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Dollar Thumped

Overview: The prospects of a UK-EU deal and US stimulus continue to underwrite risk appetites and weigh on the dollar.  Equity markets are moving higher.  Led by Australia and China, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose to new record highs, while Dow Jones…



Overview: The prospects of a UK-EU deal and US stimulus continue to underwrite risk appetites and weigh on the dollar.  Equity markets are moving higher.  Led by Australia and China, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose to new record highs, while Dow Jones Stoxx 600 in Europe is at its best level since February.  US shares are also trading higher.  Bond markets are quiet, with European yields paring yesterday's gains while the US 10-year benchmark is hovering around 0.92%.  The dollar has lurched lower against nearly all the world currencies today.  The Norwegian krone, aided by a central bank suggesting it could be among the first major central banks to begin normalizing monetary policy (not until H1 22). The Australian dollar,  boosted by a strong employment report, are leading the majors.  The euro's roughly 0.25% gain to a new 18-month high is a laggard.  Meanwhile, emerging market currencies are mostly higher, and the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is higher for the third consecutive session.  Gold is shining in the weak dollar environment.  It has risen by about $50 an ounce over the past three sessions, and straddling $1880, it reached its best level in nearly four weeks.  Oil is bid as well.  Ideas that demand will improve, and a drawdown in US stocks, coupled with the dollar's weakness, lifted the January WTI contract to almost $49 a barrel, while Brent is closing in on $52.  

Asia Pacific

For the second month in a row, Australia reported employment data considerably better than economists forecast.   It created more than double the 40k jobs the Bloomberg median forecast anticipated, and the October surge pushed even higher to 180.4k (from 178.8k).  Nearly all the new jobs were full-time positions (84.2k).  While the participation rate increase to 66.1% from 65.8%, the unemployment rate eased to 6.8% from 7.0%.  Last November, the participation rate was 65.9%.

China avoided being cited as a currency manipulator by the US Treasury Department, but it remains on its watch list. It renewed its call for greater transparency.  It noted as many observers have that its large current account surplus, relatively steady yuan, and a small increase in reserves does not add up.  It notes that large banks are short yuan.  No one has argued that the yuan is free-floating.  It is not fully convertible.  Several other areas are problematic, including the rising errors and commissions catch-all category. 

MSCI announced that, like the other benchmark providers, it too was going to drop companies cited by the US as tied to the Chinese military.  MSCI will drop seven companies in early January.  S&P Dow Jones is dropping eight companies, and FTSE Russell is dropping 8.  A further adjustment could be necessary, as the subsidiaries and affiliates of the 35 companies cited by the US were not excluded on this first cut.  MSCI estimated that 0.04% of its global benchmark and 0.25% of its emerging market index are impacted.  After surveying 100 fund managers, MSCI concluded that reversing the decision will not a top priority for the Biden administration.   

With the US Treasury keeping Japan its fx watch list as well, Japanese officials may be quieter as the dollar is poised to break below JPY103 than they were a month ago when the dollar was slipping through JPY104. The greenback has not been above JPY103.60 in Asia and is testing JPY103 in the European morning.  This is a new nine-month low for the dollar, which hit JPY101.20 in the March chaos.  The Australian dollar jumped above $0.7600 and is at a new 18-month high near $0.7640.  The next chart point is around $0.7675.  It is the fourth consecutive gain for the Aussie.  Barring a dramatic reversal tomorrow, it will be the seventh straight weekly advance that began near $0.7000 at the end of October.   The PBOC's reference rate for the dollar was CNY6.5362, spot on the Bloomberg bank survey's median forecast.  The yuan is flat on the day.  Against the offshore yuan, the dollar traded to CNH6.50 before returning to yesterday's settlement level (~CNH6.5125).  


On the heels of the Treasury's announcement, the Swiss National Bank argued that it is not manipulating its currency, but it will continue to intervene as necessary.  All intervention is not manipulation, and if a country acts like a judge and a jury in determining the difference, it undermines the effort for international cooperation. At the conclusion of its policy meeting today, the SNB left rates unchanged and reiterated that the franc was "highly valued."  SNB President Jordan argued that its intervention is not aimed at securing a trade advantage but fighting deflationary pressures.  Unlike the US, eurozone, and Japan, there are not sufficient domestic bonds for its to buy as a result of its fiscal policies.  Note that the SNB's reserves have risen by more than $100 bln in H1 20. 

Norway's central bank sees a somewhat faster increase in rates starting in H2 2022 than it did in September.  It makes Norway a leading candidate to be among the first of the high-income countries to begin normalizing policy.   The Norges Bank has run a fairly orthodox policy.  No QE.  No negative rates.  The government did tap the $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund for resources.   The currency is the weakest of the majors this year, and that may be helping keep price pressures firm and allowing it to contemplate a hike in 18 months.  

