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COVID-19 Lockdowns Had High Health, Economic Costs: Swedish Study

COVID-19 Lockdowns Had High Health, Economic Costs: Swedish Study

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),




COVID-19 Lockdowns Had High Health, Economic Costs: Swedish Study

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Imposing restrictive lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to higher excess mortality in such nations while also damaging their economies, according to a recent Swedish study.

A worker waits on a bench in a residential area during the COVID-19 lockdown in the Huangpu district of Shanghai, China, on June 10, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Published in the Economic Affairs journal on Feb. 11, the study—which looked at the health and economic effects of COVID-19 lockdowns in Sweden—found that its less restrictive COVID-19 policies led to lower excess mortality compared to many European nations that imposed stronger lockdown rules. Sweden also suffered a lower negative impact on gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the pandemic period.

Many policymakers made two key mistakes, researchers concluded.

“First, they introduced lockdowns that were too stringent and had negligible positive health effects despite the evidence available at the time pointing toward the limited benefits of such broad measures.

Second, they responded to the downturn in economic activity with fiscal and monetary policies that were excessively expansionary.

Researchers looked at the excess mortality in Sweden between January 2020 and July 2022, comparing it to other European nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group.

“Sweden and the other Nordic countries had among the lowest cumulative excess mortality rates of all European countries towards the end of the sample period,” they found. “Countries such as Finland and Norway, with the lowest average lockdown rate, show the lowest excess mortality, actually displaying a negative excess mortality rate.”

Sweden, which lagged behind other countries in March 2020 in introducing lockdown measures and then largely had an average lockdown rate, has one of the lowest cumulative excess mortality rates towards the end of the pandemic.”

Nations that imposed more stringent lockdown measures didn’t have a lower excess mortality rate, the study said.

For instance, school closures were likely an “inefficient policy” since kids were “relatively mildly affected by Covid-19 and were not a major source of the spread of the virus.”

Of the 20,000 deaths in Sweden during the pandemic, only 21 people younger than the age of 19 years died even as all primary schools remained open throughout the pandemic, the study noted.

Economic Implications

Among economic effects, a “clear negative pattern” was observed in GDP growth rates between 2019 and 2021.

“Countries with a higher lockdown rate displayed poorer economic growth.”

Sweden was found to be doing better than others.

“Sweden, with an average lockdown rate of 39 for 2020–21, shows a weak cumulative GDP growth of 3 percent during the two years 2020–21. Compared with an average annual pre-pandemic growth rate of 2.6 percent, the Swedish economy lost approximately one year of growth,” the study said. However, “countries with a higher lockdown rate lost between one and three years of economic growth.”

In other words, the Swedish economy took a hit as a result of the pandemic, but it was nevertheless possible to maintain a positive growth rate by avoiding the more severe lockdown measures applied in other countries.”

Lockdown measures also had a fiscal impact. Sweden’s budget deficit due to COVID-19 restrictions was less than 3 percent of its GDP. Nations with more stringent lockdown measures had a higher deficit. For instance, the United Kingdom had a budget deficit of 27 percent, Italy 17 percent, and France 16 percent.

After the pandemic, Sweden had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 36 percent at the end of 2021, just slightly higher than the 35 percent before the pandemic. By the end of 2022, that had declined to 34 percent.

By contrast, France’s debt-to-GDP ratio after the pandemic was higher than what Greece encountered in 2009 at the beginning of the European debt crisis.

The unprecedented expansionary fiscal measures may have been necessary to support businesses and households through the pandemic and the lockdowns,“ the study said. ”However, the fiscal cost of these measures became exceedingly high in those countries that opted for a higher lockdown rate.”

Researchers recommended that any response to a pandemic crisis in the future “should focus on the long-term perspective” as well.

“We are not all dead in the long run—many have to live with the consequences of the pandemic crisis response. It is essential that crisis policies do not cause more harm than good.”

The research was conducted by Frederick N.G. Andersson and Lars Jonung, two professors from Lund University in Sweden.

Mr. Andersson is a macroeconomist specializing in long-term economic transitions. Mr. Jonung is a professor emeritus at the Department of Economics in the university and served as chairman of the Swedish Fiscal Policy Council during 2012-13.

Litany of Lockdown Harms

Other studies also have detailed lockdown-related harms.

A report published by the Centre of Social Justice (CSJ) think tank last year found that the COVID-19 pandemic was the “dynamite” that blew open the “gap between those who can get by and those stuck at the bottom” in the United Kingdom.

