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Chinese Stocks, Yuan, Commodities Crash As Covid Plunges Country Into “Darkest Moment In Decades”

Chinese Stocks, Yuan, Commodities Crash As Covid Plunges Country Into "Darkest Moment In Decades"

Last week’s violent stock selloff has resumed…

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Chinese Stocks, Yuan, Commodities Crash As Covid Plunges Country Into "Darkest Moment In Decades"

Last week's violent stock selloff has resumed as a new week begins, with Asian and European markets tumbling, and US futures trading at session lows, but nowhere is the panic selling worse than in China, where the stocks, commodities and the yuan all tumbled. The CSI 300 equity benchmark slumped 4.9%, its biggest drop since Feb 2020, to the lowest level since May 2020 and wiping out gains from a March pledge by officials to support the economy as fears that the Covid breakout in Shanghai is spreading to Beijing, sparking new concerns about China' economic and earnings growth outlook. The Shanghai closed more than 5.1% lower, and the  CSI 300 Index is set for for its sixth session of declines in seven, on track to extend this year’s drop to 22%. Some indexes carrying Chinese stocks are ranking among the world’s worst-performing equity gauges for 2022. 

It was just as ugly across all regional markets:

  • *CHINA'S SHANGHAI COMPOSITE INDEX CLOSES DOWN 5.132% TO 2928.51
  • *CHINA'S CHINEXT INDEX FALLS 5% TO 2,181.44
  • *CHINA'S CSI 300 INDEX FALLS 4.9%, MOST SINCE FEBURARY 2020
  • *HONG KONG'S HANG SENG INDEX FALLS 4% TO 19,809.83
  • *HANG SENG TECH INDEX FALLS 5% TO 3,800.80

It wasn't just stocks: extending on last week's plunge, the yuan fell to its weakest in a year on concerns about rising capital outflows and oil sank below $100 on worries over Chinese demand.

Besides a mass liquidation of risk assets, fears of a new covid breakout in the country' capital sparked a bout of panic buying of goods as Beijing residents -- fearful of being caught unprepared in the event of a citywide shutdown-- rushed to stockpile supplies after the government announced mass testing plans and put some areas under lockdown.

As noted earlier, the city of more than 20 million people and the country’s political center has sealed off dozens of residential compounds and told inhabitants of the eastern district of Chaoyang to be tested three times this week after dozens of infections were found over the weekend. Officials have warned of more cases in coming days, with Beijing city government spokesman Xu Hejian saying late on Friday that the current outbreak is “complex and stealthy” while vowing to take further measures to prevent its spread.

Meanwhile, a Covid flareup that shut down much of Shanghai appeared to worsen over the weekend with Bloomberg reporting that the financial capital reported a record 51 Covid fatalities for Sunday, bringing the total number of Covid deaths to 138 during the current outbreak, according to the city’s health commission. Shanghai also reported 19,455 local Covid-19 cases.

The twin outbreaks in two of China’s most significant cities has become an unprecedented test for President Xi Jinping, who is likely to seek a third five-year term during a Communist Party congress later this year.

“There are concerns about the Covid situation in Beijing evolving into what happened in Shanghai with some prolonged lockdowns that bites the economy,” said Kevin Li, portfolio manager at GF Asset Management (Hong Kong) Ltd.

China has repeatedly defended its Covid Zero policy, saying the policy saves lives and keeps the economy going, even as the strategy is doing just the opposite, increasingly darkens the country’s growth outlook and threatens to disrupt global supply chains. Some have even speculated that China' surge in civid cases is intentional and meant to purposefully destabilize US supply chains in retaliation for US sanctions against Beijing' close ally. Moscow.

The news of the fresh covid scare in China spread around global markets with stocks and equity futures under pressure and havens like the dollar and Treasuries gaining. Traders balked at the potential impact of coronavirus restrictions on growth in the world’s second-largest economy, which was already showing signs of slowing down thanks to a property crisis and increased regulation. The growth fears come amid China’s widening policy divergence with the U.S., which has led to foreign outflows and weighed on the yuan. Investor nerves were already frayed after last week' market plunge sparked by fears of a more aggressive tightening from the Fed and European Central Bank late last week.

The Covid situation is putting the country into “the darkest moment in economic terms for the last couple of decades,” said Junheng Li, JL Warren Capital founder and CEO, told Bloomberg TV in an interview adding that it’s a “confidence crisis” given Shanghai, the most affluent city in China, has a “consensus disappointment and resentfulness” toward the Covid policy.

