Futures Slide, Oil Tumbles After Dismal Chinese Data
US equity futures stocks were mixed and commodities from oil to iron ore tumbled as the latest round of terrible data from China further clouded the outlook for the global economy, an unexpected rate cut from the PBOC notwithstanding. Contracts on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 were lower by about 0.5% follows gains last week that sent the tech-heavy index up 22% from June to the highest since April, suggesting a four-week stocks rally - the longest since November 2020 - may stall at least until the $13Bn in daily buying from systematic funds and buybacks kicks in.
Europe’s equity benchmark advanced about 0.2%, as corporate news buoyed healthcare stocks while miners and carmakers declined. Asian stocks added less than 0.1% and emerging-market stocks dropped. The dollar jumped as the Euro and yuan tumbled, crude oil plunged, the downside accelerating after Iran's foreign minister said that a "basis exists for signing an agreement “in the very near future” to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. After hitting $25K, a bout of aggressive shorting and dollar strength sent bitcoin back to $24K.
In premarket trading on Monday, tech giants including Apple Inc. and Amazon.com declined, alongside the broader tech sector as growth fears reemerged. US-listed Chinese electric-vehicle makers slid in premarket trading Monday after Li Auto (LI US) forecast revenue for the third quarter that fell short of analysts’ estimates.
Cisco Systems (CSCO US) traded 0.6% lower after Citi says the company is losing market share as supply chain issues hurt the network gear maker more than its peers.
Lufax (LU US) shares rose as much as 3.5% amid a report that the Chinese fintech firm is planning to file for a listing in Hong Kong as soon as the second half of the year.
PlayAGS (AGS US) shares gained 7.5% to $8.08 after the company said it got a non-binding indication of interest valued at $10 a share in cash.
UNITY Biotechnology (UBX US) shares rose 15% after Citigroup analyst Yigal Nochomovitz (buy) said the data for UBX1325 in in patients with diabetic macular edema were better than expected.
Illinois Tool Works (ITW US) was downgraded to sell from hold at Deutsche Bank, which struggles to sees the equipment manufacturer’s valuation as justified.
Equity markets in recent weeks have been propelled higher by signs of slowing price pressures, which stirred hopes of a shift by the Fed to less aggressive rate hikes. But China’s faltering economy shows many hurdles still lie ahead for a near-13% rebound in global stocks from June bear-market lows. Sentiment took a hit after Chinese retail sales, industrial output and investment all slowed and missed economist estimates in July. An unexpected cut to the nation’s interest rates is unlikely to turn things around as a worsening property slump and coronavirus lockdowns continue to weigh on the economy.
“Bad data from China also weighs on recession worries for the rest of the world,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote. “It’s too early to uncork the champagne, and call the end of the market selloff,” especially as the Fed continues to warn that inflation is still high, she said.
Equities have been rallying as data pointed to softer US inflation, bolstering bets of a pivot by Federal Reserve policy makers before the economy dives into a significant recession. While there is a thin calender of Fed speakers before the conference in Jackson Hole later this month, investors will be assessing minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting that are due on Wednesday.
In the ongoing feud between Wall Street permabulls and bears, Morgan Stanley's Michael Wilson reiterated his weekly mantra that the sharp rally since June is just a pause in the bear market, predicting that share prices will be pulled down in the second half of the year as profits weaken, interest rates keep rising and the economy slows. On the other side, strategists at JPMorgan also unleashed their weekly dose of unicorns and rainbows, saying the rally could continue.
