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Global Markets Rise On Continued “Stimulus Optimism”

Global Markets Rise On Continued "Stimulus Optimism"



Global Markets Rise On Continued "Stimulus Optimism" Tyler Durden Thu, 10/08/2020 - 08:16

"Explanations" for overnight market moves have drifted from the merely comical and veered into the surreal. Case in point, this morning Bloomberg writes that "futures contracts on U.S. equity indexes rose, suggesting gains on Wall Street will be extended to a second day on stimulus optimism" and Reuters chimes in that "futures rose for a second straight day on Thursday as bets of a piecemeal fiscal stimulus deal lifted sentiment" while just hours earlier the Financial Times led with this:

In short, whichever direction stocks drift, that's where one can find "stimulus sentiment" at any given moment. The only question we have is what is the direction of causality.

In any case, S&P futures rose for a second straight day after yesterday's 1.7% surge because "there were more buyers than sellers" or whatever, with the S&P now back above the level where the S&P puked on Trump's infamous "no more talks" tweet.

As noted earlier, Regeneron shares rose 4.9% in pre-market trading after Trump said its antibody cocktail was the “key” to his quick recovery. The president said he would authorize its emergency use. Shares of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways were up between 0.8% and 1.7% in early pre-market trading. Coty jumped 5.1% after the cosmetics maker announced the launch of direct-to-consumer websites for Kylie Skin brand in the UK, France, Germany and Australia.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was up 0.5% as of 10:40 a.m. in London after paring earlier gains of as much as 0.8%. Travel and leisure stocks, and the shares of real estate companies led the advance with gains in the sector gauges of 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively.

Earlier, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index notched a fourth day of gains led by IT and materials, after rising in the last session. Most markets in the region were up, with Taiwan's Taiex Index gaining 1.1% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rising 1.1%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 0.2%. The Topix gained 0.5%, with Saxa Holdings and Meiji Shipping rising the most.

According to the prevailing narrative, the hot new thing now is for markets to "digest" the prospect of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden winning the election, coupled with a blue sweep, despite an unexpectedly strong performance by VP Mike Pence last night, where an elusive Kamala Harris repeatedly refused to answer the question whether the Harris-Biden administration would pack the Supreme Court, arguably one of the biggest policy variables for the next four years. 

According to Bloomberg, the "blue sweep" scenario seems to be quelling volatility even as risks from a split in government to a resurgence of coronavirus cases threaten the economic rebound.

"The market is now almost treating Trump’s actions as a sideshow, and is much more firmly pricing Biden in the White House," Mizuho strategists including Peter Chatwell wrote in a note. We wonder if Peter said the same thing in 2016 about Hillary "in the White House." Still, they warned investors against “getting bulled-up on Biden" and the possibility of Democrats winning in the November election, including the Senate. "Recent price action suggests that the market is starting to get ahead of itself, and prematurely becoming too optimistic," they wrote hedging their bets because nobody wants another reputation-crushing repeat of Nov 3, 2016.

Meanwhile, and as the fiscal stimulus charade continues in Congress, Fed central bankers sought further debate on the future of the Federal Reserve’s asset-purchase program, according to the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s Sept. 15-16 meeting. 

Elsewhere, European countries are grappling with a jump in coronavirus infections as concerns mount that some countries may be losing control. France, Spain and the Czech Republic posted record increases in cases, while the U.K. government has drawn up rescue measures for companies struggling to cope in areas forced into local lockdowns.

In rates, Treasuries were firm despite the ramp in S&P 500 E-mini futures, with long-end yields lower by about 2bp. Focus remains on progress toward an economic stimulus agreement, while in Asia, strong appetite for Japan and New Zealand bond sales helped underpin Treasuries. Treasuries 5s30s curve, which approached its YTD high on Oct. 6, is 1.5bp flatter on the day; 10-year yields around 0.77%, richer by less than 2bp on the day and outperforming bunds and gilts. Later today we have the last coupon auction of the week with a $23BN 30-year reopening, bringing the CUSIP's total size to $72b; Wednesday’s 10-year reopening stopped even with the WI yield at the bidding deadline. European peripheral spreads tightened and Greek bonds yields dropped to a record low as support from the ECB and the EU quells investor concerns about the health of the region’s most indebted nation in the face of the coronavirus.