“People really don’t know what’s a clear path to get China out of this Covid situation” and it’s “unlikely that China will be opened up in a sustainable way” in the foreseeable future, Li said warning that coupled with the war in Ukraine and the Federal Reserve raising rates, Chinese stocks will see a couple of “potentially very volatile months” ahead. “It’s very hard to make long calls with a situation where the future is so uncertain”

The renewed selling also comes as investors have grown weary about a lack of follow-through on policy promises last month to shore up growth and stabilize markets. Markets shrugged off Friday’s latest policy vow from the People’s Bank of China to ensure stability, which repeated commentary seen in the past month.

Meanwhile, analysts have started downgrading economic growth forecasts for this year below the government’s 5.5% target given the extent of the lockdowns, after a number of manufacturers and car makers highlighted supply chain disruptions.

The selling led to a fresh tumble in local bonds - in the corporate debt market, Chinese dollar junk bonds fell as much as 2 cents on the dollar Monday, led by developers.

The selling frenzy also swept through commodities markets, with the nation heading for the largest oil demand shock since the early days of the pandemic. Meanwhile, iron ore tumbled almost 12% in Singapore before paring around half of the drop.

“The sharp price fall is mainly due to the burgeoning Covid impact,” said Chen Wen Guang, research director at Lange Steel Information Research Center, an industry group in Beijing. With “lots of areas affected, people are beginning to worry about demand.”

Here’s what some other strategists and fund managers are saying:

GF Asset Management (Kevin Li)

  • “There are concerns about the Covid situation in Beijing evolving into what happened in Shanghai with some prolonged lockdowns that bites the economy”
  • “On the other hand, the unchanged one-year and five-year LPR rates have also hurt sentiment”

Bank of Singapore (Eli Lee)

  • “The latest disappointing set of stimulus measures from China have led us to downgrade our 2022 GDP growth forecast from 5.5% to 4.8%”
  • “As the PBOC grows wary of the inflation and currency risks related to the divergence in monetary policy versus the Fed, Chinese policy makers will find it difficult to achieve their trinity of goals: 5.5% GDP growth in 2022, zero Covid cases and limiting the leverage in the economy”
  • “While this weakens the thesis for our overweight position in Chinese equities at the margin, we see our long-term thesis to be broadly intact given overly depressed valuations and a still constructive long term outlook”

Straits Investment Management (Manish Bhargava)

  • “Fears of an extended lockdown in Shanghai (and possibly other major cities) could dent the country’s economic prospects”
  • “While it is hard to tell how bad the selling could get, today’s market reactions suggest that Covid fears have not been fully priced in”

IG Asia (Jun Rong Yeap)

  • The intensifying virus risks suggest “economic conditions will continue to remain impaired with its zero-Covid stance. Overall, the sell-off may have been further exacerbated by the dent in global risk sentiments, with the lack of positive catalyst for market participants to take on added risks for now”

Bloomberg Intelligence (Marvin Chen)

  • Today’s fall has come on back of “continued lockdowns and lack of easing, and this following on the global selloff on Friday as well with S&P 500 down almost 3%”
  • “China may need to renew policy vows made in March to stimulate withering markets, but this time such pledges might not be as effective with the Fed expected to deliver a super-sized rate hike in early May”
Tyler Durden Mon, 04/25/2022 - 04:04

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Royal Caribbean Shares Huge News on Covid Testing, Vaccine Rules

President Michael Bayley gave some straight answers on pre-cruise covid testing and potentially dropping vaccine requirement at a Q&A during the cruise…

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President Michael Bayley gave some straight answers on pre-cruise covid testing and potentially dropping vaccine requirement at a Q&A during the cruise line's President's Cruise.

Being on a cruise has largely returned to the same experience it was before the pandemic. Mask requirements have been dropped, capacities have returned to normal, and social distancing requirements have been dropped.

In fact, aside from crew members still having to wear masks and some stray passengers opting to do so in certain indoor situations, there's really no sign of covid rules once you board your cruise.

Before you board, however, the pandemic still has an effect on cruising. Every passenger 12 and older must be vaccinated (and must prove so before getting on board) and all passengers must produce a negative covid test taken no more than two days before getting on the ship.

And, while covid remains a problem, the cruise industry sees some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to pre-cruise protocols. Executives from the major cruise lines -- Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report -- have said very little about plans to drop pre-cruise testing and vaccination requirements,

Now, however, Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley has spoken out on both issues and has given cruise fans some real answers.