During lockdown: calls to a domestic abuse helpline rose 700 percent; mental ill-health in young people went from one in nine to one in six; and nearly a quarter amongst the oldest children; severe school absence jumped by 134 percent,” it said.

In addition, “1.2 million more people went on working-age benefits; 86 percent more people sought help for addictions; prisoners were locked up for more than 22 hours per day, and a household became homeless every three minutes.”

In an interview with Bill Maher last year, Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, acknowledged that his decision to push for harsher lockdown policies during the COVID-19 pandemic was wrong.

“I was on the board of my kids’ school during COVID. I wanted a harsher lockdown policy, and, in retrospect, I was wrong. ... The damage to kids from keeping them out of school longer was greater than the risk.”

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/07/2024 - 19:40

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Is the biotech market rally real? Data suggest comeback in private, public markets

After some halting starts, false dawns and fragile rallies, the biotech market may finally be back.
No, really.
In the last several months, several important…



After some halting starts, false dawns and fragile rallies, the biotech market may finally be back.

No, really.

In the last several months, several important signals have added up to what feels like a rally, with more depth and certainty than some of the short-lived upticks during the doldrums of 2022 and 2023, when only the industry’s most optimistic souls were willing to call it a comeback.

But now, public biotechs are releasing positive data and raising money in follow-on offerings with ease. Biopharmas have already raised $13.7 billion in secondary raises in 2024, according to Stifel’s Tim Opler. Biotech’s benchmark index, the $XBI, is up 56% from last year’s lows and has broken the $100 mark, thanks to gains that go deep into the 120-company index. And in the private markets, crossover rounds are trickling back, and IPOs are showing signs of life.

Investors and executives told Endpoints News that this moment feels different, encouraged by a return to the basics, a focus on data, and signs of a healthier — if smaller — biotech ecosystem.

Chris Garabedian

“We should be beyond any of the lows,” said Chris Garabedian, a venture portfolio manager at Perceptive Advisors and founder of the firm’s early-stage investing unit Xontogeny. “We are going to see continued forward momentum.”

Investor sentiment is “very different from what it was in ‘22 to ‘23, where it was all doom and gloom,” MoonLake Immunotherapeutics CEO Jorge Santos da Silva said. A year ago, “The question was like, ‘What are the 22 ways in which you can die?’ That has really changed.”

The XBI cracking $100 is encouraging, but a deeper look at the index shows more signs of strength. The exchange-traded fund, which lets investors buy shares of its basket of 120 biotech companies, has seen $457 million in net inflows over the past month, according to YCharts data. And about 80% of biotechs on the index — which includes giants like Vertex $VRTX and small companies like Avidity Biosciences $RNA — have seen their stock in the green over the past three months.

Some of that gain is clearly driven by a surge in M&A, including the buyouts of Seagen, Horizon, Cerevel, and Karuna, all of which have returned billions of dollars back to investors who need to put it back to work in the private or public markets. And industry insiders have said there’s also a breadth in the disease areas drawing interest, including obesity, cancer, cardiology, neurology, and inflammation.

Even ARCH Venture Partners managing director Bob Nelsen voiced some broader — albeit measured — optimism for the market.

“For our internal base case, we’re still assuming that things are going to suck like they have in the last couple of years,” Nelsen told Endpoints. “But we all believe that it has turned.”

Nelsen still implores his portfolio companies and limited partners to “assume it’s going to be worse than you think.” But his optimism is driven by two major trends: the easing of macro factors like interest rates and the persistence of M&A. He’s closely watching whether generalist investors — whose huge dollars can swing a sector up or down, as they did dramatically during the pandemic — will come back to biotech.

“The conventional wisdom in Q4 is, they were never coming back in the market,” he said. “Turns out, in Q4 they were buying.”

From atonement to ‘FOMO’

Jorge Santos da Silva

Da Silva said the industry had been “paying for our sins” committed in the boom years of 2019 to 2021, when hundreds of biotechs went public — many far from going into the clinic. Along with layoffs and company closures, it resulted in an infestation of the corporate walking dead in companies trading at values below the amount of cash on their books.

But the number of those companies with negative equity value has dropped in the past few months, suggesting that a much-needed cleanup from the go-go years is well in progress.

“I call it a detox,” da Silva said. “Whatever we did was clearly excessive and everyone knew it at the time. But when you’re at a party, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy, but let’s keep going.’ The detox phase is definitely coming to an end.”

Otello Stampacchia

Otello Stampacchia, the managing director of the Boston-based VC firm Omega Funds, said the mood is even “getting a little bit bubblicious” for biotechs with clinical-stage drug candidates in large markets with meaningful milestones in the next 12 to 18 months.

