U.S. stock index futures jumped 1.3% on Monday amid fresh progress in COVID-19 vaccine development and a triumphal return of "Merger Monday" thanks to a flurry of multi-billion dollar deals.
Oracle soared as much as 11% leading gains among the S&P 500 constituents, after emerging as the winner in negotiations to take over the US operations of ByteDance's TikTok app. As reported last night, the deal specifics are still evolving, with the final option likely to be something closer to a corporate restructuring with Oracle taking a stake in a newly formed U.S. business. While the structure seems to be devised in order to meet recently tightened Chinese oversight rules, Bloomberg notes that it is not clear whether it would pass muster with the Trump administration, which has set tomorrow as the deadline for the sale or shutdown of TikTok's American operation. For now however, investors are happy, even if it remains unclear just how the two seemingly disparate companies will synergize. A Microsoft-led consortium that included Walmart was also in talks for TikTok's U.S. business. Their shares fell marginally.
There were more deals to spark market euphoria, key among them the sale of SoftBank’s UK-based chip division Arm to Nvidia for $40 billion in the semiconductor industry’s largest-ever deal. SoftBank will also raise 1.2 trillion yen ($10.4 billion) from selling about a third of its domestic wireless arm. Nvidia added 6.6% on the news, while SoftBank surged 9% boosted also by weekend speculation it was considering a going private deal (which however is very unlikely to happen for the $125 billion company).
Separately, Gilead - whose stock prices has benefited from the recent covid vaccine rally - agreed to acquire Immunomedics, the maker of a promising breast-cancer therapy, for about $21 billion, or $88 a share, more than double Friday's closing price. Meanwhile, in what could be a groundbreaking development and the biggest merger deal in banking since the financial crisis, the Swiss blog Inside Paradeplatz reported that UBS and Credit Suisse are exploring a potential combination.
Global equities also got a lift on Monday after drugmaker AstraZeneca resumed its British clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development. Pfizer also rose 1.8% after the drugmaker and German biotech firm BioNTech SE proposed expansion of their Phase 3 pivotal COVID-19 vaccine trial to about 44,000 participants. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said it’s “likely” the U.S. will deploy a Covid-19 vaccine to the public before year-end.
In European trading, Airline and retail shares advanced in European trading. However, the Stoxx Europe 600 Price Index trimmed and earlier increase of as much as 0.8% to fall 0.1% as energy shares lead losses among sectors, with sub-index down 0.5% and tracking drop for crude. Brent futures slid -1% to $39.45/barrel, while WTI was down -1.1% to $36.94/barrel.
Earlier in the session, Asian stocks also gained, led by materials and IT, after rising in the last session. Most markets in the region were up, with Jakarta Composite gaining 2.9% and South Korea's Kospi Index rising 1.3%, while Thailand's SET dropped 0.4%. The Topix gained 0.9%, with Fukushima Bank and Freebit rising the most. SoftBank Group surged after Nvidia agreed to buy the firm’s chip division Arm Ltd. for $40 billion. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6%, with Xi'an Bright Laser and Zhejiang Orient posting the biggest advances.
Global stocks are coming off the back of the first consecutive weeks of declines since March and traders remain on edge given the recent reassessment of valuations and volatility in options markets, however late last week, analysts at Goldman, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank all suggested the recent pullback in the U.S. is nearing an end. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to maintain its dovish stance on policy as investors look for signs the global economy is recovering from the pandemic.
"With such a powerful monetary impulse coursing through the US and European economy, the odds are that the market will be surprised again positively" in the fourth quarter, said Sebastien Galy, senior strategist at Nordea Investment Funds. "The conclusion is that we should remain in a buy on dip market."
Because, of course.
In rates, Treasuries edged lower in U.S. trading to start week that brings 20-year reopening Tuesday, FOMC decision Wednesday and 10-year TIPS reopening Thursday. Yields remain within 1bp-2bp of Friday’s closing levels, with 10-year yield at 0.67%; 20-year lags ahead of $22b reopening. The US 10Y trails most other developed bond markets led byeuro-zone peripherals, which received favorable strategist calls. Trader focus remains on the FOMC meeting for the possibility of inflation-outcome-based guidance and changes to size or distribution of Fed’s Treasury purchases; however, most strategists expect neither this week.
In FX, the dollar weakened against most G-10 peers again amid the recovery in risk sentiment; the euro advanced a fourth consecutive day against the greenback pushing European stocks lower while the region’s bond curves bull flattened, with the periphery outperforming the core.
