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Asia Session: Happy Birthday Buddha

Asia Session: Happy Birthday Buddha



South Korea and Hong Kong markets are closed today for Buddha’s birthday, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the big man’s good karma from washing over financial markets. Financial markets clearly feel that the enlightened path to nirvana is to ignore any bad news, concentrating solely on hope for the future and good news that fits the narrative.


I don’t want to sound like the Grinch who stole 2020 though, and I’ve always been a huge Nirvana fan as well. And to be fair, amongst the COVID-19 economic wreckage, there have been very valid reasons for positivity. Gilead Sciences Inc. presented the results of one of its studies that suggest that its Remdesivir drug has positive benefits on COVID-19 infections. Big tech continues to defy the odds with both Microsoft and Facebook announcing better than expected results overnight. The Federal Reserve left rates unchanged overnight, but Chairman Powell said that the Fed has a lot more monetary capacity as does the government on the fiscal front. The last comments turbo-charged the peak-virus trade overnight.


The markets ignored shocking US GDP data with Q1 GDP shrinking by a much higher than expected -4.80% QoQ. Pending home sales collapsed, and EIA Crude Inventories posted another massive increase of 9 million barrels. We can expect more fun and games in the June WTI contract before expiry. More locally, ANZ Bank in Australia saw profits sink 62% in Q1 and announced a 1.67 billion credit impairment charge, AUD 1.03 billion directly related to COVID-19. DBS in Singapore also announced a 29% fall in profits and its own SGD 1.09 billion credit provision for COVID-19 related impairments. The Federal Reserve itself cautioned of lasting medium-term damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Still, financial markets seem intent on looking forwards and not backwards, with the hope that gradual reopening’s of economies around the world, possible treatments, and big-tech earnings holding up as a reason for hope and not despair. I’ll not argue with that or the fact that the momentum is solidly in the hands of the peak-virus bulls now.


This afternoon sees more releases of heavyweight data with German Retail Sales and Unemployment along with and French and Spanish GDP for Q1. All are likely to make grim reading, but today’s focus will initially be ion the European Central Bank. The ECB will leave rates unchanged, but the market is looking for an expansion of the EUR 750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP). The street is expecting anything from EUR 250 billion to 500 billion to be added to the overall size, reinforcing that the world’s central banks are determined to backstop credit markets no matter what it takes. The ECB is unlikely to disappoint, and the news will likely give asset markets another boost into a holiday weekend.


The US Initial Jobless Claims are expected to show another jump of 3.5 million Americans heading to the unemployment queue, joining the other 26 million officially there. A normally horrific number if released in isolation, its expected fall from last week’s 4.4 million increase will perversely be greeted with relief, as the market applies a falling rate of infections logic to it. An unexpectedly much larger number is probably the only set of data today that could derail the peak virus momentum.


Today is a technical Friday in Asia, almost all of the region, and much of Europe, are closed tomorrow for the May 1st holiday. That may temper the bullish momentum in Asia with investors reticent about going into a long weekend too loaded up on the recovery trade. Nevertheless, Buddha’s birthday karma looks set to wash over financial markets for a day or two yet.


Asian equities power higher on peak-virus hopes and central bank backstops.


Wall Street enjoyed a robust overnight session as the Federal Reserve pretty much telegraphed that it would backstop financial markets from here to eternity. Facebook and Microsoft produced impressive results, beating expectations, with even Tesla announcing that it is maintaining deliveries. The S&P 500 rose 2.66%, the NASDAQ powered 3.60% higher, and the Dow Jones rose 2.19%.


The peak virus trade received another boost from robust Chinese PMI data this morning, meaning that Asia markets had a green light to follow the overnight Wall Street price action. The Nikkei 225 has jumped 2.90% this morning. China’s Shanghai Composite is 1,40% higher, and the CSI 300 has risen 1.20%. Singapore’s Straits Times has rallied 2.10% while Jakarta is up 2.60% and Kuala Lumpur by 1.40%. Downunder, the Australian ASX 200 and All Ordinaries have powered 2.75% higher.


Unless some nightmarish headline bomb hits markets in Asia, the bullish momentum will remain intact for the rest of the session. Europe should also move higher again ahead of more easing from the ECB. For now, data that is backwards-looking and doesn’t fit the positive narrative, will be ignored entirely.


The US Dollar’s retreat continues as the street piles into the recovery trade.


The US Dollar’s slow retreat this week continued overnight, as a dovish Federal Reserve, tech earnings and COVID-19 treatment hopes juiced up the peak virus trade. The dollar index basket of major currencies fell 0.36% to 99.50 as EUR, JPY, GBP and CAD all made substantial gains versus the greenback.