The outcome of the Bank of England meeting is awaited.  No change is in rates, or Gilt purchases are expected.  Barring a surprise, it will be a non-event for sterling, where the market is focused on the weak dollar backdrop and the prospects for a last-minute UK-EU deal.  We had been skeptical that a deal could be struck.  From the outside, it looked like an old married couple talking at each other and not to each other, and there was much posturing.  The UK was jealously seeking to reassert what it sees as its sovereignty. The EU was jilted and determined not to give any incentive whatsoever to others who might contemplate leaving.  Still, since the middle of last week's  Johson/von der Leyen dinner, we have sensed a change and a greater commitment to getting a deal done.  And at the same time, we continue to recognize that even with an agreement, there will be frustrating disruptions in the UK-EU trade early next year. 

The euro pushed to nearly $1.2245 in late Asia turnover and has stabilized in the European morning.  An option for 2.2 bln euros expires tomorrow at $1.2250.  Support now is seen in the $1.2180-$1.2200 area.  Sterling is trading higher against the dollar for the fourth consecutive session and is approaching $1.36.  It finished last week near $1.3225. Partly, this reflects the weak dollar environment, but sterling is also recovering against the euro.  The euro is slipping below GBP0.9000 after hitting GBP0.9230 at the end of last week.  Important support is seen near GBP0.8980, which houses the lows from earlier this month and the 200-day moving average.  A convincing break could target GBP0.8900.  


The Federal Reserve said little new and did nothing.  What it did say was important, though. It linked its future bond purchases to "substantial" progress toward its targets.  The median forecast of the members for growth was ratcheted up and unemployment down.  In September, four officials saw a hike in 2023 as likely being appropriate, and now five do.  The extension of the dollar swaps and repo facility for foreign central banks is simply prudent and predictable, even if the former is a shadow of its former self. The latter does not appear to have been used.  The markets wobbled initially; maybe disappointment in some quarters that the pace and composition of its bond purchases were unchanged, but it quickly found its footing.  Stocks firmed into the close, and the long-end yields pulled back.  

Treasury issued its long-overdue report on the international economy and the foreign exchange market.  It cited Switzerland and Vietnam as currency manipulators and added India, Thailand, and Taiwan to the watch-list.  The watch-list also includes China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore, and Malaysia.  It is the first time since China was cited last year (and reversed quickly after signing the Phase 1 trade deal), which itself was the first time since 1994 that one or more countries were cited as manipulators.   It was a mechanistic exercise.  There are three criteria, bilateral imbalance with the US, large global imbalance, and repeated intervention on one side of the market.  It makes no difference if a currency is overvalued, as is the Swiss franc or is too small and too poor, like Vietnam.  The currency manipulators are to enter into talks with the US.  Treasury Secretary Mnuchin will not be there.   When Mnuchin took office, there was a coherent dollar policy.  Since 1995, the US refrained from talking the dollar down.  Rubin's strong dollar policy stuck more or less.  For the most part, other large countries refrained from doing the same.  It was an arms control agreement of sorts.  China's behavior complicated matters, but the dollar policy is in disrepair. 

The US reports weekly jobless claims (a small decline is expected after last week's surprise increase), housing starts and permits (among the sectors leading the recovery), and the Philadelphia and Kansas City Fed surveys (likely softer).  These data points do not have the heft to reverses the dollar's weakness or substantially alter views of the economy.  The weakness seen in yesterday's retail sales bodes ill for next week's more comprehensive personal consumption report.  The flash PMI suggests the economic momentum waning into year-end, especially in services, which seems related to the pandemic.  Today, Canada has a light agenda after yesterday's CPI, where the firmness of the headline masked flat underlying measures.  Tomorrow it reports October retail sales, which are most unlikely to match September's strength (1.1% headline gain and 1.0% excluding autos.   Mexico's central bank meets and is widely expected to keep the overnight target rate at 4.25%.  There was one dissent last month, and it could be repeated again. Still, the majority seem to want to wait for confirmation that price pressures are moving lower in a sustained fashion rather than a one-off related to sales discounts.  

The US dollar is trading heavily against the Canadian dollar near CAD1.2700.  The 2.5-year low was set a couple of days ago, a little below CAD1.2680.  The price action has been chopped and has seen intraday upticks extent to almost CAD1.2800.  Note that today's high of CAD1.2750 matches the strike of a $1.1 bln option that expires today.  The greenback tested the MXN20.25 level earlier this week.  That may have been the bounce that some had looked for.  A four-day dollar bounce ended Tuesday, and today it is offered for the third consecutive session.   It is trading near MXN19.75, and the low seen last week was near MXN19.70.  A break of that targets the MXN19.50 area.  



