Futures Flat As Crushing 37bps Curve Inversion Screams Recession
US futures are mixed on Thursday, first trading in the red, then turning green before moving unchanged, as investors shrugged off growth warnings from the bond market while Taiwan war fears faded further despite drills launched by China overnight. Oil bounced back from the lowest level in almost six months. Contracts on the S&P 500 were flat while Nasdaq futures were modestly green, suggesting the tech-heavy Nasdaq will extend an advance of 19% from its June 16 low on the back of a massive CTA, buyback and retail-driven buying frenzy.
In premarket trading, Alibaba gained 3.4% after reporting revenue for the first quarter that beat the average analyst estimate. Adjusted earnings per American depositary receipt also topped expectations. Altice USA shares jumped 5% after the cable television provider reported second-quarter results and announced it received inquiries for its Suddenlink assets. US-listed Chinese tech stocks including JD.com, Pinduoduo and Baidu rise in premarket trading Thursday as Alibaba shares jump 3.9% after reporting better-than-expected revenue in the first quarter. Here are some other notable premarket movers:
AMTD Idea (AMTD) shares slump 11.5% putting the Hong-Kong based financial services firm on track to slump for a second straight day after a wild 237% jump earlier this week.
Eli Lilly (LLY) falls 2% after the company cut its adjusted earnings per share forecast for the full year.
Equinox Gold Corp. (EQX) slides 2.5% after reporting second quarter results that missed consensus analyst estimates for revenue and posted a loss per share, and announced a CEO change.
Fastly Inc. (FSLY) shares are down 7% after the infrastructure software company reported second quarter revenue that beat expectations.
Gannett Co. Inc. (GCI) shares plunge 5% after the company lowered its full-year revenue and Ebitda outlook, citing “current economic conditions.”.
Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) was downgraded to market perform from outperform at Cowen, with analyst Oliver Chen saying a “weakening and inflationary consumer backdrop” could drive EPS downside. Shares decline 3%.
Pacific Biosciences (PACB) 2Q results look broadly in line but guidance has been cut significantly, albeit this is not a major surprise, analysts say. Shares down 4% in US premarket trading.
Revolve Group Inc. (RVLV) shares are down 13% after the e-commerce fashion company reported quarterly net sales and earnings per share that fell short of analysts’ expectations.
Skillz (SKLZ) shares tumble 11.6% after the mobile games platform operator cut its full-year guidance for revenue, with Citi noting that revenue and user metrics disappointed.
Under Armour (UAA) is downgraded to neutral from outperform at Baird, which says its view of the athletic-wear retailer’s near-term prospects has “deteriorated materially” over the past two quarters, and faces further pressure from an uncertain macroeconomic environment. The stock declines 0.5% in premarkettrading.
Yellow Corp. (YELL) shares jump 37% after the logistics company reported earnings per share for the second quarter that beat the average analyst estimate.
So far US stocks have proven resilient to heightened bond market anxiety and an inverted Treasury yield curve flashing warnings on economic risks, as the S&P 500 climbs back toward the highest level in two months ignoring the screaming recession warning from the 2s10s curve which is now 37bps inverted.
But a global wave of monetary tightening risks upending those gains. The Bank of England unleashed its first half-point hike since 1995 in an effort to control inflation, joining some 70 other institutions around the world moving rates up in outsized steps.
“There’s an intense tug-of-war happening in the economy and markets,” said Dan Suzuki, deputy chief investment officer at Richard Bernstein Advisors. “On one side, you have a narrative that reasonable growth is going to support continued inflation pressure and keep the Fed hiking. The other narrative is that slowing growth is going to ease inflation and allow the Fed to stop hiking.”
Meanwhile, US-China tension remains among the uncertainties clouding the outlook. Taiwan braced for the Chinese military to start firing in exercises being held around the island in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit. Here are the latest headlines surrounding Taiwan/Pelosi:
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the Taiwan issue is not a regional issue but is a China internal affairs issue, while it added that punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards and external forces is reasonable and lawful.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said unidentified aircraft which were likely drones, flew above Kinmen Islands on Wednesday night, while the military fired flares to drive away the aircraft, according to Reuters.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said troops will continue to reinforce alertness level and are carrying out daily training as usual, while the military will react appropriately to an enemy situation and safeguard national security and sovereignty, according to Reuters.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers are concerned about international and regional volatility and are concerned volatility could lead to a miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts, and unpredictable consequences among major powers, according to Reuters.
US House Speaker Pelosi plans to visit an inter-Korean border area jointly controlled by the American-led UN Command and North Korea, according to a South Korean official cited by Reuters.