European stocks softened since a stronger open, with energy and basic resources weighing on market. Health care, construction and chemicals are the strongest-performing sectors. The risk of a euro-area recession has reached the highest level since November 2020, according to economists polled by Bloomberg. Here are some of the biggest European movers today:
HelloFresh shares jump as much as 10%, the most since May, after the meal-kit maker confirmed results published in a preliminary report on July 20 and reiterated its full-year outlook
Encavis rises as much as 5.4% after the renewable energy company confirmed preliminary 2Q results and a guidance raise for FY22, which were originally reported earlier this month
RS Group climbs as much as 7.1% after The Times noted “growing speculation” that the company is preparing to bolster its defenses in the event of a takeover approach
Henkel gains as much as 1.5% after the firm posted a 1H beat and guidance raise, which Jefferies says was due to the company’s strong pricing and a managed impact on volume
Nordex swings between gains and losses after mixed results. While the company confirmed its FY22 guidance, the top- line was weaker-than-expected amid higher costs, analysts said
Phoenix Group drops as much as 1.2%, reversing initial gains, after reporting interim results that Citi said contained few surprises
GSK and Haleon fall, extending recent losses amid concerns over possible litigation risks related to antacid drug Zantac. Morgan Stanley says “considerable uncertainty” surrounds the litigation
Treatt tumbles as much as 34% after cutting FY estimates. Peel Hunt said the update was disappointing in the short-term, and cut its price target on the stock to a Street low
Earlier in the session, Asian equities eked out gains with Japanese stocks giving a boost, while investors weighed China’s unexpected policy rate cut against disappointing economic data. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was up less than 0.1% erasing the bulk of its 0.6% rise driven by health care and tech shares. Japan’s Nikkei 225 led gains in the region, with the benchmark turning positive for the year helped by a weaker yen and continued stimulus by Bank of Japan. China stocks turned lower after retail sales, industrial output and investment all missed estimates, erasing a gain caused by the country’s central bank lowering the rate on its one-year policy loans. The undershoot in data highlighted the growing toll of the nation’s Covid restrictions, casting a pall over the market’s outlook. Hong Kong shares were the worst performers in Asia. “The cuts by themselves may not be material enough to stimulate the economy given monetary policy is increasingly loosing its teeth in China - but on the margin - I feel this is positive for Chinese stocks,” said Chetan Seth, Asia Pacific equity strategist at Nomura Holdings.
The MSCI Asia gauge is trading close to a two-month high after capping its fourth weekly advance, with further gains dependent on the ongoing earnings season and whether global appetite can further improve. Still, China’s economic slowdown, worsened by virus curbs and a property crisis, and the Fed’s tightening trajectory continue to be bugbears for investors. Thai stocks rose even after data showed the domestic economy grew at a slower pace than economists estimated last quarter. India and South Korea were closed for holidays on Monday.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5% to close at 7,064.30, with materials and real estate stocks contributing the most to its move. Core Lithium was the top performer after an update on its exploration activities in the Northern Territory. Beach Energy was the biggest decliner after its FY underlying profit missed estimates. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to 11,789.03
In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index jumped about 0.5%, gaining for a second day as the currency climbed against all of its Group-of-10 peers except the yen amid demand for havens. Euro falls to week’s low versus USD, the Chinese yuan also slumped after the latest terrible economic data. Australian and New Zealand dollars slid after China’s central bank unexpectedly cut a key policy interest rate for the first time since January as it ramped up support for an economy struggling to recover from Covid lockdowns and a property downturn. Separately, China’s retail sales for July undershot estimates, as did industrial production. The yuan slumped and China’s benchmark 10-year China bond yield slid to the lowest since May 2020. Iron ore, copper and other metals declined. The yen held up against the dollar in thin summer trading, with traders waiting to see if US yields can vault higher on the back of aggressive Federal Reserve rate hikes. Japanese government bonds were mixed.
In rates, Treasuries were narrowly mixed with the curve slightly flatter; gains led by 20-year sector where yields are richer by around ~1bp on the day. Bunds, gilts both outperform vs Treasuries amid thin liquidity with Assumption Day holiday observed in many parts of Europe. 10-year TSY yields were around 2.83%, slightly richer and underperforming bunds and gilts in the sector by ~3bp; curves slightly flatter although spreads broadly remain within 1bp of Friday’s close. Italian bonds twist flattened, while bunds advanced and the German curve bull flattened. Treasury moves were small and the curve twist flattened slightly. IG dollar issuance slate empty so far; this week’s Treasury coupon auctions include 20-year new issue Wednesday and 30-year TIPS reopening Thursday. The latest CFTC positioning data shows hedge funds were aggressive net sellers of 10-year note contracts over the week.
In commodities, WTI drifts 3.5% lower to trade around $88. Spot gold falls roughly $20 to trade near $1,782/oz. Spot silver loses 2% near $20. Most base metals trade in the red; LME nickel falls 4.6%, underperforming peers.
