in addition to allowing bonds to mature.

So far, it has not led to any significant market disruption. This enabled the BOE Thursday to increase the pace of reduction in the Asset Purchase Facility (APF) from £80 billion last year to £100 billion over the coming 12 months from October (while holding Bank Rate steady). As colleague Ven Ram also noted, the schedule of maturing bonds next year allowed the bank to keep gilts sales unchanged from last year while increasing the total amount of the APF’s decrease.

The QT watchwords from the bank are “gradual and predictable.” If gilt sales are conducted in such a way, then market disruption should be minimized. The chart below shows the BOE’s own assessment of the impact of bond sales on the market.

The BOE estimates that of the ~40 bps of term-premium increase since the MPC voted to begin QT in February 2022, about 10-15 bps comes from QT specifically – small in comparison to the overall rise in yields since that time.

QT or bond sales, though, are not the most critical risk facing bond prices in the current cycle. Rising and now positive stock-bond correlations threaten to lead to a structural rise in bond risk premium, and lower prices. The correlation is now positive in the US, Japan, and the UK.

In a positive stock-bond correlation world, bonds lose their portfolio-hedge and recession-hedge capabilities, and thus become less sought after. The penny has not fully dropped yet, but the negative term premium for bonds is increasing, and is prone to rising much higher as they become less desirable.

Yields of developed market countries are biased structurally higher, but QT is unlikely to be the culprit. Instead, it allows central banks to reload their capacity for a future time when they may need to restart quantitative easing, in order to stabilize the market from sharply rising term premia.

Tyler Durden Fri, 09/22/2023 - 09:10

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