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Futures Soars Above 3,400 To All Time High On Covid Plasma Treatment Approval

Futures Soars Above 3,400 To All Time High On Covid Plasma Treatment Approval

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Futures Soars Above 3,400 To All Time High On Covid Plasma Treatment Approval Tyler Durden Mon, 08/24/2020 - 07:58

You knew it was coming when Trump scheduled his news conference to announce the FDA's emergency authorization for convalescent plasma as a treatment for Covid-19 at 530pm on Sunday afternoon, half an hour before futures opened, and sure enough shortly after futures levitated to all time highs, hitting a record 3,422 moments ago, with European stocks rallying to a one-week high.

The FDA's decision to use plasma from recovered patients was hailed by President Donald Trump and came a day after he accused it of impeding the rollout of treatments for political reasons. Further aiding market sentiment, was a report that the Trump administration is considering fast-tracking an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca for use in the United States before election. The news came on the eve of the Republican National Convention in which Trump will be nominated to lead his party for four more years, kicking off the final sprint to Nov. 3 Election Day.

US travel stocks, including American Airlines, United Airlines and Carnival all rose in pre-market trading. Meanwhile, the next phase of coronavirus government aid remained elusive as top Democrats and Republicans continued to blame each other for stalled talks on the legislation.

European equities extended opening gains, following US futures, and driven by the progress of various potential coronavirus treatments. Euro Stoxx 50 saw a broad base for 2.3% gain, with oil & gas, chemical and tech names outperforming. Telecom carrier BT Group jumped after Sky News reported that the board is on alert for takeover approaches.

Asian stocks also gained, led by communications and materials, getting a boost after a report that White House officials have reassured American businesses that a ban on its WeChat app won’t be as broad as feared. WeChat owner Tencent Holdings jumped the most in a month, gaining $37 billion. The Topix gained 0.2%, with TEMONA and St-Care HD rising the most. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1%, with Suzhou Harmontronics and Shenyang Jinshan Energy posting the biggest advances. China's ChiNext index reverses early drop to jump as much as 2.4% following sizzling tech IPOs and a trading-rule revamp to double daily price limits to 20%.

In commodities, Gold shrugged off its earlier losses to climb with copper and oil, while the dollar weakened. Crude was modestly higher with storms Marco and Laura are rolling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, where they’ll come ashore as hurricanes as soon as Monday. Almost 58% of crude output in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico production has been shut down as the threat prompted evacuations of off-shore energy platforms and set residents and officials on edge from Texas to Florida.

In FX, the dollar fell as much as 0.3% with Goldman saying the case for USD depreciation remaining intact citing factors including USD being overvalued and US real interest rates to remain negative for several years, while it further cited a steady recovery of the economy from the pandemic. However, it also noted factors for consolidation to persist which includes pandemic uncertainty, Fed outlook and US politics.

Scandinavian currencies and the Aussie dollar led G-10 gains. The New Zealand dollar fell against most G-10 peers as a lockdown in the country’s largest city was extended. The country’s benchmark 10-year bond yield fell to hit a record mid- year low, after the central bank QE buying operation fell short of target. The euro held above $1.18 as investors showed interest to buy the common currency on any dips. One-week bullish sentiment in the euro slipped to its lowest in almost two months earlier on, as the dollar’s major peers enter correction mode in the cash market.

A key event this week would be the address by Fed Chair Jerome Powell at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium, where he will talk on Thursday about the Fed’s long-awaited monetary policy framework review, which has focused on a new inflation strategy.

“We’re hoping to get some sort of hints as to where their fundamental view is going and there’s a lot of expectations around that,” said Marvin Barth, global head of foreign exchange and emerging markets macro strategy at Barclays Plc.