S&P 500 futures up 1.2% to 3,362.25
STOXX Europe 600 up 0.2% to 368.64
MXAP up 0.9% to 172.61
MXAPJ up 0.8% to 565.68
Nikkei up 0.7% to 23,559.30
Topix up 0.9% to 1,651.10
Hang Seng Index up 0.6% to 24,640.28
Shanghai Composite up 0.6% to 3,278.81
Sensex up 0.04% to 38,870.26
Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7% to 5,899.52
Kospi up 1.3% to 2,427.91
Brent futures down 0.9% to $39.47/bbl
Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,944.33
U.S. Dollar Index down 0.3% to 93.06
German 10Y yield fell 1.4 bps to -0.495%
Euro up 0.2% to $1.1868
Italian 10Y yield fell 2.7 bps to 0.856%
Spanish 10Y yield fell 2.4 bps to 0.285%
Top Overnight News from Bloomberg
Hedge funds raised their long bets on the pound to the highest in over five months just before talks between the U.K. and European Union took a turn for the worse
The U.K. is on course for more than twice as many job losses in the coming months than in the recession following the financial crisis, underscoring the bleak outlook for the labor market
The French government will raise its economic outlook for this year after consumer spending rebounded more strongly than expected once the lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus ended
The European Union’s executive will unveil an ambitious emissions-cut plan this week that’ll leave no sector of the economy untouched, forcing wholesale lifestyle changes and stricter standards for industries
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was elected leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party by an overwhelming majority, ushering in the country’s first change of prime minister in almost eight years
The chairmen of UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG are exploring a potential merger to create one of Europe’s largest banks, Inside Paradeplatz reported, citing unidentified people inside the two lenders
Quick stroll across global markets courtesy of RanSquawk
Asian equity markets were positive across the board and US equity futures also began the week on the front foot as sentiment was underpinned by vaccine hopes amid reports that AstraZeneca resumed its vaccine trials and with M&A news also contributing to the constructive risk tone, after SoftBank confirmed it will sell its Arm unit to Nvidia, and ByteDance reportedly picked Oracle as the winning bidder for its TikTok operations in US. ASX 200 (+0.7%) was led higher by strength in commodity names although gains were capped by resistance in the index near around the 5900 level and underperformance seen in tech and financials, with the latter dragged amid losses in Macquarie Group after it flagged a 35% Y/Y decline to H1 2021 results. Nikkei 225 (+0.7%) was also positive ahead of today’s LDP leadership vote in which Abe loyalist and current Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga is widely seen as the front runner to succeed PM Abe with around 70% of LDP’s Diet members expected to support his bid to become the party leader. Furthermore, SoftBank shares surged around 9% after confirmation to sell its Arm Holdings unit for USD 40bln which would be the largest ever semiconductor deal and reports also noted executives revived discussions regarding taking SoftBank private following its recent asset disposals, while KOSPI (+1.3%) was among the biggest gainers as index heavyweight Samsung Electronics benefitted on news it outbid TSMC to win a KRW 1tln order from Qualcomm. Hang Seng (+0.6%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.6%) also conformed to the broad constructive risk tone amid the TikTok related developments and as participants digested the latest lending data in which both New Yuan Loans and Aggregate Financing topped forecasts. Finally, 10yr JGBs were marginally higher following a recent break above the 152.00 resistance level but with gains limited by the broad positive risk tone and a tepid BoJ Rinban announcement valued at a total JPY 150bln.
Top Asian News
Philippines Boost Central Bank’s Loans Cap to Government by 50%
Thai Airways Gets Nod for $11 Billion Debt Rescue Plan
Alibaba Is Said to Be in Talks to Invest $3 Billion in Grab
Condo Butler Service Demand in China Sparks 400% Stock Gain
A relatively tame start to the week in terms of fresh fundamental catalysts for Europe, albeit the initial upside seen across cash and futures at the open fizzled out (Euro Stoxx -0.1%) as the region failed to coat-tail on gains seen during APAC hours ahead of a risk-packed week which includes the FOMC policy decision, the US-Sino spat over TikTok’s US assets and Quad witching. Sectors in Europe are now mixed, with Travel & Leisure leading the gains whilst Banks and Health Care resides on the other side of the spectrum, as the former is weighed on by a lower yield environment and the latter shrugged off AstraZeneca’s (-0.3%) COVID-19 vaccine trial resumption with Oxford University, but note US President Trump tweeted that he has signed a new executive order to lower drug prices. The IT sector meanwhile remains underpinned by NVIDIA’s USD 40bln deal to acquire Softbank’s Arms Holdings – touted to be the largest semiconductor deal. In terms of individual movers, LSE (-0.8%) is softer despite a myriad of bids for its Borsa Italiana unit ahead of its Refinitiv takeover, including from the likes of CDP/Euronext (-2.6%), Deutsche Boerse (-0.9%) and SIX, with the latter reportedly making the highest offer. Sticking with M&A, Metro AG (+7%) share are bolstered by reports that EP Global Commerce is launching a takeover offer for shares in Co. with the aim of raising investments to above 30%. EP is expected to offer EUR 8.48/ordinary share and EUR 8.87/preference share – Metro board strongly believes the offer substantially undervalues the Co. Elsewhere, Dassault Aviation (+9.6%) is supported by a deal with Greece for 18 Rafales fighter jets – but the terms of the deal were undisclosed. Finally, H&M (-3.2%) is pressured by a broker downgrade at Morgan Stanley.