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index pared some of its Asia session losses in European trading but was still lower against most of its G-10 peers though it hovered around 1.1750 per euro. Risk-sensitive currencies led by the Australian dollar had the best performance; the pound rose for a second day helped by signs that U.K. and EU officials may be optimistic on their prospects for securing a Brexit trade deal.  The Aussie outperformed the kiwi after New Zealand’s Reserve Bank Chief Economist Yuong Ha said that the bank would rather be aggressive in adding stimulus than do too little too late; the kiwi subsequently fell to a session low versus the U.S. dollar before bouncing back. Yen was steady, holding near a three-week low against the dollar.

In commodities, WTI and Brent maintain an upward trajectory with the former eyeing $40.50/bbl to the upside vs. a low of $39.76/bbl, and the latter north of $42.50/bbl, with the market pricing in supply risk premia as Hurricane Delta looks to make landfall on the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow, whilst Norwegian oil strikes could escalate on Saturday. Regarding the Gulf developments, NHC stated that Hurricane Delta has restrengthened into a Catergory 2 hurricane with hurricane conditions and life-threatening surges expected to begin along portions of the Northern Gulf coast on Friday, whilst BSEE’s estimations yesterday suggest that Hurricane Delta has shut-in 80% offshore crude oil production (prev. 29%) and 49% of natural gas output (prev. 9%) in the Gulf of Mexico – with Shell and Chevron the latest companies to all halt operations in the vicinity. Elsewhere, precious metals stand as beneficiaries of the softer Dollar, with spot gold inching closer towards $1900/oz having while spot silver makes headway above $24/oz.

Looking at today's calendar, expected data include jobless claims. Domino’s Pizza is reporting earnings. There is also an array of central bank officials will be speaking today, including Bank of England Governor Bailey, the Fed’s Rosengren and Bostic, ECB Vice President de Guindos, and the ECB’s Schnabel, Hernandez de Cos and Mersch.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.3% to 3,417.25
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 0.3% to 366.46
  • MXAP up 0.7% to 174.98
  • MXAPJ up 0.7% to 577.58
  • Nikkei up 1% to 23,647.07
  • Topix up 0.6% to 1,655.47
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.2% to 24,193.35
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,218.05
  • Sensex up 1% to 40,294.79
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 1.1% to 6,102.04
  • Kospi up 0.2% to 2,391.96
  • Brent futures up 1.1% to $42.43/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,891.64
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 93.57
  • German 10Y yield fell 1.4 bps to -0.507%
  • Euro unchanged at $1.1763
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 0.9 bps to 0.582%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 3.3 bps to 0.209%

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg:

  • The Trump administration plans to impose sanctions as soon as Thursday on Iran’s financial sector to further choke off its economy from the outside world, according to people familiar with the matter
  • The approach of Brexit has London confronting the loss of its role as Europe’s undisputed stock-trading hub and, with it, billions of euros in daily trading
  • Spain lowered its target for net debt issuance this year by 12% in an effort to maintain fiscal discipline amid a surge in spending to counter the impact of the coronavirus, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said
  • Japanese investors bought a record amount of Italian bonds for a second month in August, underscoring the growing appeal of what was once regarded as Europe’s riskiest debt
  • France, Spain and the Czech Republic posted record increases in coronavirus cases, underscoring growing alarm in Europe as it struggles to control the pandemic; Boris Johnson’s government has drawn up rescue measures for U.K. businesses struggling to cope in areas forced into local Covid lockdowns, as ministers prepare to impose tighter rules within days
  • French economic output is plateauing at 5% below pre-crisis levels, according to the Bank of France, adding to signs the country’s recovery from lockdown is faltering