Also this week we get earnings from companies including, ICBC, PetroChina, HP Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, Best Buy and Dollar General. The U.S. Republican National Convention takes place, with Trump speaking the final day, Aug. 27. On today's calendar we get the Chicago Fed National Activity Index, while Palo Alto Networks is reporting earnings.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.7% to 3,417.50
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 1.5% to 370.38
  • MXAP up 0.8% to 172.09
  • MXAPJ up 1.1% to 569.42
  • Nikkei up 0.3% to 22,985.51
  • Topix up 0.2% to 1,607.13
  • Hang Seng Index up 1.7% to 25,551.58
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.2% to 3,385.64
  • Sensex up 1% to 38,834.70
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to 6,129.57
  • Kospi up 1.1% to 2,329.83
  • German 10Y yield rose 1.8 bps to -0.489%
  • Euro up 0.1% to $1.1813
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 3.0 bps to 0.819%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 2.0 bps to 0.318%
  • Brent futures up 0.7% to $44.65/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,947.09
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.2% to 93.03

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said a treatment based on blood plasma donated by people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 will be expanded, even before researchers fully understand how well it works. Infections in the U.S. eased, while Europe is seeing a resurgence of cases
  • The Trump administration is privately seeking to reassure U.S. companies including Apple Inc. that they can still do business with the WeChat messaging app in China, according to several people familiar with the matter, two weeks after President Donald Trump ordered a U.S. ban on the Chinese- owned service
  • Two hurricanes are expected to hit the U.S. gulf coast as soon as Monday. Offshore energy platforms were evacuated as the storms approached

Asian equity markets traded mostly positive and E-mini S&P topped the 3,400 mark following Friday’s tech-fuelled gains on Wall St and the recent emergency use authorization of convalescent plasma for treatment of COVID-19 which was suggested to reduce mortality by 35%, but with gains capped by US-China decoupling concerns following comments by US President Trump. ASX 200 (+0.3%) and Nikkei 225 (+0.3%) were initially indecisive before outperformance in tech then proved to be the deciding factor to keep stocks afloat in Australia and with earnings results the main catalyst for the biggest stock movers, while the Japanese benchmark was also higher as it made another attempt at the 23,000 focal point. Hang Seng (+1.7%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.2%) were underpinned by another firm liquidity effort by the PBoC, although gains in the mainland were tempered by the ongoing US-China tensions after President Trump raised the prospect of decoupling from China and suggested the US does not have to do business with China. In addition, the People’s Liberation Army are to conduct military drills across 3 major Chinese sea regions in the approaching days which is aimed at deterring Taiwan secessionists and the US, while increased IPO activity also attracts funds from the broader market with 18 firms listing in the ChiNext today as part of reforms in the tech board aimed at fast-tracking IPOs and which saw some of the newly-listed names surge as much as 500%. Finally, 10yr JGBs were positive despite the mild gains in stocks as prices tracked recent upside in T-notes and with the BoJ also present in the market for a total of JPY 450bln of JGBs predominantly concentrated in 3yr-5yr maturities.

Top Asian News

  • Japan’s Abe Visits Hospital Again Amid Speculation About Health
  • AMP Chair Murray Quits, Pahari Demoted After Investor Revolt
  • Delivery Giant Meituan Soars Most Since March After Sales Beat
  • Tourist Hotspot Bali to Stay Closed to Foreign Visitors All Year

European equities kick the week off on a firm footing (Euro Stoxx 50 +1.8%) as the region picked up the baton from a similarly positive APAC session. Some attribute upside in stocks, and generally firmer sentiment, to the US FDA authorising the emergency use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, but the FDA indicated that more trials are needed to prove its effectiveness. It is also worth keeping in mind that against the backdrop of global monetary and fiscal stimulus, a lack of “bad news” can be sufficient to support equity sentiment, particularly during thinned holiday trading. Furthermore, the US and the EU have signed a “mini-deal” in which the EU agreed to eliminate tariffs on US lobsters in exchange for the US halving import taxes on around USD 160mln worth of European goods. Although, the size seems relatively small, the deal signals a shift in sentiment between the two nations, which provides scope for further potential agreements between the two sides. A slight dichotomy is seen between the European and US index futures, with the former outperforming the state-side contracts, potentially due to (to some degree) tail risks heading into Fed’s Jackson Hole Symposium, US GDP and PCE releases this week, alongside stalled fiscal stimulus talks. Sectors are all higher but provide little by way of a bias, with Oil & Gas the marked outperformer amid recent gains in the complex, whilst IT follows a close second a continuation of the sector’s rally on Wall Street on Friday. Travel & Leisure names lag as some APAC countries/states/cities mull extending lockdown orders, including South Korea, Australia’s Victoria state and New Zealand’s Auckland. In terms of individual movers: BT (+5.7%) tops the Stoxx 600 board on the back of reports that the Co. is gearing up to defend itself for takeover approaches by Private Equity firms. The Co. is yet to receive a formal bid, but PE firms are reportedly looking into such a move. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca (+3.1%) is supported by reports that the Trump Admin is reportedly considering fast-tracking the Co’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate to have it in use ahead of the November election. Finally, Wirecard (-2.5%) holds its position as a laggard after being formally dropped out of the DAX 30 and replaced by Delivery Hero (+1.3%).