Top European News
U.K. Sets New Cap on Social Gatherings as Virus Cases Spike
Putin Resolves to Back Belarus Ally, Wary of Protest Spread
Czech Billionaire Seeks More Control Over Metro AG in Second Try
Air France’s Survival ‘Guaranteed’ by French After Dutch Warning
In FX, the latest COVID-19 developments have boosted the Kiwi across the board as NZ PM Adern pre-announced a downgrade in nationwide restrictions to Level 1 starting next Monday, while Auckland will remain level 2 for a further week pending another review of the situation. Nzd/Usd is back up near 0.6700 in response, while the Aud/Nzd cross has retreated sharply from around 1.0925 towards 1.0865 as the Aussie remains capped ahead of 0.7300 vs its US counterpart awaiting RBA minutes and Q2 house prices overnight. Note, Aud/Usd appears reluctant to track YUAN gains off a modestly firmer PBoC Cny midpoint fix and in wake of better than expected Chinese new loan and aggregate financing data, perhaps due to ongoing concerns about the fraught relationship between the 2 countries. Elsewhere, some respite for Sterling after last week’s significant underperformance as Cable reclaims 1.2800+ status following a shallower pull-back and Eur/Gbp retreats through 0.9250 awaiting more reverberations from the IMB that is scheduled to be presented to Parliament today. Note, some market observers and a Newsquawk contact are pointing to several key levels in Cable just under last Friday’s base including the 50 DMA, 100 WMA and 200 DMA at 1.2761, 1.2749 and 1.2735 respectively, while rebounds may struggle beyond 1.2900 barring a major U-turn on the Internal Market Bill or breakthrough on Brexit trade talks given the 200 WMA at 1.2932. In Scandinavia, mildly contrasting performances with the Norwegian Crown holding above 10.7000 against the Euro even though oil prices are flagging again, but the Swedish Krona struggling to stay afloat within a 10.4030-10.3750 range amidst deteriorating risk sentiment.
JPY/EUR/CHF/DXY - All moderately firmer vs the Dollar that has failed to sustain its post-US CPI momentum, albeit in part due to relative strength elsewhere, as the index meanders between 93.328-048 parameters. The Yen has clawed back a bit more lost ground to test 106.00+ levels after the LDP win for Abe advocate Suga, while the Euro has bounced off a firmer base to pivot 1.1850 in advance of more commentary from the ECB and the Franc is hovering just over 0.9100 following the latest rise in weekly Swiss sight deposits.
CAD/EM - The Loonie is somewhat lethargic and straddling 1.3170 against its US peers against the backdrop of weakness in crude, but holding up better than the Rouble that is trying to contain losses under 75.0000 alongside Brent beneath the psychological Usd 40/brl mark. However, the Lira is arguably showing more resilience just off 7.5000 on the back of Moody’s Turkish ratings downgrade and the stand-off with Greece, but doubtless with help coming via state bank support.
In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures continue to edge lower in early European trade, despite a lack of fundamental newsflow and against the backdrop of a softer USD. A busy week for the complex with highlights including the OPEC Monthly Oil Market report today (12:40BST/07:40ET), tomorrow IEA report, and the JMMC meeting on the 17th – with prior reports noting that delegates are concerned over the recent slide in energy prices, although Saudi sources reaffirmed the commitment to the pact and downplayed deeper production cuts last week. Meanwhile, desks continued to point to a less-rosier than expected demand outlook reflected by a number of producers cutting their OSPs, “Although this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the weakness that we have seen in refinery margins”, ING writes. On the refinery front, eyes have turned back to the Gulf of Mexico where Tropical Storm Sally is expected to strengthen to a hurricane later today. Participants will be keeping an eye on production shut-ins and refining activity, with the latter particularly vulnerable to flooding, and with the Gulf Coast account for just under 54% of US capacity. Sticking with supply-side, Libya’s National Army (the group that imposed an 8-month blockade), has promised to reopen Libya’s energy shipments after talks with other Libyan group and the US embassy in Tripoli, according to a statement on Saturday. WTI has dipped below the USD 37/bbl level (vs. high 37.68/bbl), while its Brent counterpart surrendered its USD 40/bbl handle to print a base under USD 39.50/bbl. Elsewhere, spot gold and silver eke mild gains, largely as a function of the softer USD and heading into this week’s risk events. The yellow metal meanders sub-1950/oz having had tested the level in APAC trade, whilst spot silver fails to reclaim a USD 27/oz+ status. Over to base metals, Dalian iron ore gained over 2% overnight as a steady rise in iron ore stockpiles added to the firmer demand narrative from China, whilst Shanghai copper held onto gains of some 1% amid the broader gains in Chinese markets.