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DNAmFitAge: Biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”…



“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

Credit: 2023 McGreevy et al.

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

BUFFALO, NY- June 7, 2023 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 10, entitled, “DNAmFitAge: biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness.”

Physical fitness is a well-known correlate of health and the aging process and DNA methylation (DNAm) data can capture aging via epigenetic clocks. However, current epigenetic clocks did not yet use measures of mobility, strength, lung, or endurance fitness in their construction. 

In this new study, researchers Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Ferenc Torma, Matyas Jokai, Ake T. Lu, Daniel W. Belsky, Alexandra Binder, Riccardo E. Marioni, Luigi Ferrucci, Ewelina Pośpiech, Wojciech Branicki, Andrzej Ossowski, Aneta Sitek, Magdalena Spólnicka, Laura M. Raffield, Alex P. Reiner, Simon Cox, Michael Kobor, David L. Corcoran, and Steve Horvath from the University of California Los Angeles, University of Physical Education, Altos Labs, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, University of Edinburgh, National Institute on Aging, Jagiellonian University, Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, University of Łódź, Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, Poland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia develop blood-based DNAm biomarkers for fitness parameters including gait speed (walking speed), maximum handgrip strength, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) which have modest correlation with fitness parameters in five large-scale validation datasets (average r between 0.16–0.48). 

“These parameters were chosen because handgrip strength and VO2max provide insight into the two main categories of fitness: strength and endurance [23], and gait speed and FEV1 provide insight into fitness-related organ function: mobility and lung function [8, 24].”

The researchers then used these DNAm fitness parameter biomarkers with DNAmGrimAge, a DNAm mortality risk estimate, to construct DNAmFitAge, a new biological age indicator that incorporates physical fitness. DNAmFitAge was associated with low-intermediate physical activity levels across validation datasets (p = 6.4E-13), and younger/fitter DNAmFitAge corresponds to stronger DNAm fitness parameters in both males and females. 

DNAmFitAge was lower (p = 0.046) and DNAmVO2max is higher (p = 0.023) in male body builders compared to controls. Physically fit people had a younger DNAmFitAge and experienced better age-related outcomes: lower mortality risk (p = 7.2E-51), coronary heart disease risk (p = 2.6E-8), and increased disease-free status (p = 1.1E-7). These new DNAm biomarkers provide researchers a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks.

“Our newly constructed DNAm biomarkers and DNAmFitAge provide researchers and physicians a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks and emphasizes the effect lifestyle has on the aging methylome.”

Read the full study: DOI: 

Corresponding Authors: Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Steve Horvath

Corresponding Emails:,, 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, physical fitness, biological age, DNA methylation

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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Spread & Containment

Martha Stewart Has a Spicy Take on Americans Who Want to Work From Home

This half-baked take might need to stay in the oven a little longer.



Lifestyle icon Martha Stewart has been on a roll when it comes to representing vivacious women over 60. Whether she's teaming up to charm audiences alongside her BFF Snoop Dogg, poking fun at Elon Musk, or starring as Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue cover model, Martha stays busy. 

Her most recent publicity moment, however, doesn't have the same wholesome feeling Stewart brings to the table. In an interview with Footwear News, the DIY-queen had some choice words about Americans who want to continue working from home after covid-19 lockdown shut down offices.

“You can’t possibly get everything done working three days a week in the office and two days remotely," the cozy-home guru said. "Look at the success of France with their stupid … you know, off for August, blah blah blah. That’s not a very thriving country. Should America go down the drain because people don’t want to go back to work?”

Well, that's certainly a viewpoint. A lot to unpack there. Many online were confused--after all, didn't Stewart basically make her career by "working from home?"

Sitting down with The Today Show, Stewart elaborated on her controversial stance. It seems she's confusing "work from home" with a three-day workweek. 

"I'm having this argument with so many people these days. It's just that my kind of work is very creative and is very collaborative. And I cannot really stomach another zoom. [...But] I hate going to an office, it's empty. During COVID I took every precaution. We [...] set up an office at [...] my home[...] Now we're our offices and our three day work week, I just don't agree with it," Stewart tells viewers. 

"It's frightening because if you read the economic news and look at what's happening everywhere in the world, a three-day workweek doesn't get the work done, doesn't get the productivity up. It doesn't help with the economy and I think that's very important."

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How cashless societies can boost financial inclusion — with the right safeguards

The UK could learn a lot from developing economies about using digital payments to boost financial inclusion.