Top European News

  • EU Trade Chief Fights to Keep His Job After Pandemic Stumble
  • Johnson Pleads With U.K. Parents to Send Children to School
  • Italy Lockdown Success Challenged by New Europe Virus Surge
  • Italy’s Unloved Banks Move Closer to Credit-Market Redemption

In FX, the Aussie is benefiting from broad risk appetite and ongoing weakness in the Kiwi on NZ’s COVID-19 related problems and disappointing data in the form of Q2 retail sales. Hence, Aud/Usd is holding relatively firm in the high 0.7100 area, while Aud/Nzd retests 1.1000 and Nzd/Usd languishes below 0.6550 ahead of NZ trade for the first month of the current quarter on Tuesday evening. Back to the cross, a very large 1.4 bn option expiry at the 1.1000 strike may cap the upside ahead of the NY cut.

  • USD/EUR - Not quite role reversal, but a marked change of fortunes as the Dollar loses post-US PMI momentum and the DXY struggles to maintain 93.000+ status within a 93.016-266 range. Accordingly, the Euro has pared losses and is back above 1.1800, albeit tentatively as 2nd waves of the coronavirus spread across the Eurozone.
  • CAD/CHF/GBP/JPY - All narrowly mixed against the Greenback, with the Loonie towards the base of a 1.3186-52 band and deriving some traction from crude prices that are mildly bid on weather induced production cuts and site evacuations. Elsewhere, the Franc is hovering around 0.9100 and 1.0750 vs the Euro after less pronounced increases in Swiss bank sight deposits, Sterling has unwound more UK PMI gains amidst the ongoing Brexit trade stalemate, with Cable under 1.3100 and Eur/Gbp above 0.9000, while the Yen is caught between 105.94-70 parameters and 50/100 HMAs that sit at 105.84 and 105.70 respectively.
  • SCANDI/EM - Bullish risk sentiment and the aforementioned upturn in oil are keeping the Sek and Nok underpinned, while the Cnh has extended advances from a stronger PBoC Cny fix overnight through 6.9050, but the Try is lagging sub-7.3500 in wake of Fitch downgrading Turkey’s sovereign ratings outlook to negative from stable. Elsewhere, the Rub, Zar and Mxn all gleaning degrees of support from underlying commodities, while the Brl awaits Brazilian consumer confidence.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures continue to eke mild gains in early European hours, with prices supported by the overall constructive tone across the market coupled by supply woes as the Gulf of Mexico is poised for a double whammy from Tropical Storms Marco and Laura – with the former set to make landfall later today and the latter on Wednesday. Reports noted that as of Sunday, around 58% of the Gulf of Mexico production has been shuttered, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – equating to around 1mln BPD. Desks also point to the fragility of refining activity amidst floods. “Although given the large amount of refined product stocks at the moment, the market would likely be able to handle any disruptions to refined product supply better this time around” analysts at ING conclude. WTI Oct meanders just north of USD 42.50/bbl (vs. low 42.23/bbl) whilst its Brent counterpart similarly resides above USD 44.50/bbl (vs. low 44.29/bbl) – with the WTI/Brent arb tightening on the aforementioned Gulf of Mexico developments. Elsewhere, spot gold and silver have recovered from overnight lows in tandem with losses in the Dollar. The yellow metal eyes USD 1950/oz vs. low 1930.30/oz) to the upside whilst spot silver nurses overnight losses to reclaim a firmer footing above USD 26.50/oz (vs. low 26.25/oz). Turning to base metals, Dalian iron ore futures closed lower by almost 2% with traders citing dampening demand for steel products amid seasonal effects and floods. Conversely, LME copper rises amid the gains in stocks, softer Dollar and with inventories falling to a 13-year low.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, est. 3.7, prior 4.1