US Event Calendar
Nothing major scheduled
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
I hope you had a good weekend. I hardly stopped. We went Shetland Pony riding ahead of my daughter’s 5th birthday tomorrow, I finished a thoroughly disappointing 48th out of 78th in my golf club’s main Championship event, and I have picked up my first cold since lockdown thanks to our germ carrier children being at school now. I thought there was a good chance that as people have been socially distancing for months that colds and flu would be less prevalent this winter. In fact I think Australia had very low cases of flu in their winter just passed. However the fact that I’m incredibly bunged up suggests otherwise. Thankfully there are no more specific covid symptoms. A loss of taste would have been very annoying given the birthday cake.
A reminder that we published our annual long-term study last week. This year’s is entitled “The Age of Disorder” (link here) and suggests that the 40-year globalisation era is now over and will be replaced with this new one characterised by disorder. The 8 page executive summary contains all you want to know but there is more in-depth analysis if that whets your appetite. We also published our latest credit forecasts last week into year-end ( link here ). After being bullish for Q3 at our half year outlook we’ve decided to reverse that and now expect mild spread widening.
In terms of the weekend news, the main coronavirus development is that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trials have resumed following last week’s pause as a medical issue from one of the trial recipients was investigated. The pause didn’t have as much of a negative impact on the market as I expected so this probably won’t have too much impact either, but it’s clearly encouraging news given they’re one of the front runners. Elsewhere Pfizer’s CEO said yesterday that he expects the US to deploy a vaccine to the public before year-end, even if the FDA were a bit hawkish last week.
On the coronavirus, there have been increasing signs of a resurgence of cases in Europe, with France reporting 7,183 new coronavirus cases yesterday after more than 10,000 a day earlier, which was the most since a national lockdown ended in May. Meanwhile, Germany’s reproduction rate of the virus has moved up to 1.15, the Robert Koch Institute said yesterday. And here in the UK, over 3,000 cases have been reported over the last 3 days, which is the first time that’s happened since May. In Asia however, South Korea is relaxing its social distancing rules as the second wave shows sign of abating, with distancing requirements for the Seoul metropolitan area being lowered to level 2 from level 2.5 for two weeks.
Asian markets have started the week on the front foot with the vaccine news mentioned above supporting sentiment. The Nikkei (+0.64%). Hang Seng (+0.67%), Shanghai Comp (+0.56%) and Kospi (+1.10%) are all up, while future on the S&P 500 also up +1.20%. In other news, China banned pork imports from Germany on Saturday, which comes just two days before Chinese President Xi is scheduled to discuss trade issues in a video meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, as well as European Commission President Von der Leyen and Council President Michel.
In terms of the week ahead, it’s central banks that’ll take centre stage, with a raft of policy announcements due from around the world. The highlight will come from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, though we’ll also get decisions from the Bank of Japan and Bank of England (both on Thursday), as well as a number of EM central banks. Meanwhile attention will remain on Brexit, as the UK government’s incendiary Internal Market Bill is debated in the House of Commons this week. And in Japan, a new Prime Minister will be chosen following Shinzo Abe’s resignation.
Starting with the FOMC meeting on Wednesday, this is the first monetary policy decision since the virtual Jackson Hole symposium, at which it was announced that the committee’s longer-run goals and monetary policy strategy would be updated. In terms of the major changes, the Fed now “seeks to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time”, which would allow inflation to overshoot the target following a period of undershooting. It also changed the wording around its maximum employment objective, now saying that policy will be informed by its “assessments of the shortfalls of employment from its maximum level.” According to our US economists (see their preview here), the release opened the door to adjustments in forward guidance and asset purchases at this meeting, though in a close call, they expect the Fed’s forward guidance on interest rates to remain unchanged and for the Committee to reframe their asset purchases as being focused on providing accommodation, not aiding market functioning. This meeting will also see the release of a new Summary of Economic Projections, which will include the dot plot of where the FOMC think monetary policy should be moving forward.
Here in the UK there are likely to be a number of headlines this week, most notably on Brexit. That follows an escalation in tensions between the UK and the EU last week after the UK government published their Internal Market Bill, which seeks to override parts of the already-signed Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. In response, the EU called on the UK to withdraw these measures from the draft bill by the end of the month, and threatened to use legal remedies if the Withdrawal Agreement were violated. In terms of what happens next, today the bill will receive its first debate in the House of Commons, but the question will be how many Conservative MPs rebel on the matter, with last night seeing the former Conservative Attorney General Geoffrey Cox publish an article in The Times, saying that the bill would do “unconscionable” damage to the country’s international reputation.