China's PLA has added an additional zone for its military exercise encircling Taiwan starting Thursday, exercises have been extended until Monday at 10:00, via dwnews' Yang citing Taiwan's port authority. Now seven zones around Taiwan.
Gains in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index were led by retailers, leisure and technology firms, alongside an advance in shares of Chinese tech companies. Among individual stock moves, Glencore Plc shares fell as much as 2% as its capital return plans overshadowed solid first-half results. Ubisoft shares surged as much as 21% after Tencent reached out to Ubisoft’s founding Guillemot family and expressed interest in increasing its stake, according to Reuters. Here are the most notable European movers:
Rolls-Royce drops as much as 12% in London. Jefferies highlights that 1H adjusted Ebit came in 24% below consensus, is disappointed Civil margin “once stripped of a number of one-offs, remains well below breakeven.”
SES shares drop as much as 10%, the most intraday since April 2020, as some analysts raised doubts about a potential combination with Intelsat after the FT reported deal talks between the two companies.
Ambu falls as much as 16%, the most intraday since May 6, after the company slashed its organic revenue forecast for the full year and said it will cut about 200 jobs from its global workforce.
Lufthansa gains as much as 7.4% after the airline forecast a “significant increase” in earnings in the third quarter compared to the second and provided a clearer outlook for full-year profit, predicting adjusted Ebit of more than EU500m.
Next shares climb as much as 3.2% after the UK apparel retailer reported better-than-expected 2Q sales and raised its profit outlook for the year.
Adidas shares gain as much as 4.4% after the German sportswear company reported 2Q results that were largely in line with expectations, following last week’s profit warning.
Merck KGaA shares rise as much as 1.7% after the German pharmaceutical group’s 2Q report showed stable growth for its Life Science division despite abating Covid-19 tailwinds, with Jefferies saying it sends a “positive message” for the rest of 2022.
Earlier in the session, Asian stocks rebounded as easing tensions over Taiwan and overnight gains on the Nasdaq fueled a rally in Chinese tech shares ahead of key earnings reports. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.5%, set for its first gain in three sessions. Alibaba, which is scheduled to release earnings later Thursday, and e-commerce peers Meituan and JD.com helped boost the Hang Seng Tech Index as much as 3.4%, most in more than a month. Other benchmarks in Hong Kong and South Korea’s tech-heavy Kosdaq were among the region’s outperformers.
“Hong Kong stock markets are getting re-rated after seeing the risk-off mood due to Taiwan tensions, as there were no military conflicts,” said Xuehua Cui, a China equity analyst at Meritz Securities in Seoul. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after reaffirming US support for the democratically elected government in Taipei. China responded with trade curbs and military drills. Elsewhere in Asia, the main Philippine index reached its highest since June 10 on foreign inflows. Asia’s key stock benchmark has rebounded from its July low, but its recent recovery has been lagging behind US peers amid a property crisis in China and heightened geopolitical risks.
Japanese equities erased earlier gains and slipped as Toyota announced first-quarter earnings that missed estimates and as investors continue to evaluate corporate earnings both domestically and abroad. The Topix Index was virtually unchanged at 1,930.73 with Toyota Motor leading declines as of market close Tokyo time, while the Nikkei advanced 0.7% to 27,932.20. Toyota Motor shares dropped during market hours as the automaker reported disappointing first quarter earnings and kept its conservative outlook for the current year. Out of 2,170 shares in the index, 1,198 rose and 849 fell, while 123 were unchanged. “Toyota Motor’s financial results confirmed that the impact of high raw material and fuel prices was strong enough to offset the effects of the weak yen,” said Shuji Hosoi, an analyst at Daiwa Securities. “The fact that the company didn’t change its full-year operating income forecast negatively impacted the markets, which had been expecting an upward revision.”
India’s Sensex index snapped a six-session rally, dragged by Reliance Industries and leading lenders, on risk-aversion ahead of a monetary-policy announcement on Friday. The S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.1% to 58,298.80, in Mumbai, after paring decline of as much as 1.3% in the session. The NSE Nifty 50 Index was flat. Both gauges posted early gains and appeared headed for their longest winning streaks since October 2021, but reversed course. “The sudden drop in indexes is most likely led by ‘basket selling’ from foreign portfolio investors ahead of the central bank’s rate decision on Friday,” said Abhay Agarwal, a fund manager at Piper Serica Advisors. “Stocks have gained for six straight sessions and investors may want to reap gains ahead of a major policy event.” Reliance Industries fell 1.3%, while State Bank of India and Axis Bank led declines among lenders. Economists expect the Reserve Bank of India to raise rates for a third consecutive time on Friday but remain divided on the level of the hike aimed at fighting inflation and supporting a weakening currency. Of 30 shares in the Sensex index, 17 rose and 13 fell. Both of India’s equity benchmarks had gained least 5.5% in previous six sessions driven by $1.7 billion of net purchases by foreigners since the end of June amid signs that inflationary pressures are cooling. Eight of the 19 sector sub-indexes compiled by BSE Ltd. declined on Thursday. A measure of telecom stocks was the worst performer among the sectoral measures.