Courtesy of NewsSquawk, here is a quick look at global markets:

Asian equity markets traded mostly positive as the region took its cue from the rebound in the US where all major indices reclaimed the losses triggered by President Trump’s recent announcement to walk away from COVID-19 relief negotiations, as investors found solace from President Trump's calls for piecemeal measures including airline aid, PPP and stimulus checks. ASX 200 (+1.1%) and Nikkei 225 (+1.0%) were higher as Australia extended on its post-budget outperformance with healthcare, tech and materials frontrunning the broad-based gains in the index, while the Tokyo benchmark coat-tailed on the recent favourable currency moves after USD/JPY briefly reclaimed the 106.00 handle. Elsewhere, the KOSPI was kept afloat but with upside capped after shares in index heavyweight Samsung Electronics failed to capitalize on stronger than expected preliminary results for Q3 despite flagging a 58% increase in operating profits, and the Hang Seng (-0.2%) was the laggard in which it breached the 24,000 level to the downside with notable weakness seen in gambling names after underwhelming early gaming revenue numbers from Golden Week holidays with JPMorgan also neutralizing its bullish view on Macau gaming due to poor re-opening trends. Finally, 10yr JGBs were lacklustre following spillover selling from T-notes and amid the mostly positive tone in stocks, although stronger results at the 5yr JGB auction provided some mild support in late trade.

Top Asian News

  • Amazon Says Indian Partner Broke Pact After Ambani Sale Deal
  • Thailand Adds Fresh Tax Breaks to Stimulus to Spur Growth
  • Singapore Scales Up Virus Screening Centers for Migrant Workers

Stocks in Europe have waned off best levels but mostly hold onto mild gains (Euro Stoxx 50 +0.5%), with somewhat choppy price action experienced since the cash open despite a distinct lack of fresh catalysts. US equity futures also dipped in tandem but remain in positive territory, with NQ narrowly outperforming ES and YM. On the fiscal front State-side, US House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin are poised for more stimulus discussions, this time on a narrower deal, with White House Chief of Staff Meadows remarking the administration believes there is broad base of support to reach a limited deal on coronavirus relief, while he added that House Speaker Pelosi is sticking to a USD 2.2tln stimulus bill and Senate Majority McConnell is willing to consider a separate airline bill. Meanwhile in Europe, negotiations are to continue regarding the legality of the EU budget and Recovery Fund, which threatens a delay to the swift rollout of the package by the touted January 2021 target. Back to bourses, Spain’s IBEX (+1.0%) outperforms as it’s propped up by its heavy-weight banking sector amid tailwinds from the banking consolidation in the region, whilst the FTSE 100 (+0.1%) resides on the other end of the spectrum on currency dynamics. Sectors are mostly in the green with no real risk profile to be derived; the breakdown sees Travel & Leisure outpacing, but Basic Resources and Autos lag. Meanwhile, the Real Estate sector is supported by British home builders after the UK RICS Housing Survey topped forecasts (61 vs Exp. 40); thus translating to gains in Taylor Whimpey (+3.0%), Barratt Developments (+3.0%), British Land (+2.0%), Ashtead (+2.0%). Moving to earnings, GVS (+3.5%) opened higher by ~7% after posting a 12% increase in Q3 revenue and raising core earnings outlook. Elsewhere, ams (-1.1%) clambered off lows after opening lower by 4.5% amid a 13% decline in revenue and plans to issue new bonds. Finally, easyJet (-0.4%) reversed earlier gains as it expects to report a group headline loss before tax of GBP 815-845mln for FY20, whilst sources stated the group informed the government of the potential need for state loans or finance, although just to keep a prudent approach on finances