DB's Henry Allen concludes the overnight wrap

Happy Monday to our readers and hope you all had a good weekend. With Jim having been off the last two weeks and Craig’s wife almost due to give birth, I’ve been super-subbed off the bench to write your favourite email this morning. While I appreciate Jim may be twice the man that I am, or at least twice my age, I just hope you’ll think of me as the rising star of the team rather than the third choice.

The main focus over the weekend continued to be the covid-19 pandemic, as the number of confirmed global deaths surpassed 800,000. In spite of its relative success in suppressing the first wave of the virus, it’s Europe that’s begun to re-emerge as a source of concern in recent days given the latest rises in case numbers, a trend that continued through the weekend. In fact, Sunday saw France report 4,897 cases, the most since mid-April, while Italy reported 1,210, which was the most since mid-May, so investors are likely to be on the lookout for any further increases and what that might mean for the likelihood of further lockdowns or re-imposing restrictions.

Against this backdrop, President Trump announced last night that the FDA had issued an emergency use authorisation for convalescent plasma to treat hospitalised patients, which involves using blood plasma from those who’ve recovered from the virus. There were also some reports about possible vaccine developments, with the FT saying that the Trump administration were considering bypassing normal regulatory standards when it came for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, possibly with another emergency use authorisation.

In terms of the latest overnight, it was announced by New Zealand Prime Ardern that the lockdown in Auckland would be extended to midnight on August 30, having been until August 26 previously. Meanwhile in South Korea, which reported a further 266 cases in the last 24 hours, there’s concern that the country could move up to Level 3 social distancing, the highest level the country has, that would involve closing schools and recommending employees work from home. It follows a senior health official saying yesterday that the country would review the possibility. In spite of the possibility of further restrictions however, equity markets in Asia are trading higher this morning, with the Hang Seng (+1.47%) leading the way. Other indices are also up, including the Nikkei (+0.17%), Shanghai Comp (+0.18%) and the Kospi (+0.81%). And finally we could see another record high for the S&P 500 today, with futures this morning up +0.26%.

Looking to the week ahead now, the highlight is likely to be the Jackson Hole gathering on Thursday and Friday, where central bankers will be meeting (virtually this year) for the annual economic symposium. This theme on this occasion is “Navigating the Decade Ahead: Implications for Monetary Policy”, and one of the key highlights will be Fed Chair Powell’s speech on Thursday on the topic of the monetary policy review. According to our US economists, while it’s possible that the policy review results will be released along with Powell’s appearance, they think it’s more likely that he summarises the key findings and outlines the likely implications for the Fed moving forward. They think instead the review results won’t be released until the next meeting in mid-September. In addition to Powell, central bank watchers will have plenty of other speakers to look out for at the gathering, including Bank of England Governor Bailey, ECB chief economist Lane, and Bank of Canada Governor Macklem.

Turning to politics, attention will also be on the Republican National Convention taking place this week from Monday to Thursday, even if there aren’t likely to be as many market-moving headlines compared to Jackson Hole. Nevertheless, a CNN report said that President Trump would be appearing on every night of the convention, according to a Republican familiar with the convention planning, on top of his own speech planned for the Thursday night. So that could generate some news depending on the nature of any remarks. There are just over 10 weeks to go now until election day on November 3rd, and according to the polling averages, President Trump continues to lag behind Biden, with FiveThirtyEight’s average giving Biden a 9.2pt lead over Trump.

On the data side, we don’t have many top-tier releases with the US jobs report not until the following week. However, tomorrow will see both the Ifo’s business climate indicator from Germany, as well as the Conference Board’s consumer confidence from the US. On the latter, our economists think that the recent breakdown in fiscal negotiations in Congress could weigh on consumer attitudes, and see the number falling to 92.0 (vs. 92.6 in July).