Accepting digital payments. WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS/Shutterstock

Cashless societies, where transactions are entirely digital, are gaining traction in many parts of the world, particularly after a pandemic-era boom in demand for online banking.

Improvements in digital payment infrastructure such as mobile payments, digital currencies and online banking, make it more convenient for people and businesses to buy and sell things without using cash. Even the Bank of England is looking into how a digital pound might work, showing the potential for a significant shift from physical cash to digital payments in the UK.

Read more: How a digital pound could work alongside cryptocurrencies

Fintech companies have accelerated the transition towards cashless payments with innovations including mobile payment apps, digital wallets, cryptocurrencies and online banking services. The COVID pandemic was also a tipping point that created unprecedented appetite for digital transactions. Fintechs emerged as a life line for many during lockdowns, particularly vulnerable populations that needed emergency lines of credit and ways to make and receive payments.

By 2021, approximately 71% of adults in developing countries had bank accounts. But this leaves nearly 30% of the population still needing access to essential financial products and services. Fintechs can provide more affordable and accessible financial services and products. This helps boost financial inclusion, particularly for the “unbanked”, or those without a bank account.

In the UK, around 1.3 million people, roughly 4% of the population, lack access to banking services. The government and financial institutions have worked together to promote the adoption of digital payments, and the UK’s Request to Pay service allows people and businesses to request and make payments using digital channels such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

But other countries are moving faster towards a cashless society. In Sweden, only about 10% of all payments were made in cash in 2020. This move towards cashless payments in the country has been facilitated by mobile payment solutions like Swish, which people can use to send and receive money via mobile phone.

Boosting financial inclusion

India has gone even further. In less than a decade, the country has become a digital finance leader. It has also made significant progress in promoting digital financial inclusion, mainly through the government’s flagship programme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).

India’s banks also participate in mobile payment solutions like Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which can connect multiple accounts via one app. India’s digital infrastructure, known as the India Stack also aims to expand financial inclusion by encouraging companies to develop fintech solutions.

Many developing economies are using digitalisation to boost financial inclusion in this way. Kenya introduced its M-Pesa mobile money service in 2007. While microfinance institutions that provide small loans to low-income individuals and small businesses were first introduced in Bangladesh in the 1970s via the Grameen Bank project.

Digital lending has also grown in India in recent years. Its fintechs use algorithms and data analytics to assess creditworthiness and provide loans quickly and at a lower cost than traditional banks.

These innovative platforms have helped to bridge the gap between the formal financial system and underserved populations – those with low or no income – providing fast access to financial services. By removing barriers such as high transaction costs, lack of physical branches and some credit history requirements, fintech companies can reach a wider range of customers and provide financial services that are tailored to their needs.

It’s the tech behind these systems that helps fintechs connect with their customers. The increased use of digital payment methods generates a wealth of data to gain insights into consumer behaviour, spending patterns and other relevant information that can be used to further support a cashless society.

Helping the UK’s unbanked

Countries like the UK could also promote digital financial inclusion to help unbanked people. But this would require a combination of government support, innovation and the widespread adoption of mobile payment solutions.

There are some significant challenges to overcome to create a true – and truly fair – cashless economy. For example, a cashless system could exclude people who do not have access to digital payment methods, such as the elderly or low-income populations. According to a recent study by Age UK, 75% of over 65s with a bank account said they wanted to conduct at least one banking task in person at a bank branch, building society or post office.

Providing more cashless options could also increase the risk of cybercrime, digital fraud such as phishing scams and data breaches – particularly among people that aren’t as financially literate.

There is a dark side to fintech: algorithm biases and predatory lending practices negatively affect vulnerable and minority groups as well as women. Even major financial firms such as Equifax, Visa and Mastercard can get compromised by data breaches, creating valid concerns about data security for many people.

Cross-border transfer of personal data by fintech companies also concerns regulators, but there is still a lack of internationally recognised data protection standards. This should be addressed as the trend towards cashless societies continues.

Two hands hold a fan of GBP banknotes: £5, £10, £20, £50.
Paying with cash. Nieves Mares/Shutterstock

Building guardrails

Regulations affect how fintech companies can provide financial services but ensure they operate within the law. Since fintech companies generally aim to disrupt markets, however, this can create a complex relationship with regulators.

Collaboration between regulators and fintech companies will boost understanding of these innovative business models and help shape future regulatory frameworks. Countries like India have shown the way in this respect. An innovation hub run by UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is a good start. It supports product and service launches and offers access to synthetic data sets for testing and development.

Fintech can help finance become more inclusive. But it needs policies and regulations that support innovation, promote competition, ensure financial stability and – most importantly – to help protect the citizens of these new cashless societies.

Thankom Arun does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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