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When Will Covid Tests and Vaccinations Get Dropped?

The major cruise lines have largely stayed quiet about covid protocols because they remain somewhat beholden to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The current CDC rules are voluntary, but voluntary is sort of a relative term when it comes to the power the federal agency has over the cruise industry.

It makes sense that the industry has been cautious in commenting on when covid protocols may change, but with the end at least seeming feasible Bayley answered questions about both the end of pre-cruise testing and potentially dropping vaccination requirements during the 2022 Royal Caribbean President's Cruise on Ovation of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.

"I think pre-cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Bayley said. "We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

Bayley was less hopeful about the end of vaccinations, according to the blog, which has no connection to Royal Caribbean.

"The no vaccine question is is a huge question that none of us know the answer to," he said. "I'm skeptical that's going to change in the in the real short term. Many and most of the destinations that we visit require a high degree of vaccination, and they expect our crew to be vaccinated."

Cruise Lines Covid Protocols Are Working

Covid has not gone anywhere, but the cruise industry has been very successful at controlling the impact of the virus. Bayley noted that the CDC shares some information with him about the "millions" of people who have sailed from U.S. ports over the past 12 months.

"And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two," the Royal Caribbean Blog reported. "Two is terrible. But against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success."

Vaccine requirements remain a touchy issue as some people have chosen not to be vaccinated and that means they cannot cruise. That seems unlikely to change anytime soon given the destinations Royal Caribbean visits and the CDC information which shows that the current protocols are working.

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Trial of potential universal flu vaccine opens at NIH Clinical Center

A Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel influenza vaccine has begun inoculating healthy adult volunteers at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center…

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A Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel influenza vaccine has begun inoculating healthy adult volunteers at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The placebo-controlled trial will test the safety of a candidate vaccine, BPL-1357, and its ability to prompt immune responses. The vaccine candidate was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The single-site trial can enroll up to 100 people aged 18 to 55 years and is led by NIAID investigator Matthew J. Memoli, M.D.

Credit: NIAID

A Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel influenza vaccine has begun inoculating healthy adult volunteers at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The placebo-controlled trial will test the safety of a candidate vaccine, BPL-1357, and its ability to prompt immune responses. The vaccine candidate was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The single-site trial can enroll up to 100 people aged 18 to 55 years and is led by NIAID investigator Matthew J. Memoli, M.D.

“Influenza vaccines that can provide long-lasting protection against a wide range of seasonal influenza viruses as well as those with pandemic potential would be invaluable public health tools,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “The scientific community is making progress on this pressing global health priority. The BPL-1357 candidate influenza vaccine being tested in this clinical trial performed very well in pre-clinical studies and we look forward to learning how it performs in people.” 

BPL-1357 is a whole-virus vaccine made up of four strains of non-infectious, chemically inactivated, low-pathogenicity avian flu virus. A study in animals, led by NIAID investigator Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., and posted online as a pre-print, found that all mice receiving two doses of BPL-1357 vaccine delivered either intramuscularly or intranasally survived later exposure to lethal doses of each of six different influenza virus strains, including subtypes that were not included in the vaccine. Similar results were obtained in challenge experiments with BPL-1357-vaccinated ferrets. 

In the Phase 1 trial, volunteers will be randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio into three groups and will receive two doses of placebo or vaccine spaced 28 days apart. Group A participants receive BPL-1357 intramuscularly along with intranasal saline placebo; Group B will receive doses of the candidate vaccine intranasally along with intramuscular placebo; volunteers in Group C receive intramuscularly and intranasally delivered placebo at both visits to the clinic. Neither the study clinicians nor the volunteers know the group assignments. Volunteers must not have received any type of flu vaccination in the eight weeks prior to enrollment and must agree to forego seasonal flu vaccination for approximately two months after the second vaccine (or placebo) dose. 

The study duration for each participant is approximately seven months. In addition to the two clinic visits to receive vaccine (or placebo), volunteers will be asked to return to the clinic seven times to provide blood and nasal mucosal samples that will be used by the investigators to detect and characterize immune responses. 

“With the BPL-1357 vaccine, especially when given intranasally, we are attempting to induce a comprehensive immune response that closely mimics immunity gained following a natural influenza infection,” said Dr. Memoli. “This is very different than nearly all other vaccines for influenza or other respiratory viruses, which focus on inducing immunity to a single viral antigen and often do not induce mucosal immunity.” 