Looking back to last week now, and US equity markets rose for a fourth straight week on the back of improving economic data and a further subsiding of coronavirus cases. The S&P 500 rose 0.72% (+0.34% Friday) on the week as it rose to a record high, while the tech-focused Nasdaq saw an even stronger performance over the week – up +2.65% (+0.42% Friday) – as the mega-cap growth stocks continue to pull US equities higher. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 ended the week -0.81% lower (-0.15% Friday) as economic data showed some signs of the recovery losing momentum. Other major European bourses similarly moved lower on the week as coronavirus cases continue to rise once again on the continent, with the DAX (-1.06%), CAC (-1.34%), FTSE 100 (-1.45%) and FTSE MIB (-1.66%) all losing ground.

Core sovereign bond yields fell over the course of the week after rising sharply during the week before. 10yr Treasury yields fell -8.1bps (-2.3bps Friday) to finish at 0.628%, while 10yr Bund yields declined -8.6bps (-1.1bps Friday) to -0.51%. Meanwhile the dollar rose marginally (+0.16%) as it recovered from the 2-year low it had set earlier in the week.

Against this backdrop, Friday also saw the latest round of negotiations between the UK and the EU conclude with no further progress on the key outstanding issues. The UK’s chief negotiator Frost blamed the EU’s insistence on the UK accepting continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy before work could be done on other areas. And the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that an agreement “seems unlikely” at this stage, and reiterated their existing demand that “The need for a Level Playing field is not going to go away.” The next round of talks takes place from September 7th. We saw a similar stalemate in the US with regards to fiscal stimulus talks. Republican senator Kennedy of Louisiana said late Friday that nothing’s changed on the talks, which could mean that both sides are unlikely to reach a deal even on a skinny deal before lawmakers return from recess in September.

Finally on the data front, the flash Euro Area PMIs lost momentum in August, which confounded expectations for largely unchanged readings. The composite Euro Area PMI fell to 51.6 in August, having been at 54.9 in July, while the French (-5.6pts to 51.7) and German (-1.6pts to 53.7) also saw significant declines. DB’s Peter Sidorov put out a note on Friday about this (link here), where he points out that the market shouldn’t have been that surprised, considering the signals from the recent mobility data. The UK saw a stronger move (+3.3pts to 60.3) but this simply reflects the UK climbing out of a more protracted trough rather than a higher level of activity. Elsewhere, US existing home sales rose to 5.86m (vs. 5.41m expected) from 4.72m in June. This was the strongest pace since 2006 and the highest one month percentage increase on record as low mortgage rates continue to support the real estate market.

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The investment case for copper miners – elevated prices are firmly supported by supply bottlenecks

A combination of the Covid pandemic disrupting production and supply chains across the globe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year…
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A combination of the Covid pandemic disrupting production and supply chains across the globe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago has led to significant volatility in commodity prices in recent years. Copper prices have been no exception, shooting up 127.66% from a low of $2.17 in mid-March 2020 to an all time record high of $4.94 on February 28 2022.

They subsequently dropped almost 35% between that high and a recent low last July before climbing over 30% against since. It’s been a rollercoaster couple of years for copper, which is used for everything from electronics to equipment manufacturing, building construction, infrastructure and transport.

Copper prices – 10 year chart

Source: MacroTrends

Why are copper prices rising as the economy slows?

Ordinarily, a backdrop of the highest inflation levels in decades, rapidly rising interest rates, geopolitical challenges and a Covid hangover degrading near-term global growth prospects would be expected to weigh on the price of copper and other industrial commodities. But over the past 3 months the price of copper has risen by over 20% as the world economy has deteriorated and demand outlook dwindled.

The recent surge in the price of copper is partly the result of a softer dollar and the end of China’s zero-Covid policy leading to market optimism demand for the metal and other industrial commodities will rise again. However, it’s mainly down to a supply squeeze that has in large part been due to temporary factors such as weather conditions and labour challenges reducing the output of currently active mines.

But while those issues will abate, supply tightness appears baked in for copper for several years to come as a result of underinvestment in new mines and extending current projects. There have been very few significant new copper deposit discoveries in recent years and that is expected to lead to a disconnect between supply and forecast demand over the next several years.

Electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure should see demand for copper rise significantly over coming years. Cyclical industries like construction should also bounce back as the global economy recovers from its current downturn, recovering to at least previous levels, on top of new demand resulting from electrification.

Based on current mining output and known new discoveries and miner pipelines, the evidence suggests copper supply will remain tight for years into the future. With that in mind, which copper miners could be worth a closer look from investors?

Antofagasta

Antofagasta

One of the world’s biggest copper miners, FTSE 100 constituent Antofagasta’s activities are mainly concentrated in Chile. While it also produces gold and silver like most copper miners (the metals are typically found in close proximity to each other), Antofagasta’s valuation is most influenced by copper prices and tracks them relatively closely.

The miner is also expected to increase its copper output over the next several years so will be even more tied to the metal’s price trends than now. Antofagasta published a Q4 production update earlier this month, revealing that it exceeded its revised full-year target of producing 646,200 tonnes of copper. It aims to produce between 670,000-710,000 tonnes in the current year, despite rising global inflation that has increased input costs. The net cash costs per pound, however, are expected to stay similar to last year’s.

If the company goes ahead with a proposed second concentrator at its Centinela operation, its annual production could reach 900,000 tonnes by 2026. In the first half of last year the miner had a net-debt-to-equity ratio of 5% and operating profits 64 times higher than net interest costs. The means the company is in the financial position to expand production as part of its five-year plan and absorb potential disruptions or delays to capital investments.

But after a 53% rise in the Antofagasta share price over the past six months, does it still represent the kind of value that should tempt investors to take a closer look? The Telegraph’s Questor investment column thinks it does based on the miner’s long term prospects and a price-to-earnings ratio of just 15 that offers a good safety margin with the FTSE 100 close to its all time high.

BHP Group

BHP Group

Headquartered in Australia with a dual listing in London BHP is one of the world’s biggest miners and was last year the second largest copper producer behind the Chilean state-owned miner Codelco. It’s not as pure a play on copper prices as Antofagasta because it also produces larges quantities of iron ore, nickel, coking and energy goal and gold amongst its metals and minerals portfolio.

But copper prices are very important to BHP and it is investing in increasing its output. Its dominant market position and the volume of its output means it will benefit if prices do hit record levels in 2023 as some analysts predict. However, with share price gains of 25% in the past 6 months and a potential hit to iron ore demand if the global economy struggles for a period, upside at the current valuation is questionable.

Southern Copper

Southern Copper

NYSE-listed Southern Copper is another relatively pure play on copper, though it does also produce smallish quantities of other metals and minerals. Its mines are located across Central and South America, in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile.

The companies gross profits have have rising in recent years from $3.79 billion in 2019 to $7.15 billion in 2021. That’s expected to have dropped for 2022 when full year accounts are released but due to investment in expanding existing projects which should allow it to increase production, and profits, in the long term.

Basically, if the copper price stays strong over the next several years, Southern Copper could prove a wise investment. But it is very closely tied to copper prices so vulnerable to any negative turn the market for the commodity might take.

Investors convinced of the prospects for copper prices in the medium to long term might also consider copper ETFs, which build in some diversity across miners. The biggest is the U.S.-traded Global X Copper Miners ETF.

The post The investment case for copper miners – elevated prices are firmly supported by supply bottlenecks first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Growing Number Of Doctors Say They Won’t Get COVID-19 Booster Shots

Growing Number Of Doctors Say They Won’t Get COVID-19 Booster Shots

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A…

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Growing Number Of Doctors Say They Won’t Get COVID-19 Booster Shots

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A growing number of doctors say that they will not get COVID-19 vaccine boosters, citing a lack of clinical trial evidence.

I have taken my last COVID vaccine without RCT level evidence it will reduce my risk of severe disease,” Dr. Todd Lee, an infectious disease expert at McGill University, wrote on Twitter.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is seen in a file photograph. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Lee was pointing to the lack of randomized clinical trial (RCT) results for the updated boosters, which were cleared in the United States and Canada in the fall of 2022 primarily based on data from experiments with mice.

Lee, who has received three vaccine doses, noted that he was infected with the Omicron virus variant—the vaccines provide little protection against infection—and described himself as a healthy male in his 40s.

Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor of epidemiology and biostatics at the University of California, San Francisco, also said he wouldn’t take any additional shots until clinical trial data become available.

“I took at least 1 dose against my will. It was unethical and scientifically bankrupt,” he said.

Allison Krug, an epidemiologist who co-authored a study that found teenage boys were more likely to suffer heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccination than COVID-19 infection, recounted explaining to her doctor why she was refusing a booster and said her doctor agreed with her position.

She called on people to “join the movement to demand appropriate evidence,” pointing to a blog post from Prasad.

“Pay close attention to note this isn’t anti-vaccine sentiment. This is ‘provide [hard] evidence of benefit to justify ongoing use’ which is very different. It is only fair for a 30 billion dollar a year product given to hundreds of millions,” Lee said.

Dr. Mark Silverberg, who founded the Toronto Immune and Digestive Health Institute; Kevin Bass, a medical student; and Dr. Tracy Høeg, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, joined Lee and Prasad in stating their opposition to more boosters, at least for now.

Høeg said she did not need clinical trials to know she’s not getting any boosters after receiving a two-dose primary series, adding that she took the second dose “against my will.”

I also had an adverse reaction to dose 1 moderna and, if I could do it again, I would not have had any covid vaccines,” she said on Twitter. “I was glad my parents in their 70s could get covid vaccinated but have yet to see non-confounded data to advise them about the bivalent booster. I would have liked to see an RCT for the bivalent for people their age and for adults with health conditions that put them at risk.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to updated boosters, or bivalent shots, from Pfizer and Moderna in August 2022 despite there being no human data.

Observational data suggests the boosters provide little protection against infection and solid shielding against severe illness, at least initially.

Five months after the authorization was granted, no clinical trial data has been made available for the bivalents, which target the Wuhan strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron. Moderna presented efficacy estimates for a different bivalent, which has never been used in the United States, during a recent meeting. The company estimated the booster increased protection against infection by just 10 percent.

The FDA is preparing to order all Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines be replaced with the bivalents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issues recommendations on vaccines, continues advising virtually all Americans to get a primary series and multiple boosters.

Professor Calls for Halt to Messenger RNA Vaccines

A professor, meanwhile, became the latest to call for a halt to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are both based on messenger RNA technology.

At this point in time, all COVID mRNA vaccination program[s] should stop immediately,” Retsef Levi, a professor of operations management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a video statement. “They should stop because they completely failed to fulfill any of their advertised promise[s] regarding efficacy. And more importantly, they should stop because of the mounting and indisputable evidence that they cause unprecedented level of harm, including the death of young people and children.”

Levi was referring to post-vaccination heart inflammation, or myocarditis. The condition is one of the few that authorities have acknowledged is caused by the messenger RNA vaccines.

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Tyler Durden Thu, 02/02/2023 - 19:10

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Apple Pares Much Of Drop During Earnings Call

Apple Pares Much Of Drop During Earnings Call

Update 6:00pm:  Apple has staged a remarkable reversal after hours, and erased almost the entire…

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Apple Pares Much Of Drop During Earnings Call

Update 6:00pm:  Apple has staged a remarkable reversal after hours, and erased almost the entire loss after the company said that it expects a 5% impact from FX rates in Q2, and also expects iPhone revenue growth to accelerate in Q2. CEO Tim Cook was also asked whether the move to higher ASPs for the iPhone is sustainable in light of the sharp decline in sales, and whether this will continue in a worsening economy. Cook said the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max did extremely well until the supply-chain constraints. He says this is definitely a “strong Pro cycle” and credits the new features in the device. He says he’s happy that Apple is now shipping to the demand.

Tim Cook also said that AI is critical to Apple and mentions features like crash-and-fall detection and the use of AI in features like EKG on the Apple Watch. He says AI will effect everything the company does, including all products and services.

Apple is quite bullish on India and other emerging markets, with CEO Tim Cook saying the company will soon open its first retail stores in India. He also said Apple saw marked improvement in China in December (versus November) after another round of Covid re-openings.

As Bloomberg notes, the company also stuck to a line that revenue and sales of individual product categories would have been higher if not for supply-chain constraints and issues stemming from the macroeconomic environment.