In FX, the dollar consolidated as traders awaited US payrolls data due later in the day for clues on the pace of future Federal Reserve rate hikes. Sterling tumbled after the BOE delivered its biggest rate hike in 27 years, pushing rates up by 50bps, however it also warned of a devastating stagflation, hiking its inflation forecast to 13.3% in October even as it predicted a harrowing 5-quarter long recession.
In rates, Treasuries were moderately cheaper across the curve - which continues to invert deeply with the 2s10s now -37bps, the biggest yield curve inversion since 2000 as traders increased wagers on Federal Reserve rate hikes ahead of Friday’s US jobs data - as US stock futures added to Wednesday’s gains. The US 10-year yield dropping to 2.70% as Federal Reserve officials indicated they were resolute on aggressive hikes to cool inflation, dashing market hopes they were ready to embark on a shallower rate path. Treasuries offered little initial reaction to Bank of England decision to hike rates 50bp in an 8-1 vote while warning of a 5 quarter-long recession. Front-end yields cheaper by ~2bp on the day, flattening 2s10s and 5s30s spreads by ~1.5bp and ~0.5bp; 10-year yields around 2.71% trade cheaper by 5bp vs bunds. European long-end bonds nudged higher. In the UK, focus is on the Bank of England’s rate decision, with a majority of economists anticipating a 50-basis-point hike.
In commodities, oil drifted 0.2% lower to trade at the $90 level as investors weighed weaker US gasoline demand and rising inventories against a token supply increase from OPEC+. Spot gold rises roughly $20 to trade near $1,787/oz. Base metals are mixed; LME lead falls 1.1% while LME zinc gains 1.2%.
Bitcoin slips back below the USD 23k mark but remains in relative proximity to the level in a tight range.
Looking to the day ahead now and we have US June trade balance and Initial Jobless Claims, Germany June factory orders, July construction PMI, UK July new car registrations, construction PMI, Canada June building permits and international merchandise trade. Earnings will include Alibaba, Eli Lilly, Toyota, ICE, ConocoPhillips, Bayer, Glencore, Cigna, Rolls-Royce, adidas, Cheniere, DBS, Apollo, Lyft, Expedia, Deutsche Lufthansa, Warner Bros Discovery, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, DoorDash, Atlassian, Amgen, Block, EOG, Kellogg and AMC.
S&P 500 futures little changed at 4,153.75
STOXX Europe 600 up 0.2% to 439.32
MXAP up 0.4% to 159.68
MXAPJ up 0.6% to 521.36
Nikkei up 0.7% to 27,932.20
Topix little changed at 1,930.73
Hang Seng Index up 2.1% to 20,174.04
Shanghai Composite up 0.8% to 3,189.04
Sensex down 0.6% to 57,993.23
Australia S&P/ASX 200 little changed at 6,974.93
Kospi up 0.5% to 2,473.11
German 10Y yield little changed at 0.89%
Euro up 0.1% to $1.0178
Brent Futures little changed at $96.78/bbl
Brent Futures little changed at $96.75/bbl
Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,773.19
U.S. Dollar Index down 0.13% to 106.37
Top Overnight News from Bloomberg
China’s military fired missiles into the sea on Thursday in live-fire military exercises around the island in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, even as Taipei played down the impact on flights and shipping.
The Bank of England on Thursday is expected to push through the biggest interest-rate increase in 27 years despite growing risks of a recession.
European stocks edged higher on Thursday as investors continued to weigh the path of corporate earnings, while attention turned to the Bank of England’s policy decision later in the day.
The dollar is close to a 20-year high, despite talk of its inevitable demise. While reluctant to add another article that ends up in traders’ trash cans, current pricing is extreme.
Asia’s emerging economies are drawing on large foreign exchange reserves to help prop up their currencies rather than going all-out with interest-rate hikes.