“There’s really a rush to get into those, particularly now that the indices have started flipping their dynamic,” said Stampacchia, who founded Omega two decades ago. “Up until early last fall, nobody wanted to catch the falling knife. It’s now the exact opposite dynamic, and there’s a bit of crowding in some of these names.”

“There’s real FOMO to invest in the right therapeutic products and the right therapeutic companies,” he added.

That’s carried through the private and public markets, Stampacchia said, noting that Omega participated in Alumis’ recent $259 million Series C raise — biotech’s biggest round this year. He said he was “incredibly surprised by the amount of demand there was for the deal.” All told, Omega has seen roughly half a dozen of its portfolio companies raise close to half a billion dollars over the last few months, with increased valuations.

“In each case, it really wasn’t difficult to syndicate,” he said. “There’s real demand.”

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“It seems impossible:” Bergen County, NJ’s housing market is vexing agents and buyers

While the housing market has cooled from the buying frenzy during the pandemic, agents in the leafy Bergen County suburbs say it’s also gotten worse. We…



Real estate agents in the leafy suburbs of Bergen County, New Jersey say the current housing market — with historically low inventory and record-high prices — is actually more challenging than the multiple offer chaos they sweated through during the pandemic.

“At the height of the pandemic there were bidding wars and all that, but it didn’t seem impossible, but now it seems impossible to get our buyers into homes,” said Heather Corrigan, a RE/MAX Signature Homes agent based in Closter, a borough that is 24 miles north of Manhattan and renown for its schools.

Altos Research’s Market Action Index score for the county, which has 70 municipalities, illustrates the challenges agents and their clients have faced. In March of 2022, the 90-day average Market Action Index score for the county hit a high of 93.84, before cooling over the past two years to a score of 47.98 as of March 6, 2024. Altos considers any score above 30 to be a seller’s market.

70 towns, 90 new listings

Local agents say the county’s tight inventory situation is largely to blame.

“We have been complaining about the lack of inventory for as long as I can remember, but then we at least had more listings,” Danny Yoon, an Edgewater, New Jersey-based Sotheby’s International Realty agent, said. “I was able to bring my clients to multiple listings for their consideration, but now I can only show them one or two in a given week. There is nothing to show.”

As of March 6, 2024, there was a 90-day average of 570 active single-family listings in Bergen County, according to Altos. This is down from a 90-day average of 752 active single-family listings a year ago and 2,052 active single-family listings in early March 2020, just at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Bidding wars are still there but it isn’t as bad as during COVID,” said Lisa Comito, a broker at Howard Hanna Rand Realty and the president of Greater Bergen Realtors, which has nearly 9,000 members. “When we were coming out of COVID we were seeing 15 to 20 offers on a house, where you’d have to make a spreadsheet to show your seller. You aren’t getting that, but there is still a lot of competitive bidding.”

Like elsewhere in the country, agents blame the low interest rates of 2020 and 2021 for locking many would-be sellers into their homes.

“During the pandemic, people would downsize or sell their home on a whim,” Comito said. “Now it is a different conversation. If they are downsizing it is for quality of life or that they can’t maintain a large home anymore.”

Although agents are optimistic about what may come with the fast-approaching spring housing market, the numbers are not promising. Data from Altos Research shows that there were just 90 new single-family listings in Bergen County for the week ending March 1, 2024. This is the fewest number of new listings for the first week in March recorded in Altos’ data, which dates back to 2013.


“Some of the reports indicate that we are going to have more listings this year than last year, but the only way I can see that being correct is because we had so few listings last year,” Yoon said. “Even if we get more listings, it is not going to be enough for people. We are still going to suffer from lack of inventory.”

Prices climbing toward $1M

While questions remain over how many sellers will decide to enter the market this spring, agents are already seeing more buyers come to the market. That’s despite median list prices climbing to a record $899,000 in the first week of March 2024, up nearly $150,000 from March 2022, which Altos considers the market’s peak.

“There is a meme with two buyers sitting in chairs waiting for prices and interest rates to drop and the buyers are skeletons and I think there is some truth to that,” Corrigan said. “But now buyers are sick of waiting around and are deciding it is time to buy.”

Comito also believes the current interest rate environment is helping to encourage buyers to enter the market.

“Buyers right now have gotten more comfortable with the mortgage rates,” Comito said. “They have stayed pretty consistent, allowing people to adjust to them and they aren’t thinking as much about those low rates of the pandemic market.”

While buyers are facing inventory and interest rate challenges, agents say they are also facing competition from investors and the all-cash offers they are capable of making.