“Our study will examine the safety of BPL-1357 and also will allow us to assess the importance of mucosal immunity against flu and whether a strategy of inducing both the cellular and antibody arms of the immune system can provide broader protection against the ever-changing influenza virus,” he added. 

For additional information about the trial, visit ClinicalTrials.gov and search on the trial identifier NCT05027932. 


NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website. 

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov. 

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®


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China Stocks Outperform On Unexpected COVID Shift

China Stocks Outperform On Unexpected COVID Shift

Update (0920ET): China’s move to ease quarantine rules for inbound travelers from three…

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China Stocks Outperform On Unexpected COVID Shift

Update (0920ET): China's move to ease quarantine rules for inbound travelers from three weeks to just one week has bolstered sentiment for Chinese equities. 

Bullish calls are rising on Chinese stocks as the CSI 300 Index inches near a bull market. 

Fred Hu, the founder of China-based investment firm Primavera Capital Group, told Bloomberg that he believes Chinese tech firms have turned the corner after a $2 trillion rout sparked by Beijing's yearslong technology crackdown. 

NASDAQ Golden Dragon China Index plunged more than 76% since its peak in early 2021, coinciding with Beijing's crackdown start. The index hit a low in March and has since bounced 67% -- because the crackdown fears show signs of softening. 

Hu believes "this could be the beginning of a new era for China tech ... There's a lot of value to be discovered," adding that investors still need to be selective in picking stocks. 

Adding to support is the People's Bank of China's accommodative monetary policy, which is the opposite of global central banks that aggressively tighten interest rates to prevent the surge in inflation from turning into dreaded 1970s-style stagflation. Today's quarantine reduction news, tech crackdown abating, and PBOC easing have produced a more optimistic outlook for Chinese stocks. 

However, a lingering threat of a US slowdown could be problematic for all investors. 

Lorraine Tan, director of equity research at Morningstar, told Bloomberg TV: "Even if we do get some China recovery in 2023, which could be a buffer for this region, it's not going to offset the US or global recession."

* * *

China unexpectedly slashed quarantine times for international travelers, to just one week, which suggests Beijing is easing COVID zero policies. The nationwide relaxation of pandemic restrictions led investors to buy Chinese stocks.

Inbound travelers will only quarantine for ten days, down from three weeks, which shows local authorities are easing draconian curbs on travel and economic activity as they worry about slumping economic growth sparked by restrictive COVID zero policies earlier this year that locked down Beijing and Shanghai for months (Shanghai finally lifted its lockdown measures on May 31). 

"This relaxation sends the signal that the economy comes first ... It is a sign of importance of the economy at this point," Li Changmin, Managing Director at Snowball Wealth in Guangzhou, told Bloomberg

At the peak of the COVID outbreak, many residents in China's largest city, Shanghai, were quarantined in their homes for two months, while international travelers were under "hard quarantines" for three weeks. The strict curbs appear to have suppressed the outbreak, but the tradeoff came at the cost of faltering economic growth. 

The announcement of the shorter quarantine period suggests a potentially more optimistic outlook for the Chinese economy. Bullish price action lifted CSI 300 Index by 1%, led by tourism-related stocks (LVMH shares rose as much as 2.5%, Richemont +3.1%, Kering +3%, Moncler +3%). 

"The reduction of travel restrictions will be positive for the luxury sector, and may boost consumer sentiment and confidence following months of lockdowns in China's biggest cities," Barclays analysts Carole Madjo wrote in a note. 

CSI 300 is up 19% from April's low, nearing bull market territory. 

Jane Foley, a strategist at Rabobank in London, commented that "this news suggests that perhaps the authorities will not be as stringent with Covid controls as has been expected." 

"The news also coincides with reports that the PBOC is pledging to keep monetary policy supportive," Foley pointed out, referring to Governor Yi Gang's latest comment. 

She said, "this suggests a potentially more optimistic outlook for the Chinese economy, which is good news generally for commodity exporters such as Australia and all of China's trading partners." 

Even though the move is the right step in the right direction, Joerg Wuttke, head of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, said, "the country cannot open its borders completely due to relatively low vaccination rates ... This, in conjunction with a slow introduction of mRNA vaccines, means that China may have to maintain a restricted immigration policy beyond the summer of 2023." 

Alvin Tan, head of Asia currency strategy in Singapore for RBC Markets, also said shortening quarantine time for inbound visitors shouldn't be a gamechanger, and "there's nothing to say that it won't be raised tomorrow." 

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 09:20

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