* * *

With both Amazon and Google sliding after reporting disappointing earnings and mixed guidance, it was all up to the world's biggest company, AAPL, to provide some hail mary for the tech earnings season which for better or worse is concentrated in a one hour stretch this afternoon. Alas, it was not meant to be and after missing on the top and bottom line, AAPL has joined the parade of selling and tumbled after hours due to numbers which the market was clearly not impressed with.

  • EPS $1.88 vs. $2.10 y/y, missing estimate $1.94
  • Gross margin $50.33 billion, -7.2% y/y, missing estimate $52.03 billion
  • Revenue $117.15 billion, -5.5% y/y, missing estimate $121.14 billion
    • Products revenue $96.39 billion, -7.7% y/y, missing estimate $98.98 billion
    • IPhone revenue $65.78 billion, -8.2% y/y, missing estimate $68.3 billion
    • Mac revenue $7.74 billion, -29% y/y, missing estimate $9.72 billion
    • IPad revenue $9.40 billion, +30% y/y, beating estimate $7.78 billion
    • Wearables, home and accessories $13.48 billion, -8.3% y/y, missing estimate $15.32 billion
    • Service revenue $20.77 billion, +6.4% y/y, beating estimate $20.47 billion
    • Greater China rev. $23.91 billion, -7.3% y/y, beating estimate $21.8 billion
  • Cash and cash equivalents $20.54 billion, -45% y/y, estimate $29.91 billion

And here is AAPL's diluted EPS in context: needless to say, could have been better.

Commenting on the quarter, Tim Cook said that “during the December quarter, we achieved a major milestone and are excited to report that we now have more than 2 billion active devices as part of our growing installed base.”

CFO Luca Maester chimed in: “our record September quarter results continue to demonstrate our ability to execute effectively in spite of a challenging and volatile macroeconomic backdrop. We continued to invest in our long-term growth plans, generated over $24 billion in operating cash flow, and returned over $29 billion to our shareholders during the quarter. The strength of our ecosystem, unmatched customer loyalty, and record sales spurred our active installed base of devices to a new all-time high. This quarter capped another record-breaking year for Apple, with revenue growing over $28 billion and operating cash flow up $18 billion versus last year.”

Going back to the results, Apple missed consensus revenue in most product categories, with the exception of iPads, to wit:

  • IPhone revenue $65.78 billion, missing estimate $68.3 billion
  • Mac revenue $7.74 billion, missing estimate $9.72 billion
  • Wearables, home and accessories $13.48 billion, missing estimate $15.32 billion
  • IPad revenue $9.40 billion, beating estimate $7.78 billion

Of note: Apple recorded its first decline in iPhone revenue since the third quarter of 2020; yet in context, the 8% drop was still less than the 20% decrease reported by Samsung. Other major smartphone providers that have yet to report are expecting to see double-digit losses. Ironically, Apple may have fared comparatively well on smartphone revenue.

The silver lining: service revenue $20.77 billion, +6.4% y/y, beating estimates of $20.47 billion...

... and rose 6.5% Y/Y, an improvement from last quarter's 5.0%

One other place where investors were pleasantly surprised was China sales, which at $23.91 billion, beat the estimate of $21.8 billion by more than $2 billion.

None of that changes the fact that AAPL's sales by region were uniformly negative across the board.

And another potential problem: AAPL's gross cash continues to slide, dropping to $165 billion, the lowest since June 2014...

... while cash net of debt rebounded modestly from $49 billion to $54 billion, just above a 12 year low with the company having spent hundreds of billions on stock buybacks. Let's hope that Apple doesn't actually need to use that cash.

Commenting on the results, Bloomberg writes that the results show that Apple hasn’t been able to dodge the tech slowdown afflicting many of its competitors. Demand for smartphones and computers has slumped in the past year, and Covid-19 restrictions in China added to Apple’s woes during the holiday sales period. Timing was another issue: The company didn’t launch new Macs and HomePods until recent weeks, missing the end of the first quarter.

In response to these disappointing earnings, the stock predictably slumped as much as 4% before recouping some losses, although even with the drop it is back to where it was... yesterday.

Tyler Durden Thu, 02/02/2023 - 18:05

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