Top European News

  • Spain Cuts 2020 Net Debt Sales Target 12% to 115 Billion Euros
  • Europe Battles to Contain Virus as Cases Spike in Spain, France
  • Sexual Harassment Scandal Forces Danish Party Leader to Quit
  • Greek Bonds Rally to Send 10-Year Yields to an All-Time Low

In FX, the Aussie has maintained some post-RBA momentum and is deriving some external impetus from onshore YUAN gains beyond 6.7250 at one stage in the ongoing absence of official PBoC midpoint fixings during China’s Golden Week holidays. Coupled with the Greenback easing from its peaks prompted by US President Trump calling for a suspension of fiscal stimulus talks and the DXY rotating around 93.500, Aud/Usd has rebounded through 0.7150 to 0.7170 ahead of the RBA’s FSR on Friday. Meanwhile, Sterling has also benefited from the Buck’s pull-back with Cable bouncing firmly from just above 1.2900 to 1.2970, but Eur/Gbp is back below 0.9100 on the back of UK Government reports suggesting a little progress on state aid in discussions with the EU, albeit still some distance between the 2 sides on the issue of fishing.

  • NZD/NOK - The next best majors, and perhaps surprisingly given dovish rhetoric from the RNBZ overnight as chief economist Young Ha said the Bank would rather do too much too early than vice-versa and assistant Governor Hawkesby promised more on the FLF in November’s MPS, adding that inflation is expected to be under target for the following 3 years. Elsewhere, Norwegian mainland GDP missed consensus, but Eur/Nok is softer near 10.9000 against the back drop of firm crude prices and Nzd/Usd is hovering close to 0.6600 in wake of improvements in ANZ business sentiment and activity outlooks.
  • SEK/CAD/EUR/CHF/JPY - All narrowly mixed in headline US Dollar reference or Euro cross terms as the Swedish Krona pivots 10.4450, Loonie straddles 1.3250 with some traction from oil awaiting Canadian housing starts and jobs data later today and tomorrow respectively, and Euro roams between 1.1781-56 parameters in advance of ECB minutes. Note also, Eur/Usd looks underpinned by decent option expiry interest from 1.1745 to 1.1735 (1.8 bn) before even bigger expiries on Friday, while comments from de Guindos merely underline the heightened attention on currency developments, but again provide no specifics on tolerance limits. Similarly, the SNB keeps its lines in the sand under wraps, albeit actively intervening as the Franc holds firmly above 0.9200 and a few pips over 1.0800 against the Greenback and Euro respectively. Indeed, latest from chair Jordan simply refers to the fact that monetary accommodation has not really dampened demand for the Chf even though it has not been behaving like a traditional safe haven for some time in contrast to the Yen that is tightly bound around 106.00 vs its US rival as a go to destination for investors seeking a refuge from risk.
  • EM - After bouts of consolidation and respite, it’s back to all too familiar shaky ground for the Lira due to conflicts and incursions involving Turkey in the Middle East and beyond, with Usd/Try resuming its seemingly relentless course to at least test the resistance and psychological defences at 8.0000.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures maintain an upward trajectory with the former eyeing USD 40.50/bbl to the upside (vs. low USD 39.76/bbl) and the latter north of USD 42.50/bbl (vs. low USD 41.86/bbl), with the market pricing in supply risk premia as Hurricane Delta looks to make landfall on the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow, whilst Norwegian oil strikes could escalate on Saturday. Regarding the Gulf developments, NHC stated that Hurricane Delta has restrengthened into a Catergory 2 hurricane with hurricane conditions and life-threatening surges expected to begin along portions of the Northern Gulf coast on Friday, whilst BSEE’s estimations yesterday suggest that Hurricane Delta has shut-in 80% offshore crude oil production (prev. 29%) and 49% of natural gas output (prev. 9%) in the Gulf of Mexico – with Shell and Chevron the latest companies to all halt operations in the vicinity. Over to Norway, the Lederne Union said it has exchanged proposals with associations of oil companies and are planning to continue dialogue today, with 330k BOEPD of production currently shuttered out of the countries ~1.7mln BOEPD total. The Norwegian Oil & Gas Association also said the oil strike is set to impact 966k BOEPD unless conflict with union is resolved by October 14th. Looking ahead, the OPEC World Oil Outlook will be released at 1300BST, with little influence expected in the crude markets given the ever-shifting dynamics possibly proving the release to be stale. Elsewhere, precious metals stand as beneficiaries of the softer Dollar, with spot gold inching closer towards USD 1900/oz having had currently notched a range of USD 1883-1895/oz, whilst spot silver makes headway above USD 24/oz (vs. low 23.72/oz). In terms of base metals, LME copper trades flat within a tight range with eyes on Chilean strikes after two out of five labour at the Candelaria mine rejecting offers, with the mine the first of six mines in the country to have labour talks in the coming months.

Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Initial Jobless Claims, est. 820,000, prior 837,000
  • 8:30am: Continuing Claims, est. 11.4m, prior 11.8m
  • 9:45am: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort, prior 49.3

Central Bank speakers:

  • 9:15am: Fed’s George Gives Speech on Economic and Policy Outlook
  • 12:10pm: Fed’s Rosengren to Speak at Virtual Event on Economic Recovery
  • 2pm: Fed’s Bostic to Speak on Panel to Rework America Alliance

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Feeling a bit melancholy this morning. At the end of reading my 5 year old daughter a fairly plotless bedtime story about a Vet and lots of minor and silly animal accidents, my daughter suddenly turned to me and said “Daddy am I going to die one day? I don’t want to die”. Before I could think of an answer she said “Are you and mummy going to die one day?” She then got a bit tearful. All that was going through my head was US Open Bryson DeChambeau’s claim that he is going to live to 120-130 years old so I said that I wasn’t sure but whatever happens we’ve hopefully all got a long long way to go and lots of fun first. That seemed to placate her a bit but I can see we’re reaching the age where the first difficult questions start arising. Next stop “Is Santa made up?”.

Talking of the great man (Santa not Bryson), Christmas came early for markets last night after a strong session that more than compensated for the previous day’s declines. Before that let’s review the VP debate overnight. It was a far more civil and traditional debate with supporters from each side likely to be relatively happy with their candidate’s performance. It is unlikely that either Senator Harris or Vice President Pence did anything to alter the trajectory of the race though. President Trump entered the debate down 9.5pts to former Vice President Biden in’s national polling averages. In other bad polling news for Trump, overnight a Quinnipiac poll shows the president trailing Mr Biden by 13 and 11 points in Pennsylvania and Florida respectively.

Ahead of the debate, US equities rebounded from Tuesday’s selloff when President Trump called off the stimulus negotiations, with the S&P 500 up +1.74% to its highest level in just over a month. The tweet in the Asian session that we discussed yesterday hinting that Trump remains open to skinny stimulus deals kick started the market back on its upward path. This was given a further boost when Speaker Pelosi signaled that she too would be open to some form of partial measures, notably for the airline industry. To that end the Transportation industry (+2.75%) and Autos (+4.14%) were among the best performers. It was a broad-based advance that saw every industry higher on the day and with cyclicals leading the way. The NASDAQ only performed slightly better than the broader index, rising +1.88%.

Equity volatility also subsided, with the VIX index ending a run of 6 successive moves higher, though futures continued to indicate higher volatility heading into November and the election period. Although the polls are clearer now risk still is elevated around the election period. On this, Henry on my team put out a note yesterday looking at contested presidential elections through history, examining what happened, the market reaction, and the implications for this year. You can see the note here.

Over in Europe, equities held steady, though this mainly reflected the fact they hadn’t sold off the previous day when the negative stimulus news came through, with the STOXX 600 posting a modest loss of -0.12%. Similar to the US, Autos (+1.39%) and Travel & Leisure (+0.82%) were among the sectors up on the day even as the broader index fell.