“I have well qualified clients who are putting down 25% and are coming over asking with no or limited inspections and they are getting beat out by investors with all-cash,” Corrigan said.

She noted that while some of the investors are larger corporations, there are also a lot of mom-and-pop investors out in the market, buying up inventory.

Comito noted that even first-time buyers are looking to get into rental properties.

“You are seeing first time buyers looking for multifamily properties where they can rent out the other units to help pay for their mortgage,” Comito said.

Even with the challenging housing market conditions, buyers are still flocking to Bergen County, and agents like Corrigan don’t see that changing.

“The schools are good, and everything is in close proximity,” Corrigan said. “Every town has its own unique features, whether it is a great library, the town pool, events they put on, great restaurants, it is really just a desirable place to live for so many people.”

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A review of the Australian private credit market in 2023

2023 marked a year of both challenges and opportunities for the Australian private credit market. On the one hand, the tighter credit conditions in the…



2023 marked a year of both challenges and opportunities for the Australian private credit market. On the one hand, the tighter credit conditions in the first half of the year saw decreased activity in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), project finance and real estate development financing. On the other, the latter part of the year boasted a more stable interest rate and inflation outlook, as well as improved credit margins, supporting more resilient private credit portfolios. 

Ernst and Young (EY) publish an annual report on the Australian private credit landscape, which is a must-read for anyone following this asset class, whether you are a believer or still sitting on the fence. I have summarised my key learnings from this report in the article below.  

Market size – despite a slow 2023, there is still a big runway for growth 

In 2023, the Australian private credit market saw robust growth of 7 per cent, with total assets under management reaching AU$188 billion. Whilst solid, this was moderate compared to the 32 per cent growth experienced in 2022. According to EY, business-related loans amounted to AU$112 billion, while commercial real estate-related loans amounted to AU$76 billion. Focussing on business-related loans, this included all lending that was not commercial real estate-related, such as leveraged and sponsor lending, direct lending, middle-market, small-to-medium sized business lending (SME), special situations, distressed and venture debt.

Importantly, private credit in Australia only represented 12 per cent of the total business related-loan market. Offshore, the private credit market globally was estimated to be as large as U.S.$1.6 trillion during 2023 and forecasted to continue to grow double digits well into 2028. As such, there is clearly still a big runway for growth here domestically.  

Resilient performance – some sector challenges but borrower quality is key 

Performance has been a strong point of attraction in accessing Australian private credit, with majority of providers being able to continue to pay out anywhere from cash plus three per cent per annum through economic shifts and challenges such as COVID-19 and the interest rate environment over the last couple of years.

In 2023, this, in part, can be attributed to insolvencies being very company-specific and experienced in more cyclical and challenged sectors. EY noted these to be construction, accommodation, hospitality and food, business services and retail trade. The ability for private credit providers to access a growing universe of quality borrowers, leaving more traditional finance providers, is a key thematic fuelling the continued stability of outcomes. Moreover, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) noted in a recent report that SME lending accounted for over 50 per cent of total business lending in Australia. Despite this, lending to Australian SMEs only grew by six per cent over the year to September 2023.

The report also notes that more than 50 per cent of SMEs have issues accessing finance from traditional providers, with time to assess and approve being cited as a major impediment. Borrowers are also seeking alternate funding providers due to the size of the loans they are after (generally less than $2 million), duration (generally less than 12 months) and seeking to provide security outside of residential property. As such, this has carved out an area of the market that is starved for funding where niche private credit providers are still able to source strong forms of protection at the borrower level for working capital-focussed lending. In fact, the Australian Banking Association approximated the Australian SME loan market to be as large as AU$451 billion in 2022.  

Outlook – energy transition is a big opportunity 

EY further deduces that the economy-wide energy transition is another significant theme that will impact the Australian private credit market. With the need for capital investment in energy generation, technology, and infrastructure, private credit lenders are expected to play a crucial role.

In fact, quoting another recent EY publication, “Australia must attract an estimated $1.5 trillion in capital by 2030 and up to $9 trillion by 2060 to fund the transition to net zero emissions.” What role will private credit providers play here? EY namely cites in the form of new capital investments, refinancing and acquisition of lenders or loan books as traditional finance providers closely monitor their climate-related exposures under the new Australian sustainability reporting standards.

In conclusion, the Australian private credit market is navigating challenges with resilience and is well-positioned for growth in 2024. With improving economic conditions, a focus on sustainable investments, and a track record of portfolio quality, private credit lenders are poised to play a vital role in supporting Australia’s growing debt market. 

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