US economic data slate includes August Empire manufacturing (8:30am), NAHB housing market index (10am) and June TIC flows (4pm); industrial production, retail sales and FOMC meeting minutes are ahead this week
S&P 500 futures down 0.4% to 4,263.25
STOXX Europe 600 up 0.3% to 442.36
German 10Y yield little changed at 0.96%
MXAP up 0.1% to 163.32
MXAPJ down 0.3% to 529.88
Nikkei up 1.1% to 28,871.78
Topix up 0.6% to 1,984.96
Hang Seng Index down 0.7% to 20,040.86
Shanghai Composite little changed at 3,276.09
Sensex up 0.2% to 59,462.78
Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.5% to 7,064.34
Kospi up 0.2% to 2,527.94
Euro down 0.3% to $1.0229
Gold spot down 0.9% to $1,786.91
U.S. Dollar Index up 0.32% to 105.97
Top Overnight News from Bloomberg
Fund managers are warning the market is turning complacent over the outlook for inflation in Europe, where the prospect of recession has stoked the appeal of sheltering in bonds
Hedge funds have turned bearish on the dollar for the first time in a year in a wager the US currency’s best days may be over
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to expand relations with North Korea, reaching out to his neighbor as the Kremlin scours the globe for weapons for its war in Ukraine
The Rhine River’s water level continued to decline, hitting a new threshold as a climate crisis exacerbates Europe’s energy-supply crunch
A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk
Asia-Pacific stocks were mixed with markets focused on China, as the PBoC’s surprise 10bps rate cuts to its 1-year MLF rate and 7-day Reverse Repo was overshadowed by the latest activity data from China in which both Industrial Production and Retail Sales fell short of market expectations. ASX 200 was positive with upside led by tech and miners amid a busy schedule of earnings this week and with Bluescope Steel firmly higher after its FY net more than doubled. Nikkei 225 outperformed and was unfazed by the Japanese GDP data for Q2 which printed weaker-than-expected but returned to expansion territory. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp swung between gains and losses with early support after the PBoC delivered surprise 10bps rate cuts for the 1-year MLF and 7-day Reverse Repo rates, although Chinese stocks then slipped back into the red after disappointing Chinese activity data
Top Asian News
PBoC injected CNY 400bln vs CNY 600bln maturing via 1-year MLF with the rate cut by 10bps to 2.75% (exp. 2.85%), while it conducted CNY 2bln of 7-day reverse repos with the rate cut by 10bps to 2.10%.
China’s local COVID-19 cases topped 2,000 on Friday despite the recent tighter restrictions and lockdowns, according to Bloomberg.
Shanghai extended the weekly COVID-19 testing requirement until end-September, although it was also reported that Shanghai announced primary schools, middle schools, kindergartens and nurseries will be permitted to reopen on September 1st, according to a statement cited by Reuters.
China's stats bureau said China's economy continued a recovery trend in July but the foundation for a recovery is not solid and said the momentum of China's economic recovery slowed in July, while it added that the economy remains resilient despite facing difficulties and they expect China's economy to continue to recover, according to Reuters.
"Rivers in multiple provinces, regions across China have dried up due to persistently high temperature and far below average amount of rainfall, posing threat to drinking water resources and agriculture productions", according to Global Times.
China's Sichuan province order industrial plants to shut down between Aug 15-20th to ensure residential power supply, according to a document cited by Reuters.
Major bourses in Europe kicked off the session with modest broad-based gains before trimming gains amid a cautious tone. US equity futures have been subdued since the resumption of trade following the gains on Wall Street on Friday, and with retailers such as Walmart set to round off the Q2 earnings season whilst FOMC minutes are due on Wednesday. Regional sectors are now mixed (vs mostly positive at the open), with the theme more of a defensive one as Healthcare, Personal Goods, Food & Beverages, and Utilities among the top performers German gas levy set at 2.419cents/kWh, via Trading Hub Europe. Additionally, German Finance Ministry spokesperson said there is no response yet from the EU commission on the proposed VAT exemption for gas levy. Panasonic (6752 JT) is to boost its EV battery output for Tesla (TSLA) by 10%, according to Nikkei.
Top European News
BoE Governor Bailey told Chancellor Zahawi that he would be "open to a review" of the Bank's mandate, following Liz Truss's criticism of its approach to inflation, according to The Telegraph.
Reuters poll showed 30 out of 51 economists expect the BoE to hike rates by 50bps to 2.25% next month and the remaining 21 economists expect a 25bps increase.
UK Treasury plans a government-backed lending scheme for suppliers which would reduce energy bills for households by an extra GBP 400 this winter, according to The Times.
Two of the biggest UK energy suppliers are calling for a special fund that would allow the industry to freeze customers’ bills for two years and spread the cost of the gas-price crisis over a decade or more, according to The Times. It was also reported that UK energy suppliers called for the UK government to scrap levies and charges on bills, according to FT.
SAS Shares Jump as Apollo Provides $700 Million Loan to Airline
Russia Opens Trading to Some Foreign Investors
Turkey Budget Remains in Deficit on Increased Spending in July
Dollar back in favour as safe haven with Yuan down on disappointing Chinese data and unexpected PBoC easing, DXY up to 106.340 from 105.540 low, USD/CNH tops 6.7850 and USD/CNY through 6.7700 from 6.7410 midpoint fix.