A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk
Asia-Pac stocks were firmer as the positive momentum rolled over from global peers. ASX 200 was kept afloat by tech after similar outperformance of the sector stateside. Nikkei 225 briefly reclaimed the 28k level amid recent JPY weakness and as the earnings deluge continued. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp conformed to the heightened risk appetite with firm gains in tech including Alibaba ahead of its earnings and with Hong Kong set to provide HKD 2k in consumption vouchers from Sunday.
Top Asian News
China’s Yiwu city will conduct mass testing and China's Sanya city is on lockdown amid a COVID flare-up, according to state media.
China Cancels Japan Meeting Over G-7 Criticism of Taiwan Drills
SoftBank Raises $22 Billion Through Alibaba Derivatives: FT
China State-Backed Builder’s Dollar Bonds Slump as Worries Mount
Tiger Global Fund Halves Stake in India Food Platform Zomato
Li Ka-shing’s CK to Sell AMTD Stake After Unit Soars 14,000%
European bourses are firmer across the board, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.9%, with the general tone constructive though the FTSE 100 lags pre-BoE amid GBP strength. Stateside, US futures have lifted from initial rangebound action, ES +0.3%, with specific newsflow limited pre-data/Fed speak
Top European News
Next Raises Profit Outlook as Hot Spell Spurs Fashion Buying
French Tech Startup Back Market Said to Start Early IPO Prep
Goldman, Bernstein Strategists Say Stocks Rally Can Fizzle Out
European Retailers Outperform, Fueled by Zalando Relief Rally
Czech Finance Minister Attending Central Bank’s Rate Meeting
Credit Agricole’s Investment Bank Drives Earnings Beat
DXY remains subdued in early European trade following a relatively contained APAC session; fresh session lows are seen heading into the US entrance.
GBP/USD and EUR/USD are currently buoyed, but seemingly more as a function of the Dollar with the former gearing up for the BoE.
A mixed session thus far for the non-US Dollars, with the Antipodeans leading the charge whilst the Loonie remained suppressed by crude prices.
JPY resides as the current G10 laggard with recent Fed rhetoric fuelling a retracement of last week’s USD/JPY downside.
Core consolidation after recent rampant upward move, knife-edge BoE looms; Bund Sep'22 towards mid-point of a +100 tick range.
USTs are following suit with the yield curve flattening modestly but generally quite contained ahead of Mester (2022 voter, Hawk) who has provided commentary recently.
Pre-BoE Gilts are supported, but in narrower parameters than EGB peers, as participants look for clarity on the 25/50bp debate as pricing implies a 90% chance of 50bp and circa. 150bp total by end-2022.
Crude consolidates and moves with broader sentiment post-OPEC & pre-JCPOA.
Currently, benchmarks are firmer by circa. USD 1.00bbl and towards the top-end of relatively/comparably narrow ranges.
Saudi Arabia OSPs (Sep) vs Oman/Dubai average: Arab Light to Asia at USD +9.80/bbl (exp. 9.80-11.10/bbl), according to Reuters sources.
Spot gold is bid and benefitting from a USD pullback that has sent the yellow-metal above the 50-DMA at best; base metals somewhat mixed.
US Event Calendar
07:30: July Challenger Job Cuts YoY, prior 58.8%
08:30: June Trade Balance, est. -$80b, prior -$85.5b
08:30: July Initial Jobless Claims, est. 260,000, prior 256,000; Continuing Claims, est. 1.38m, prior 1.36m
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
One thing we can say for sure is that August hasn’t been dull so far and we’ve only had three days. This is all before the biggest BoE hike for 27 years (50bps) likely today, and then US payrolls tomorrow.
Indeed, there have been some remarkable ranges in treasuries so far in the three days of August. In just over 24 hours from mid-afternoon London time on Tuesday, 2yr US yields moved from 2.83% to 3.18%, 5yrs from 2.58% to 2.96% and 10yrs from 2.52% to 2.83%. These all marked the high points as the three closed at 3.07% (+1.4bps on the day), 2.83% (-2.4bps) and 2.71% (-4.5bps) respectively, 11bps to 13bps off their intra-day highs immediately after a strong US services ISM yesterday. This led to a big curve flattening as 2s10s closed c.6bps lower at -36bps. This morning in Asia, treasury yields are pretty much unchanged.
If that wasn’t enough, the Nasdaq 100 (+2.73%) surged to finish the day at a level last seen on May 4th leaving a strong S&P 500 (+1.59%) slightly behind. The narratives at the moment are struggling to be consistent though as equities have recently rallied on weaker growth that has been seen as helping to limit how far the Fed can hike. However yesterday equities rallied on stronger economic data regardless of the potential Fed impact.