Staying with the UK, attention will also be on the Bank of England on Thursday, who’ll be making their latest monetary policy decision. The base case from our UK economist (preview here ) is that there won’t be a further £60bn QE package until December, though there are risks of an earlier announcement at the November meeting. Keep an eye out in case there’s a voting split between the MPC’s 9 members as some might seek additional stimulus.
Turning to Japan, this week sees the election of a new Prime Minister following Shinzo Abe’s decision to stand down for health reasons. In terms of the process, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will gather today to elect a new Party President, for which the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is regarded as the frontrunner. Following the LDP’s election, the Diet will then hold an extraordinary session on Wednesday to elect a new Prime Minister, with the new cabinet expected to be announced on the same day. Against this backdrop, the Bank of Japan will also be holding its latest monetary policy meeting next week, with our economist expecting that the bank will maintain its current policy stance.
Finally on the data front, there are a number of interesting releases. In the US, we’ll get an increasing amount of hard data for August, including industrial production, retail sales, housing starts and building permits. It’ll also be worth keeping an eye on the more topical releases however, especially with last week’s data on initial jobless claims and continuing claims having disappointed. Separately, we’ll also get some major releases from China on Tuesday, including August’s industrial production and retail sales figures.
Reviewing last week now, US equity markets continued sliding led by the large pullback in mega-cap tech stocks. The S&P 500 dropped -2.51% (+0.05% Friday), declining for the second week in a row for the first time since the week ending 1 May. It is also the worst 2-week performance for the index since March, and leaves it down -6.70% from the highs reached less than 2 weeks ago. With tech seeing the largest losses, the NASDAQ again underperformed the broader index, declining -4.06% (-0.60% Friday) and is now down -9.98% from the 2 Sept highs. For context the close on the week has returned us to levels that were first hit in early August and also to levels hit just after the open 10 days ago on the turbulent Friday the day after the sell-off started. So although a bad week, we haven’t sunk through the initial sell-off levels yet.
European equities on the other hand rose last week with the Stoxx 600 ending the week +1.67% higher (+0.13% Friday). The DAX (+2.80%), FTSE 100 (+4.02%), and FTSE MIB (+2.21%) all posted strong weekly equity performances even as worries over increasing Covid-19 caseloads start to permeate. The FTSE was helped by a -3.64% fall in GBPUSD as Brexit risks intensified - the worst week since the pandemic selling peak in March.
The dollar rose (+0.66%) for the second week straight as investors sought havens, it was the first time the dollar index had risen in consecutive weeks since mid-June. Partly on the back of the dollar rise, but also due to weaker risk appetite and worries on global demand WTI (-6.14%) and Brent crude (-6.63%) fell sharply for a second week. With risk assets sliding, core sovereign bonds rose on the week. US 10yr Treasury yields fell -5.2bps (-1.1bps Friday) to finish at 0.666%, while 10yr Bund yields were down -0.9bps (-4.5bps Friday) to -0.48%.
On the data front for Friday, US CPI for August showed inflation quickening primarily driven by the largest spike in used-vehicle costs since 1969. CPI rose by +1.3% y-o-y (+1.2% expected) and +0.4% from last month (+0.3% expected), while on an annual basis, core inflation measured 1.7%. Core CPI rose a similar +0.4%, following last month’s +0.6% rise which was the most in almost 30 years. Elsewhere, the UK’s July GDP reading showed the country continued to bounce back as coronavirus restrictions were eased. GDP rose by +6.6% following June’s +8.7% rise, this was compared to the +6.7% expected.
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (CSHL Press), a publisher of scientific books, journals, and electronic media, today announced the publication of The Medical Revolution of Messenger RNA by science and technology journalist Fabrice Delaye.
Credit: Endpaper Studio, George Restrepo
iStockphoto: Christoph Burgstedt
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (CSHL Press), a publisher of scientific books, journals, and electronic media, today announced the publication of The Medical Revolution of Messenger RNA by science and technology journalist Fabrice Delaye.
Many people think it took just ten months to develop a vaccine against the virus that causes COVID-19. What most don’t know is that it was made possible by using messenger RNA (mRNA), the molecule that instructs cells to make a viral protein that stimulates the production of antiviral antibodies, and that this breakthrough technology, which Nobel Prize winner Thomas Cech calls biology’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon, had been in development for three frustrating decades—decades preceded by thirty years of fundamental research. In fact, two scientists, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in messenger RNA.
Karikó and Weissman are among the many prominent scientists interviewed by veteran science journalist Fabrice Delaye for his book The Medical Revolution of Messenger RNA, which tells the story of how mRNA’s medical potential was finally realized, setting the stage for a coming revolution in which our own bodies will generate the therapeutic molecules we need. Though it’s now thought to show promise for the treatment of everything from cancer to cystic fibrosis to cardiovascular disease, mRNA was long overlooked by mainstream molecular biologists. The path to recognition of its therapeutic possibilities was littered with broken careers, lawsuits, and opportunities missed by pharmaceutical companies. For the scientists who persisted through years of academic and commercial disappointment, the COVID-19 vaccine was a huge vindication and an important step toward a new generation of therapies.