Yen holds up better than others irrespective of sub-forecast Japanese GDP, USD/JPY mostly sub-133.50.
High beta and commodity currencies hit hardest, while Euro, Franc and Sterling also retreat vs Greenback
NZD/USD sub-0.6400, AUD/USD under 0.7050, USD/CAD over 1.2900, EUR/USD below 1.0200, USD/CHF 0.9460 and Cable close to 1.2050.
Norwegian Crown undermined by slide in Brent to extent that wider trade surplus shrugged off, but Turkish Lira unable to benefit from cheaper oil as budget deficit blows out, EUR/NOK nearer 9.9000 than 9.9800, UDY/TRY nearer 18.0000 than 17.9000.
Bonds bounce strongly from early lows amidst China-related risk aversion and holiday-thinned turnover.
Bunds top 156.00 from just above round number below, Gilts reach 116.66 from 115.94 and T-note nearer 119-16 top than 119-04+ bottom.
UK STIRs contracts underperform as poll predicts another 50bp BoE hike before reversion to 25bp and then pause.
Crude markets have been selling off since the start of European trade alongside constructive developments on the Iranian Nuclear deal front.
The firmer Dollar has hit the metals market - spot gold back under USD 1,800/oz, LME copper has been extending on losses back under USD 8,000/t.
Saudi Aramco’s CEO said they are working to increase production from multiple energy sources and they will invest in the reliable energy and petrochemicals that the world needs, while he added that global oil demand is healthy in which he expects the recovery in oil demand to continue for the rest of the decade and said that global spare capacity is under 2mln bpd and declining fast. Saudi Aramco’s CEO also stated that Saudi oil production capacity increase will come gradually with a limited increase in 2024 and in 2025 they should go to 12.3mln bpd, as well as noted that they are confident in their ability to ramp up to 12mln bpd whenever there is a call from the government or Energy Ministry, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian state gas transit operator said Gazprom booked transit capacity of 41.82mcm for August 15th (prev. 40.81mcm on August 14th), according to Reuters.
Iran set September Iranian light crude prices to Asia at Oman/Dubai + USD 9.50/bbl, according to the National Iranian Oil Company.
The damaged pipeline at the Louisiana port has been repaired, according to a port spokesman cited by Reuters.
Germany’s top network regulator warned that Germany must cut gas use by 20% to avoid winter rationing, according to FT.
US Event Calendar
08:30: Aug. Empire Manufacturing, est. 5.0, prior 11.1
10:00: Aug. NAHB Housing Market Index, est. 55, prior 55
16:00: June Total Net TIC Flows, prior $182.5b; June Net Foreign Security Purchases, prior $155.3b
DB's Henry Allen concludes the overnight wrap
Whilst the global economy looks to be heading towards a very difficult winter ahead, for markets the summer rally has shown few signs of abating. Indeed, the MSCI World Index has now advanced for 4 weeks running for the first time this calendar year, and the S&P 500 has recovered by a significant +16.5% in less than two months.
That run of gains has been turbocharged over the last couple of weeks by a number of good news stories that have fed into a narrative about whether we might have seen “peak inflation” now, raising hopes that central banks might not need to be as aggressive as feared about raising rates. We’ve raised questions about whether this optimism can hold, not least given Fed officials themselves are discussing a much more hawkish path for rates than what markets are pricing in, but for now there’s been little sign of a reversal, even as an increasing number of recessionary signals like the 2s10s Treasury curve have been flashing with growing alarm.
Overnight in Asia however, we’ve seen a slight loss of momentum after Chinese economic data for July came in weaker than expected. Industrial production was up by +3.8% on a year-on-year basis (vs. +4.3% expected), whilst retail sales were up +2.7% year-on-year (vs. +4.9% expected). In turn, that’s prompted the central bank to cut their one-year policy loan rate by -10bps to 2.75%, and yields on 10yr Chinese government debt are down -6.3bps this morning to 2.68%. Equity markets have also lost momentum, with the Shanghai Comp (-0.06%) and the CSI 300 (-0.07%) seeing modest declines, unlike elsewhere in Asia, where the Nikkei (+1.15%) and the Kospi (+0.16%) have both advanced this morning. In fact, that advance for the Nikkei puts it at a 7-month high, and back in positive territory on a YTD basis.