Discretionary (+2.52%), IT (+2.69%) and communications stocks (+2.48%) were the major drivers of the S&P. The broad rally lifted 79% of benchmark’s members with energy (-2.97%) being the only sector to close in the red as oil plummeted. Speaking of which, although the OPEC+ agreed to increase its September output by 100k bpd, way below the July and August increases north of 600k, crude’s short-lived almost +3% gain unwound fairly quickly, with both WTI (-3.87%) and Brent (-3.60%) weaker on lower US gasoline demand as consumers seem to be driving less. Oil is very slightly higher in Asia.
In terms of earnings, Moderna (+16%), PayPal (+9.25%) and CVS (+6.3%) were among top performers in the S&P 500 after a combination of upbeat results and perhaps more importantly buy back announcements. Another interesting snippet from this earnings season came when Bloomberg reported that Meta is looking for a potential debut in bond markets. News of debt sales by Apple and Intel already came through earlier this week as well, supporting narratives of resilience in corporate debt markets.
Dissecting the data, just before the ISM services was released, we got a slight upward revision for the US services PMI (47.3 vs 47.0) but the real surprise was the ISM services index itself. The print showed an unexpected expansion from 55.3 in June to 56.7 last month, the highest since April, while the median Bloomberg estimate stood at 53.5. The employment index also improved to 49.1 from 47.4 and business activity and new orders indicators were the highest since January, while prices paid plunged from 80.1 to 72.3. Another strong reading came from June factory orders that increased +2.0% (vs +1.2% expected), up from May’s revised reading of +1.8% (from +1.6% previously).
This data dovetailed with comments from a list of Fed speakers over the last 24 hours, including Bullard, Daly, Barkin and Kashkari, all saying that the central bank is not close to finishing its work and markets shouldn’t expect a quick reversal to cuts.
This all supports our view that the US isn’t in recession yet. As we’ve said many times before we think it’s almost inevitable it does go into one within say 12 months but that we still might need the lagged impact of an aggressive (but necessary) series of rate hikes first to get us there. The risks to this view in terms of an earlier recession would probably be due to a sudden self fulfilling loss of confidence as everyone talks about imminent recession risk, or if financial conditions dramatically collapse. To be fair the latter was very worrying by mid-June but we’ve seen a tremendous loosening since.
Over to Asia and the strong gains in US equities are echoing in Asia with all the key markets trading higher. As I type, the Hang Seng (+1.78%) is leading the way across the region helped by gains in Chinese technology companies with shares of Alibaba climbing around +5.0% ahead of its earnings results later today. Elsewhere, the Nikkei (+0.54%), and the Kospi (+0.36%) are trading higher in early trade. Over in Mainland China, the Shanghai Composite (+0.15%) and the CSI (+0.40%) are both trading in the green.
Outside of Asia, stock futures in the US are pausing for breath with contracts on the S&P 500 (-0.10%) and NASDAQ 100 (-0.20%) moving slightly lower.
Early morning data showed that Australia’s trade balance swelled to a record high of A$17.67bn in June (v/s A$14.0bn expected) from A$15.97bn in May driven by strong prices of key exports from grains to metals and gold.
Elsewhere, although Pelosi left Taiwan yesterday without incident, remember that China will start 4 days of military drills today around the island. So be prepared for headlines to come through.
Back to yesterday and European shares rallied but missed the main part of the US climb with the STOXX 600 closing with a +0.51% advance for the day after a steady march higher throughout the session. It was an across-the-board rally led by IT (+2.78%), financials (+1.60%) and discretionary (+1.52%) stocks. The few sectors in the red - utilities (-0.94%), healthcare (-0.92%) and communications (-0.35%) - were left behind by a risk-on mood.
Speaking of European utilities, it is a sector that has faced challenges not only amid the Russian gas story but also the extreme heat in Europe. Our European economists cover implications of the drought-driven low water levels for the German economy here. As a reminder, it was an important topic back in 2018 but today’s situation with gas supplies reinforces its effect given coal plants’ reliance on waterways for supplies. Linked in, yesterday’s announcement by Uniper about potentially limiting output at a coal plant in Germany sent gas futures in New York up by almost +10%, with contracts holding on to a +7.71% gain by the close of US markets. Other companies depend on water traffic too and water-intensive industries are likely to get affected as well. Earlier this week EDF has warned about potential further nuclear power cuts as river water, used for plant cooling, becomes too warm. Expect this to be an increasingly pertinent and market-moving issue across industries.