When mRNA-based vaccines came to the rescue during the pandemic in seemingly record time, Delaye realized that their development could not have been as simple and quick as people wanted to believe. But when he tracked down the origins of mRNA technologies, he uncovered a dramatic story that had never been told. Building on decades of contacts and his unique grasp of the science and the stakes involved, Delaye interviewed more than fifty mRNA scientists and entrepreneurs worldwide. His book documents the long, harrowing, unlikely but ultimately triumphant road to a discovery with the potential to revolutionize medicine far beyond the pandemic.
For more information visithttps://cshlpress.com/link/messengerrna.htm.
Fabrice Delaye is a science and technology journalist based in Switzerland. He was U.S. correspondent at the daily Swiss newspaper L’Agefi, science and technology editor at magazine Bilan, and is now a reporter-at-large for Heidi.news in Geneva. He is a graduate of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and has a master’s degree from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne, EPFL.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned not-for-profit publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. All revenue from sales of CSHL Press publications supports research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Selling pre-foreclosure is often the best option for distressed homeowners who don’t qualify for any loss mitigation programs, but those homeowners are understandably hesitant to choose that option and often end up choosing it when time is running out.
That makes those homeowners susceptible to predatory behavior by some buyers operating in the pre-foreclosure marketplace, behavior that has been chronicled in several prominent, recent news stories.
Given this pre-foreclosure paradox, mortgage servicers and government policymakers are forced to walk a thin line: nudging distressed homeowners toward making a choice that’s in their best interest while also arming them with the knowledge and resources they need to be protected in the pre-foreclosure marketplace.
Walking that thin line is becoming increasingly important as more distressed sales are pushed up-funnel into the pre-foreclosure marketplace — a trend that began developing about 10 years ago and has accelerated in earnest over the last two years.
“If you’re experiencing long-term financial hardship and cannot afford your monthly mortgage payments, selling your home may be the best option,” explains a US Bank video that walks this thin line. “Our goal is to help you avoid a foreclosure sale while protecting your credit score and preserving your equity.”
Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has weighed in, with a January 2023 blog post titled “For many struggling mortgage borrowers with home equity, selling their home could be an alternative to foreclosure.”
In its first paragraph, the CFPB blog post encourages mortgage servicers to provide distressed homeowners with a nudge toward a pre-foreclosure sale.
“Servicers can remind homeowners that a traditional sale might be one option to avoid foreclosure. … And servicers may want to suggest homeowners contact a real estate agent if the distressed homeowner is considering selling their home.”
The pitfalls of pre-foreclosure
The CFPB blog post doesn’t touch on the potential for predatory behavior in the pre-foreclosure marketplace. Those dangers can be found in recent headlines from the New York Times and ProPublica.
A July 2022 article in The New York Times traces how one man’s New York city real estate empire was allegedly built through a practice called deed theft, often targeting homeowners facing foreclosure.
“(Prosecutors and homeowners) have accused him of fraud: offering to help homeowners facing foreclosure by arranging to pay off their mortgages, while actually tricking them into signing over their buildings at bargain-basement prices. In nearly every case, the mortgage was never paid, leaving the homeowner with no property but a pile of debt.”
A May 2023 ProPublica article details how the self-proclaimed “largest homebuyer in the United States” is training its franchises to target and sometimes take advantage of distressed homeowners who are in pain. One of those sources of pain is a “looming foreclosure.”
Myriad manifestations of fraudulent and predatory behavior emerged during the five-year slide in home prices following the 2008 crash. One prominent scheme involved unlicensed “short sale facilitators” charging upfront fees to distressed homeowners and often representing “straw buyers” with lowball offers. Ethical concerns even arose for licensed real estate agents who approached distressed homeowners to list properties even though those agents were also representing prospective buyers.
A growing pre-foreclosure market
While it’s hard to quantify the prevalence of such predatory behavior, the opportunity for it is growing as the pre-foreclosure market grows. An Auction.com analysis of public record data from ATTOM Data Solutions found more than 150,000 pre-foreclosure sales nationwide in 2021, up 37% from 2020 to the highest level since 2014. Pre-foreclosure sales were defined as properties sold via an arms-length sale where a public foreclosure notice was filed prior to the sale, excluding foreclosure auction sales.
By comparison, only 33,000 properties were sold at foreclosure auction in 2021, the lowest level since 2003. That’s not too surprising given the pandemic-triggered nationwide foreclosure moratorium on government-backed mortgages (excluding vacant properties) that was in effect through the end of 2021.