A strong rally in oil prices and Norway’s announcement of production cuts was music to the ears of Petro and resource currencies. USD/MXN fell 2.30% to 23.7690, with the Peso looking set for further gains to 23.0000 after suffering during oil’s wipe-out. The Malaysian Ringgit continue to find friends as well, USD/MYR falling to 4.3400 overnight. Those gains have continued in Asia today, with the USD/MYR falling o.60% to 4.3140 today, just above its 50-day moving average at 4.3100, and not far from my 4.3000 targets for the week. Malaysian markets will be closed tomorrow.


The Antipodeans continue to out-perform, most notably the resource-heavy China proxy Australian Dollar. AUD/USD rose 1.0% overnight to 0.6560, its 100-day moving average. Although unable to move higher in Asia, it seems just a matter of time before 0.6600 is tested, and that higher levels await.


Oil rallies impressively with volatility continuing to sort the men from the boys.


Oil volatility continues to leave markets breathless, with strong rallies overnight and today by both Brent and WTI. A dovish Federal Reserve, and production cuts announced by Norway turbo-charged oil overnight, already in a peak virus acceleration mode.


Brent crude climbed 8.50% overnight to $22.80 a barrel and have leapt 9.50% today to be trading just shy of $25.00 a barrel. WTI futures rose a breath-taking 25% at one stage yesterday, before settling 15.50 % higher at $15.50 a barrel. The scale of WTI’s comeback ios laid bare when one notes it traded just shy of $10.0 a barrel on Monday. Not to be outdone, WTI has risen 14.15% in Asia this morning to $17.15 a barrel.


Liquidity issues in the June WTI contract mean that moves will be highly exaggerated. But stripping that out, the underlying rallies in both Brent and WTI are impressive and have real momentum. With the street so intent on loading up on the virus recovery trade, the massive supply-demand imbalance is temporarily forgotten and picking a short-term top is a hazardous business. WTI could quickly move to $20 a barrel and Brent to $30 a barrel in this environment.


In the context of the size of the overall decline in oil prices since the pandemic began, the recovery is still minuscule. And even if Brent and WTI were to rise to those target levels, it would be minuscule still. No one should mistake this week’s rallies as the beginning of the end of the destruction wrought in the world’s energy markets.


Gold remains anchored by opposing forces.


Gold remains the forgotten war of the world’s financial markets, with the peak virus recovery trade cancelling out the extreme monetary easings by the world’s major central banks. The net result has been that this week, gold has remained anchored in a comparatively narrow $1700.00 an ounce to $1730.00 an ounce range.


That situation is unlikely to change in the next 24-hours, with an increase in monetary easing by the ECB today balanced out by capital pouring into equity and non-US markets on post-pandemic hopes. One cold and should argue with the underlying logic, but not with the short-term sentiment. As such, we expect gold to remain in a tight range. Asia has shown no interest in gold today; it remains unchanged at $1711.50 an ounce.


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The Coming Of The Police State In America

The Coming Of The Police State In America

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Epoch Times,

The National Guard and the State Police are now…



The Coming Of The Police State In America

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Epoch Times,

The National Guard and the State Police are now patrolling the New York City subway system in an attempt to do something about the explosion of crime. As part of this, there are bag checks and new surveillance of all passengers. No legislation, no debate, just an edict from the mayor.

Many citizens who rely on this system for transportation might welcome this. It’s a city of strict gun control, and no one knows for sure if they have the right to defend themselves. Merchants have been harassed and even arrested for trying to stop looting and pillaging in their own shops.

The message has been sent: Only the police can do this job. Whether they do it or not is another matter.

Things on the subway system have gotten crazy. If you know it well, you can manage to travel safely, but visitors to the city who take the wrong train at the wrong time are taking grave risks.

In actual fact, it’s guaranteed that this will only end in confiscating knives and other things that people carry in order to protect themselves while leaving the actual criminals even more free to prey on citizens.

The law-abiding will suffer and the criminals will grow more numerous. It will not end well.

When you step back from the details, what we have is the dawning of a genuine police state in the United States. It only starts in New York City. Where is the Guard going to be deployed next? Anywhere is possible.

If the crime is bad enough, citizens will welcome it. It must have been this way in most times and places that when the police state arrives, the people cheer.

We will all have our own stories of how this came to be. Some might begin with the passage of the Patriot Act and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2001. Some will focus on gun control and the taking away of citizens’ rights to defend themselves.

My own version of events is closer in time. It began four years ago this month with lockdowns. That’s what shattered the capacity of civil society to function in the United States. Everything that has happened since follows like one domino tumbling after another.