Diving back into market movements, the bullish sentiment in European stocks was strong enough to overpower surging yields. In Germany the belly of the curve surged, with 5y yields (+7.6bps) racing ahead of both the front end (+6.9bps) and the 10y (+5.6bps) that was mainly upheld by higher breakevens (+6.1bps). While a similar story was seen in France (OATs +3.4bps), Italy stood out with an across the curve decline in yields. 2s10s still flattened as the 2y yield (-1.5ps) fell by less than the 10y (-4.1bps). We should note that US yields rallied 7-8bps after Europe closed.
Central banks and yields will be in focus today as well since today’s BoE’s meeting will likely be top of the list in terms of events for European markets and our UK economists expect the Bank to hike by +50bps (taking the Bank Rate to 1.75%). Their full preview is here. This hike would imply the largest single Bank Rate increase since 1995 and come amid the 9.4% CPI print for June, a 40-year high. They also updated their growth outlook for the country yesterday (link here) and now expect the economy to contract in Q4-22 and Q1-23 in a short and mild technical recession. Gilts behaved similar to other European bond markets yesterday, with the 2y yield (+7.1bps) rising by more than the 10y (+4.4bps) but both lagging the 5y (+9.0bps).
Staying with Europe and briefly returning to yesterday’s other data releases, Germany’s exports accelerated to +4.5% in June, way ahead of the +1.0% median estimate on Bloomberg’s and May’s revised +1.3% (from -0.5% previously). Imports came in softer than expected, however, slowing to just +0.2% (+1.3% expected). Elsewhere, Eurozone’s retail sales contracted -3.7% yoy in June, missing estimates of -1.7%. The PPI accelerated to a monthly gain of +1.1% in June relative to the prior +0.5% (revised from +0.7%).
To the day ahead now and we have US June trade balance, Germany June factory orders, July construction PMI, UK July new car registrations, construction PMI, Canada June building permits and international merchandise trade. Earnings will include Alibaba, Eli Lilly, Toyota, ICE, ConocoPhillips, Bayer, Glencore, Cigna, Rolls-Royce, adidas, Cheniere, DBS, Apollo, Lyft, Expedia, Deutsche Lufthansa, Warner Bros Discovery, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, DoorDash, Atlassian, Amgen, Block, EOG, Kellogg and AMC.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – March 24, 2023 – Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have been awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative.
Credit: Wake Forest University School of Medicine
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – March 24, 2023 – Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have been awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative.
The NIH HEAL initiative, which launched in 2018, was created to find scientific solutions to stem the national opioid and pain public health crises. The funding is part of the HEAL Data 2 Action (HD2A) program, designed to use real-time data to guide actions and change processes toward reducing overdoses and improving opioid use disorder treatment and pain management.
With the support of the grant, researchers will create a data infrastructure support center to assist HD2A innovation projects at other institutions across the country. These innovation projects are designed to address gaps in four areas—prevention, harm reduction, treatment of opioid use disorder and recovery support.
“Our center’s goal is to remove barriers so that solutions can be more streamlined and rapidly distributed,” said Meredith C.B. Adams, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology, biomedical informatics, physiology and pharmacology, and public health sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
By monitoring opioid overdoses in real time, researchers will be able to identify trends and gaps in resources in local communities where services are most needed.
“We will collect and analyze data that will inform prevention and treatment services,” Adams said. “We’re shifting chronic pain and opioid care in communities to quickly offer solutions.”
The center will also develop data related resources, education and training related to substance use, pain management and the reduction of opioid overdoses.
According to the CDC, there was a 29% increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and nearly 75% of those deaths involved an opioid.
“Given the scope of the opioid crises, which was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s imperative that we improve and create new prevention strategies,” Adams said. “The funding will create the infrastructure for rapid intervention.”
An enduring mystery for three years is how Donald Trump came to be the president who shut down American society for what turned out to be a manageable respiratory virus, setting off an unspeakable crisis with waves of destructive fallout that continue to this day.
Let’s review the timeline and offer some well-founded speculations about what happened.
On March 9, 2020, Trump was still of the opinion that the virus could be handled by normal means.
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
What changed? Deborah Birx reports in her book that Trump had a friend die in a New York hospital and this is what shifted his opinion. Jared Kushner reports that he simply listened to reason. Mike Pence says he was persuaded that his staff would respect him more. No question (and based on all existing reports) that he found himself surrounded by “trusted advisors” amounting to about 5 or so people (including Mike Pence and Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb)
It was only a week later when Trump issued the edict to close all “indoor and outdoor venues where people congregate,” initiating the biggest regime change in US history that flew in the face of all rights and liberties Americans had previously taken for granted. It was the ultimate in political triangulation: as John F. Kennedy cut taxes, Nixon opened China, and Clinton reformed welfare, Trump shut down the economy he promised to revive. This action confounded critics on all sides.