But even after the foreclosure moratorium expired, pre-foreclosure sales continued to far outpace foreclosure auction sales. In 2022, there were nearly 142,000 pre-foreclosure sales compared to about 38,000 foreclosure auction sales and about 40,000 sales of bank-owned (REO) properties. That means pre-foreclosure sales accounted for 64% of all distressed property sales in 2022, the highest share on record.
Nudges from mortgage servicers are likely contributing to the growth in pre-foreclosure sales, but proactive marketing to distressed homeowners by prospective buyers is also a likely contributor.
“Our team tries to make every effort to purchase the properties on the front side,” said Mary Tritt, managing broker at Tritt Realty, a Carrollton, Georgia-based company that buys and renovates distressed properties. “When the (foreclosure auction) list comes out, us as well as other investors are trying to knock on the door, we’re trying to speak with those homeowners to see if there is anything that we can do to purchase the property before it actually goes to foreclosure.”
Tritt said her goal is to help the homeowner avoid foreclosure while also selling the property for “top dollar.” She will offer to list the home for sale on the MLS if there is enough time before the scheduled auction. But she noted that not all investors operate this way.
“Many times, we’ll find the sellers will try to sell their properties to an investor who’s come through and offered some too-good-to-be-true number only to find out that investor doesn’t have the money to purchase it and save the property before it goes to foreclosure auction,” she said. “So, we try to advise against that. Whether or not someone sells to us or to someone else, we’re just making sure that they truly understand the process and how to save the property or sell the property before it goes to auction.“
Price realization for pre-foreclosures
A deeper dive into pre-foreclosure sale data reveals that while many of these properties may have equity on paper, most are still selling well below their estimated after-repair market value. An analysis of more than 40,000 pre-foreclosure sales that occurred between 2018 and 2023 — after previously being scheduled for foreclosure auction on the Auction.com platform — shows the properties sold for 18% below their estimated after-repair market value on average.
While some discount below market value is to be expected with these properties — many are in distressed condition due to deferred maintenance — a look at the discount by buyer type indicates that some buyers are getting a bigger discount than others.
About one-third of the pre-foreclosure sales went to buyers identified in the public record data as institutions, including companies, corporations and limited liability companies. These institutional buyers purchased pre-foreclosure properties for 30% below estimated after-repair market value on average.
There are good reasons why institutional buyers might buy pre-foreclosure properties at a deeper discount. Institutional buyers are typically willing and able to take on more highly distressed properties in need of substantial renovation that an individual buyer may be hesitant to tackle. And institutional buyers can often provide more flexibility in terms of a graceful exit for the current occupant of a pre-foreclosure property.
Still, the opaque nature of the pre-foreclosure space may be enabling some institutional buyers to make off-market, lowball offers that distressed homeowners accept without listing the property in a transparent marketplace like the multiple listing service (MLS) or the robust foreclosure auction environment created by companies like Auction.com.
“Auction.com hinders my in-person auctions by advertising the available deals to the general public … (which) only drives up the price at auction,” wrote one buyer in response to a Auction.com survey sent out in March 2023.
Mary Tritt’s husband, Tony, has been investing in real estate in his local market west of Atlanta for more than 20 years. He’s seen the foreclosure auctions disrupted by transparent marketplaces like Auction.com, but recognizes that disruption is good for the market even if it may mean higher acquisition prices for him.
“Let’s face it, the auction industry, in general, has utilized online platforms to bring higher bidding on every widget imaginable. I’ve seen it firsthand play out in the housing market, specifically at non-judicial foreclosure sales and bank-owned REO auctions,” he said, adding that the disruption can also create efficiencies for his business. “An ideal scenario would be for all properties to land within the Auction.com platform, then I could cover more counties on foreclosure day, with far less labor!”
Democratized with transparency
Just as the previously opaque foreclosure auction marketplace has been democratized with transparency, inclusion and innovation over the past decade, so can the pre-foreclosure marketplace be democratized. The journey to a more transparent marketplace can start with mortgage servicers who go above and beyond simply suggesting a pre-foreclosure sale to distressed homeowners.
To help these vulnerable homeowners, servicers can provide them with a proven path to getting the highest and best offer for their home. In the distressed property world, that proven path involves some combination of listing the property for sale on the retail (MLS) marketplace and putting it up for auction on a competitive platform that is likely to receive multiple, competing bids from buyers who are experienced in dealing with distressed properties and distressed homeowners.
Local community developers like Mary and Tony Tritt understand that a more transparent pre-foreclosure marketplace will result in more competition from other buyers, but they also understand more competition will result in better outcomes for distressed homeowners and help winnow out bad players.
“While I realize that aggressive marketing of pre-foreclosures will inhibit our opportunities from both the pre-foreclosure perspective as well as at the foreclosure sale, I also recognize that the long-term health of our industry along with the specific outcomes for distressed owners will likely be markedly improved,” Tony said.