Looking forward now, the week ahead is a quieter one on the market calendar as we await the traditional late summer gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole next week. However, we do have a few events to watch out for, including the expected signing by President Biden of the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Friday by a margin of 220-207 following its earlier tie-breaking path through the Senate. The legislation includes funds for clean energy provisions, a 15% minimum tax for corporations with more than $1bn in revenue, and a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks. It also offers a political win for the Biden administration ahead of the mid-term elections in early November, and if you look at FiveThirtyEight’s average then President Biden’s approval rating is now running at its highest in a couple of months now, at 40.3%.
On the central bank side, we don’t have much in the way of decisions or speakers over the week ahead, which will mean this Wednesday’s release of the FOMC minutes from July will take on added importance. That meeting saw the Fed hike rates by 75bps again, following up their similar move in June, but investors interpreted the meeting in a dovish light as they latched onto comments that the Fed would move away from 75bp moves “at some point”. However, officials then moved to push back on that dovish interpretation, and by the close on Friday futures were almost evenly split between whether the Fed would hike by 75bps for a third time or whether they’ll step down to a 50bps pace. Our US economists write that these minutes could well provide some clues about how officials are likely to determine whether a downshift in the pace of rate hikes is warranted, and these signals from the minutes and other Fedspeak will become more important as the Fed moves towards greater data dependency when making decisions.
Staying on the US, the week ahead will also see an increasing amount of hard data for July come out. What we’ve had so far from the jobs report and the CPI has been very positive for markets, with investors growing more hopeful about a soft landing after more than half a million jobs were added and inflation came in beneath expectations. But in terms of what’s still ahead, we’ve got retail sales on Wednesday, where our economists expect that headlines sales should be boosted by the rebound in unit motor vehicle sales last month, as well as industrial production, housing starts and building permits on Tuesday. Also keep an eye out for the weekly initial jobless claims on Thursday, which have been on a fairly consistent path higher over recent months. Furthermore, our US economists have previously found that an 11.5% rise in the 4-week moving average of continuing claims relative to the minimum over the past year provides the most accurate recession signal. So a further move higher this week would only add to the recessionary signals we’ve seen like the 2s10s curve that’s been moving deeper into inversion territory over recent weeks.
On the inflation front, the week ahead will also bring us a number of countries’ CPI releases. One of them will be the UK, where our economist expects headline CPI to have risen to 9.8% in July, which would be its fastest pace in four decades. Meanwhile in Japan, our economist expects that core inflation excluding fresh food should rise to +2.4%, the highest since late-2014. Finally in Canada, the consensus expects that CPI will fall back from its multi-decade high of +8.1% in June to +7.6% in July, echoing what we saw in the US where year-on-year inflation has now begun to fall back from its June peak.
When it comes to earnings, this week will see the current season continue to wind down, with 455 of the S&P 500 having already reported results by now. However, we’ll still get a number of US retailers including Walmart (Tuesday) and Target (Wednesday). Both have cut their profit forecasts over the last couple of months, so it’ll be interesting to see what their earnings have to tell us about the strength of the US consumer right now.
Recapping last week now, it was yet another positive one for risk assets, with the S&P 500 (+3.26%) gaining for a 4th week running for the first time since November. It was a similar pattern across the major global indices, with the STOXX 600 (+1.18%) and the Nikkei (+1.32%) both moving higher as well. Small-cap stocks were a particular beneficiary, with the Russell 2000 seeing a +4.93% advance, but the moves were fairly broad-based, and the S&P 500 now stands “only” -10.20% lower on a YTD basis.
A key driver behind that optimism were the weaker-than-expected US CPI and PPI inflation readings last week. That led to a growing belief that the Fed might not hike by 75bps again at their next meeting in September, with the hike priced in by futures coming down from 69.0bps to 62.2bps by the end of the week. However, at the same time we saw the rate priced in by end-2023 move higher again as Fed officials struck a more hawkish tone on the future policy path than markets were already pricing, sending the December-2023 implied rate up from 3.08% to 3.20%. In turn, that sent government bond yields higher, with those on the 10yr Treasury up by +0.4bps to 2.83%, whilst those on 10yr bunds rose +3.2bps to 0.99%.
Finally, a major area of continuing concern was the European energy situation. Natural gas futures rose by +4.99% over the week to €206 per megawatt-hour, having been trading around €80 as recently as early June. Power prices for next year have also continued to make significant gains, with French power for 2023 up +14.64% on the week to €617 per megawatt-hour, which also marked its 9th consecutive weekly rise. German power was also up by +13.16% to a record €460 per megawatt-hour.
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.