A month later, Trump said his decision to have “turned off” the economy saved millions of lives, later even claiming to have saved billions. He has yet to admit error.
....My Administration and I built the greatest economy in history, of any country, turned it off, saved millions of lives, and now am building an even greater economy than it was before. Jobs are flowing, NASDAQ is already at a record high, the rest to follow. Sit back & watch!
Even as late as June 23rd of that year, Trump was demanding credit for having followed all of Fauci’s recommendations. Why do they love him and hate me, he wanted to know.
We did a great job on CoronaVirus, including the very early ban on China, Ventilator production, and Testing, which is by far the most, and best, in the World. We saved millions of U.S. lives.! Yet the Fake News refuses to acknowledge this in a positive way. But they do give....
Something about this story has never really added up. How could one person have been so persuaded by a handful of others such as Fauci, Birx, Pence, and Kushner and his friends? He surely had other sources of information – some other scenario or intelligence – that fed into his disastrous decision.
In one version of events, his advisors simply pointed to the supposed success of Xi Jinping in enacting lockdowns in Wuhan, which the World Health Organization claimed had stopped infections and brought the virus under control. Perhaps his advisors flattered Trump with the observation that he is at least as great as the president of China so he should be bold and enact the same policies here.
One problem with this scenario is timing. The Oval Office meetings that preceded his March 16, 2020, edict took place the weekend of the 14th and 15th, Friday and Saturday. It was already clear by the 11th that Trump was ready for lockdowns. This was the same day as Fauci’s deliberately misleading testimony to the House Oversight Committee in which he rattled the room with predictions of Hollywood-style carnage.
On the 12th, Trump shut all travel from Europe, the UK, and Australia, causing huge human pile-ups at international airports. On the 13th, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a classified document that transferred control of pandemic policy from the CDC to the National Security Council and eventually the Department of Homeland Security. By the time that Trump met with Fauci and Birx in that legendary weekend, the country was already under quasi-martial law.
Isolating the date in the trajectory here, it is apparent that whatever happened to change Trump occurred on March 10, 2020, the day after his Tweet saying there should be no shutdowns and one day before Fauci’s testimony.
That something very likely revolves around the most substantial discovery we’ve made in three years of investigations. It was Debbie Lerman who first cracked the code: Covid policy was forged not by the public-health bureaucracies but by the national-security sector of the administrative state. She has further explained that this occurred because of two critical features of the response: 1) the belief that this virus came from a lab leak, and 2) the vaccine was the biosecurity countermeasure pushed by the same people as the fix.
Knowing this, we gain greater insight into 1) why Trump changed his mind, 2) why he has never explained this momentous decision and otherwise completely avoids the topic, and 3) why it has been so unbearably difficult to find out any information about these mysterious few days other than the pablum served up in books designed to earn royalties for authors like Birx, Pence, and Kushner.
Based on a number of second-hand reports, all available clues we have assembled, and the context of the times, the following scenario seems most likely. On March 10, and in response to Trump’s dismissive tweet the day before, some trusted sources within and around the National Security Council (Matthew Pottinger and Michael Callahan, for example), and probably involving some from military command and others, came to Trump to let him know a highly classified secret.
Imagine a scene from Get Smart with the Cone of Silence, for example. These are the events in the life of statecraft that infuse powerful people with a sense of their personal awesomeness. The fate of all of society rests on their shoulders and the decisions they make at this point. Of course they are sworn to intense secrecy following the great reveal.
The revelation was that the virus was not a textbook virus but something far more threatening and terrible. It came from a research lab in Wuhan. It might in fact be a bioweapon. This is why Xi had to do extreme things to protect his people. The US should do the same, they said, and there is a fix available too and it is being carefully guarded by the military.
It seems that the virus had already been mapped in order to make a vaccine to protect the population. Thanks to 20 years of research on mRNA platforms, they told him, this vaccine can be rolled out in months, not years. That means that Trump can lock down and distribute vaccines to save everyone from the China virus, all in time for the election. Doing this would not only assure his reelection but guarantee that he would go down in history as one of the greatest US presidents of all time.
This meeting might only have lasted an hour or two – and might have included a parade of people with the highest-level security clearances – but it was enough to convince Trump. After all, he had battled China for two previous years, imposing tariffs and making all sorts of threats. It was easy to believe at that point that China might have initiated biological warfare as retaliation. That’s why he made the decision to use all the power of the presidency to push a lockdown under emergency rule.