Proven pre-foreclosure path
The dual-marketplace approach has produced optimal outcomes for both servicers and borrowers in a pre-foreclosure sale program created by Auction.com called the Market Validation Program (MVP). It allows servicers, in cooperation with distressed borrowers, to post properties on Auction.com that are also listed as short sales on the MLS.
While the MLS produced the highest and best offer about 60% of the time in MVP, nearly 40% of the properties got a higher offer from the Auction.com platform. And those higher offers were often substantially higher — an average of $44,000 (19%) above the MLS offer.
That’s likely the case for two reasons: first, not all properties are promptly listed on the MLS by the listing agent. The Auction.com data shows 47% of properties in the MVP program were not yet listed in the MLS when they were referred to Auction.com. The second likely reason for the higher auction offers: Some pre-foreclosure properties are a better fit for the local community developers using the Auction.com platform than the retail buyers dominant on the MLS.
“The last one I purchased was a short sale, which was a first for me with Auction.com,” said Karen Tyler, owner of Prodigy Realty in Virginia Beach, Viriginia, of an MVP purchase. “I didn’t even know it was a short sale listed on my own MLS because that particular property was not something I would look at for an investment property through the MLS. But if it’s an Auction.com property, I actually pay a little more attention to it.”
Uncovering hidden equity
Furthermore, 6% of the winning bids on Auction.com resulted in a full payoff of the mortgage in foreclosure. That means the property did not sell as a short sale as expected and the distressed homeowner was able to walk away with something to show for the equity uncovered by the power of dual transparency.
“Elated,” said homeowner Pam Mormino, whose home sold via the MVP program for $46,000 above the highest MLS offer and more than $40,000 above the total debt owed on the mortgage. “It really relieved so much stress on me.”
The higher offers on the Auction.com platform also stem from a more consistent level of competition in than in the retail, MLS marketplace. Competition in the retail marketplace tends to be more volatile, subject to market conditions such as rising mortgage rates. Over the past four years, 80 and 90% of all bank-owned (REO) auctions on Auction.com receive bids from multiple, competing bidders, while the share of MLS properties with multiple offers has ranged from as low as 40% to as high as 74%, according to an analysis of data from Redfin.
The covid pandemic hurt a lot of retailers. In some cases, that was a short-term thing. Customers could not visit during the lockdown periods and that forced people to shop elsewhere.
In some segments, we thought that just because covid forced people to change their behavior did not mean that those changes were permanent. That was a lesson learned by companies like Peloton which saw a boom during the darkest "stay at home" covid days.
People like working out in gyms and it turned out that once it became safe to be in public places crowded with people, the demand for Peloton dropped too. That was true for streaming services as well.
When we were all stuck at home any new programming was valuable. But as the world opened back up, many Americans realized that they may want some streaming services, but they no longer needed to pay for all of them.
In some cases, people's behavior did permanently change. Americans, for example, are much less willing to go to a movie theater. That seems like an acceleration of a trend that started before the covid pandemic. Watching movies at home showed us that, aside from big blockbusters or Taylor Swift concert movies designed to be a communal experience, most films did not need to be seen in a theater.
Covid also forced a lot of diehard book fans to consider their digital options. Many people who had argued for the joy of holding a physical book realized that being able to download any book to their phone from anywhere had its pluses as well.
That's not good news for bookstores and one popular regional chain has filed for bankruptcy and plans to close some of its stores.
Regional bookstore chain declares bankruptcy
While for a time it seemed like digital books would make printed books obsolete, that has not happened. Actual books actually still outsell their digital counterparts, but any e-book sold is a book not sold by a bookstore.
And while some regional bookstore chains have thrived and even Barnes & Noble has found its footing, selling books is a very tough business. Digital books are cheaper than printed books which makes many people visiting bookstores browsers who intend to purchase elsewhere.
That's a very tough operating environment. One regional bookstore chain, Tattered Cover, has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 Subchapter V in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado. The company "owes more than $1 million to publishers, as well as more than $375,000 to Colorado's Office of the State Auditor for abandoned gift cards," Publisher's Weekly reported.
Subchapter V is specifically for small businesses. Tattered Cover believes it can use the filing to obtain new funding up to $1 million from a new company formed by investors and some of its current board.
That money would be a lifeline, allowing Tattered Cover, which operates seven locations, to purchase inventory for the upcoming holiday season among other uses," according to a company statement.
The chain expects to close three of its bookstores as part of the restructuring.
“Our objective is to put Tattered Cover on a smaller, more modern and financially sustainable platform that will ensure our ability to serve Colorado readers for many more decades,” Brad Dempsey, who became CEO of the company in July, shared in a statement. "Restructuring for long-term viability requires managers to make very difficult business decisions that affect people and business partners, and we intend to do what we can to minimize these impacts."
Tattered Cover intends to honor all gift cards. All of its changes and decisions require the approval of the bankruptcy court.