It goes like this:

1) lockdown,

2) loss of moral compass and spreading of loneliness and nihilism,

3) rioting resulting from citizen frustration, 4) police absent because of ideological hectoring,

5) a rise in uncontrolled immigration/refugees,

6) an epidemic of ill health from substance abuse and otherwise,

7) businesses flee the city

8) cities fall into decay, and that results in

9) more surveillance and police state.

The 10th stage is the sacking of liberty and civilization itself.

It doesn’t fall out this way at every point in history, but this seems like a solid outline of what happened in this case. Four years is a very short period of time to see all of this unfold. But it is a fact that New York City was more-or-less civilized only four years ago. No one could have predicted that it would come to this so quickly.

But once the lockdowns happened, all bets were off. Here we had a policy that most directly trampled on all freedoms that we had taken for granted. Schools, businesses, and churches were slammed shut, with various levels of enforcement. The entire workforce was divided between essential and nonessential, and there was widespread confusion about who precisely was in charge of designating and enforcing this.

It felt like martial law at the time, as if all normal civilian law had been displaced by something else. That something had to do with public health, but there was clearly more going on, because suddenly our social media posts were censored and we were being asked to do things that made no sense, such as mask up for a virus that evaded mask protection and walk in only one direction in grocery aisles.

Vast amounts of the white-collar workforce stayed home—and their kids, too—until it became too much to bear. The city became a ghost town. Most U.S. cities were the same.

As the months of disaster rolled on, the captives were let out of their houses for the summer in order to protest racism but no other reason. As a way of excusing this, the same public health authorities said that racism was a virus as bad as COVID-19, so therefore it was permitted.

The protests had turned to riots in many cities, and the police were being defunded and discouraged to do anything about the problem. Citizens watched in horror as downtowns burned and drug-crazed freaks took over whole sections of cities. It was like every standard of decency had been zapped out of an entire swath of the population.

Meanwhile, large checks were arriving in people’s bank accounts, defying every normal economic expectation. How could people not be working and get their bank accounts more flush with cash than ever? There was a new law that didn’t even require that people pay rent. How weird was that? Even student loans didn’t need to be paid.

By the fall, recess from lockdown was over and everyone was told to go home again. But this time they had a job to do: They were supposed to vote. Not at the polling places, because going there would only spread germs, or so the media said. When the voting results finally came in, it was the absentee ballots that swung the election in favor of the opposition party that actually wanted more lockdowns and eventually pushed vaccine mandates on the whole population.

The new party in control took note of the large population movements out of cities and states that they controlled. This would have a large effect on voting patterns in the future. But they had a plan. They would open the borders to millions of people in the guise of caring for refugees. These new warm bodies would become voters in time and certainly count on the census when it came time to reapportion political power.

Meanwhile, the native population had begun to swim in ill health from substance abuse, widespread depression, and demoralization, plus vaccine injury. This increased dependency on the very institutions that had caused the problem in the first place: the medical/scientific establishment.

The rise of crime drove the small businesses out of the city. They had barely survived the lockdowns, but they certainly could not survive the crime epidemic. This undermined the tax base of the city and allowed the criminals to take further control.

The same cities became sanctuaries for the waves of migrants sacking the country, and partisan mayors actually used tax dollars to house these invaders in high-end hotels in the name of having compassion for the stranger. Citizens were pushed out to make way for rampaging migrant hordes, as incredible as this seems.

But with that, of course, crime rose ever further, inciting citizen anger and providing a pretext to bring in the police state in the form of the National Guard, now tasked with cracking down on crime in the transportation system.

What’s the next step? It’s probably already here: mass surveillance and censorship, plus ever-expanding police power. This will be accompanied by further population movements, as those with the means to do so flee the city and even the country and leave it for everyone else to suffer.

As I tell the story, all of this seems inevitable. It is not. It could have been stopped at any point. A wise and prudent political leadership could have admitted the error from the beginning and called on the country to rediscover freedom, decency, and the difference between right and wrong. But ego and pride stopped that from happening, and we are left with the consequences.

The government grows ever bigger and civil society ever less capable of managing itself in large urban centers. Disaster is unfolding in real time, mitigated only by a rising stock market and a financial system that has yet to fall apart completely.

Are we at the middle stages of total collapse, or at the point where the population and people in leadership positions wise up and decide to put an end to the downward slide? It’s hard to know. But this much we do know: There is a growing pocket of resistance out there that is fed up and refuses to sit by and watch this great country be sacked and taken over by everything it was set up to prevent.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 16:20

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Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Authored by Amie Dahnke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

People with inadequate…



Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Authored by Amie Dahnke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

People with inadequate iron levels in their blood due to a COVID-19 infection could be at greater risk of long COVID.