To be sure, the Constitution does not allow him to override the discretion of the states but with the weight of the office complete with enough funding and persuasion, he could make it happen. And thus did he make the fateful decision that not only wrecked his presidency but the country too, imposing harms that will last a generation.
It only took a few weeks for Trump to become suspicious about what happened. For weeks and months, he toggled between believing that he was tricked and believing that he did the right thing. He had already approved another 30 days of lockdowns and even inveighed against Georgia and later Florida for opening. He went so far as to claim that no state could open without his approval.
For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect....
There is another fascinating feature to this entirely plausible scenario. Even as Trump’s advisors were telling him that this could be a bioweapon leaked from the lab in China, we had Anthony Fauci and his cronies going to great lengths to deny it was a lab leak (even if they believed that it was). This created an interesting situation. The NIH and those surrounding Fauci were publicly insisting that the virus was of zoonotic origin, even as Trump’s circle was telling the president that it should be regarded as a bioweapon.
Fauci belonged to both camps, which suggests that Trump very likely knew of Fauci’s deception all along: the “noble lie” to protect the public from knowing the truth. Trump had to be fine with that.
Gradually following the lockdown edicts and the takeover by the Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with a very hostile CDC, Trump lost power and influence over his own government, which is why his later Tweets urging a reopening fell on deaf ears. To top it off, the vaccine failed to arrive in time for the election. This is because Fauci himself delayed the rollout until after the election, claiming that the trials were not racially diverse enough. Thus Trump’s gambit completely failed, despite all the promises of those around him that it was a guaranteed way to win reelection.
To be sure, this scenario cannot be proven because the entire event – certainly the most dramatic political move in at least a generation and one with unspeakable costs for the country – remains cloaked in secrecy. Not even Senator Rand Paul can get the information he needs because it remains classified. If anyone thinks the Biden approval of releasing documents will show what we need, that person is naive. Still, the above scenario fits all available facts and it is confirmed by second-hand reports from inside the White House.
It’s enough for a great movie or a play of Shakespearean levels of tragedy. And to this day, none of the main players are speaking openly about it.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
The company has a novel way to end a practice that passengers hate.
Southwest Airlines boards its planes in a way very different from that of any of its major rivals.
As fans and detractors of the brand know, the airline does not offer seat assignments. Instead, passengers board by group and number. When you check into your flight, Southwest assigns you to the A, B, or C boarding groups and gives you a number 1-60. The A group boards first in numerical order.
In theory, people board in the assigned order and can claim any seat that's available. In practice, the airline's boarding process leaves a lot of gray area that some people exploit. Others simply don't know exactly what the rules are.
If, for example, you are traveling with a friend who has a much later boarding number, is it okay to save a middle seat for that person?
Generally, that's okay because middle seats are less desirable, but technically it's not allowed. In general practice, if you move into the second half of the plane, no passenger will fight for a specific middle seat, but toward the front some may claim a middle seat.
There's less grey area, however, when it comes to trying to keep people from sitting in unoccupied seats. That's a huge problem for the airline, one that Southwest has tried to address in a humorous way.
Southwest Airlines Has a Boarding Problem
When Southwest boards its flights it generally communicates to passengers about how full it expects the plane to be. In very rare cases, the airline will tell passengers when the crowd is small and they can expect that nobody will have to sit in a middle seat.
In most cases, however, at least since air travel has recovered after the covid pandemic, the airline usually announces that the flight is full or nearly full as passengers board. That's a de facto (and sometimes explicit) call not to attempt to discourage people from taking open seats in your row.
Unfortunately, many passengers know that sometimes when the airline says a flight is full, that's not entirely true. There might be a few no shows or a few seats that end up being open for one reason or another.
That leads to passengers -- at least a few of them on nearly every flight -- going to great lengths to try to end up next to an empty seat. Southwest has tried lots of different ways to discourage this behavior and has now resorted to humor in an effort to stop the seat hogs.
Southwest Uses Humor to Address a Pain Point
The airline recently released a video that addressed what it called "discouraged but crafty strategies to get a row to yourself" on Southwest. The video shows a man demonstrating all the different ways people try to dissuade other passengers from taking the open seats in their row.
These include, but are not limited to:
Laying out across the whole row.
Holding your arm up to sort of block the seats.
Being too encouraging about someone taking the seat.
Actually saying no when someone asks if they can have an open seat.
The airline also detailed a scenario it called "the fake breakup," where the person in the seat holds a loud phone conversation where he pretends he's being broken up with.
That one seems a bit of a reach, especially when Southwest left the most common seat-saving tactic out of its video -- simply putting some of your stuff in the open seat to make it appear unavailable.