A new study indicates that problems with iron levels in the bloodstream likely trigger chronic inflammation and other conditions associated with the post-COVID phenomenon. The findings, published on March 1 in Nature Immunology, could offer new ways to treat or prevent the condition.

Long COVID Patients Have Low Iron Levels

Researchers at the University of Cambridge pinpointed low iron as a potential link to long-COVID symptoms thanks to a study they initiated shortly after the start of the pandemic. They recruited people who tested positive for the virus to provide blood samples for analysis over a year, which allowed the researchers to look for post-infection changes in the blood. The researchers looked at 214 samples and found that 45 percent of patients reported symptoms of long COVID that lasted between three and 10 months.

In analyzing the blood samples, the research team noticed that people experiencing long COVID had low iron levels, contributing to anemia and low red blood cell production, just two weeks after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. This was true for patients regardless of age, sex, or the initial severity of their infection.

According to one of the study co-authors, the removal of iron from the bloodstream is a natural process and defense mechanism of the body.

But it can jeopardize a person’s recovery.

When the body has an infection, it responds by removing iron from the bloodstream. This protects us from potentially lethal bacteria that capture the iron in the bloodstream and grow rapidly. It’s an evolutionary response that redistributes iron in the body, and the blood plasma becomes an iron desert,” University of Oxford professor Hal Drakesmith said in a press release. “However, if this goes on for a long time, there is less iron for red blood cells, so oxygen is transported less efficiently affecting metabolism and energy production, and for white blood cells, which need iron to work properly. The protective mechanism ends up becoming a problem.”

The research team believes that consistently low iron levels could explain why individuals with long COVID continue to experience fatigue and difficulty exercising. As such, the researchers suggested iron supplementation to help regulate and prevent the often debilitating symptoms associated with long COVID.

It isn’t necessarily the case that individuals don’t have enough iron in their body, it’s just that it’s trapped in the wrong place,” Aimee Hanson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge who worked on the study, said in the press release. “What we need is a way to remobilize the iron and pull it back into the bloodstream, where it becomes more useful to the red blood cells.”

The research team pointed out that iron supplementation isn’t always straightforward. Achieving the right level of iron varies from person to person. Too much iron can cause stomach issues, ranging from constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain to gastritis and gastric lesions.

1 in 5 Still Affected by Long COVID

COVID-19 has affected nearly 40 percent of Americans, with one in five of those still suffering from symptoms of long COVID, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Long COVID is marked by health issues that continue at least four weeks after an individual was initially diagnosed with COVID-19. Symptoms can last for days, weeks, months, or years and may include fatigue, cough or chest pain, headache, brain fog, depression or anxiety, digestive issues, and joint or muscle pain.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 12:50

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February Employment Situation

By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000…



By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert

The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000 average over the previous 12 months. The payroll data for January and December were revised down by a total of 167,000. The private sector added 223,000 new jobs, the largest gain since May of last year.

Temporary help services employment continues a steep decline after a sharp post-pandemic rise.

Average hours of work increased from 34.2 to 34.3. The increase, along with the 223,000 private employment increase led to a hefty increase in total hours of 5.6% at an annualized rate, also the largest increase since May of last year.

The establishment report, once again, beat “expectations;” the WSJ survey of economists was 198,000. Other than the downward revisions, mentioned above, another bit of negative news was a smallish increase in wage growth, from $34.52 to $34.57.

The household survey shows that the labor force increased 150,000, a drop in employment of 184,000 and an increase in the number of unemployed persons of 334,000. The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.5, the employment to population ratio decreased from 60.2 to 60.1 and the unemployment rate increased from 3.66 to 3.86. Remember that the unemployment rate is the number of unemployed relative to the labor force (the number employed plus the number unemployed). Consequently, the unemployment rate can go up if the number of unemployed rises holding fixed the labor force, or if the labor force shrinks holding the number unemployed unchanged. An increase in the unemployment rate is not necessarily a bad thing: it may reflect a strong labor market drawing “marginally attached” individuals from outside the labor force. Indeed, there was a 96,000 decline in those workers.

Earlier in the week, the BLS announced JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data for January. There isn’t much to report here as the job openings changed little at 8.9 million, the number of hires and total separations were little changed at 5.7 million and 5.3 million, respectively.

As has been the case for the last couple of years, the number of job openings remains higher than the number of unemployed persons.

Also earlier in the week the BLS announced that productivity increased 3.2% in the 4th quarter with output rising 3.5% and hours of work rising 0.3%.

The bottom line is that the labor market continues its surprisingly (to some) strong performance, once again proving stronger than many had expected. This strength makes it difficult to justify any interest rate cuts soon, particularly given the recent inflation spike.

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