Asian markets are mostly following Wall Street’s lead this morning with the Nikkei (+1.01%), Asx (+0.93%), Kospi (+0.21%) and India’s Nifty (+1.07%) all up along with S&P 500 futures (+0.23%). The Hang Seng (-0.78%) is trading down likely on overnight news that the US might restrict the expansion of Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent Holdings WeChat Pay over concerns that the digital payment platforms threaten national security. In other overnight news, Bloomberg has reported that Japan’s PM Suga could call a general election either at the beginning of 2021, or after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics end in early September.

On the coronavirus, further negative news came through on case numbers as restrictions continued to ramp up across Europe. Starting with the UK, a further 14,173 cases were reported yesterday, while the number of patients in hospital in England rose to 2,944. In Scotland, further restrictions were imposed, including an order that pubs shut for all except takeaway customers in central Scotland until October 25, an area which covers nearly two-thirds of the Scottish population. People living in those areas have also been told to avoid public transport “unless absolutely necessary”. Furthermore, with cases rising in northern England, ITV’s political editor Robert Peston reported that ministers were “likely” to close all hospitality venues there for a period, with the new restrictions likely to be announced on Monday. All the wires are now confirming that fresh measures will be coming on that day. Elsewhere, Italy reported a further 3,677 cases, which is the first time since April that the daily case count has been above the 3,000 mark (albeit on higher testing now), and in Brussels it was announced that all bars would be shut for a month. France saw a record number of new infections, after new cases had levelled off over the last week. Cases are now rising at their fastest rate of the pandemic at over 12,800 per day on average over the last 7 days. See the table below for more signs of this second wave.

Over in the US, schools in Boston paused reopening after the positivity rate rose above 4%, meaning that the next phase of students who were due to return to in-person teaching on October 15 will see that date postponed. The 7-day rolling sum of new cases in the US has remained over 300k for over two weeks now and looks set to continue rising after a pause in September. On the pharmaceutical front, the US FDA has been approached by Eli Lilly for emergency authorisation for a covid-19 treatment it’s developing with Canadian biotech AbCellera Biologics Inc. As the public waits for a vaccine, treatments will be essential to keeping hospital numbers low and thus decreasing the need for mobility restrictions. Meanwhile, President Trump said overnight that an antibody cocktail made by Regeneron was the “key” to his recovery. The company has applied to the US FDA for gaining emergency use authorisation. The company traded up +3.53% in after-hours trading on this.

On the topic of vaccines, President Trump accused the FDA of playing politics with their more stringent vaccine regulations that will make it unlikely for a vaccine to be approved before election day. Given that voting has already started in parts of the country, the window for Trump to receive a polling boost from a completed vaccine is surely closing.

The September FOMC minutes continued to show how much the committee members assumed additional fiscal stimulus would be coming when building their outlooks. With near consensus that if future fiscal support was significantly smaller or arrived significantly later than they expected, the pace of the recovery could be slower than anticipated. The main highlight was the discussion of changes to their asset purchases. “Some participants” indicated their want to assess purchases in order to have them support the central bank’s full employment goals, this would imply either outright increases or possibly longer duration purchases. The minutes did not seem to change the trajectory of markets.

In the fixed income sphere, sovereign bonds sold off, with yields on 10yr Treasuries rising +5.2bps to 0.788% (are back down -1.4bps this morning) after trading in the 0.725-0.790% range the previous day on the volatile stimulus headlines. Ahead of the Fed minutes, European sovereign debt similarly lost ground, with yields on 10yr bunds (+1.4bps), OATs (+1.7bps) and gilts (+1.6bps) also moving higher. Peripheral spreads continued to tighten though, and the spread of Italian 10yr yields over bunds fell a further -0.5bps to a fresh 2-year low.

Moving on, and yesterday saw a number of Brexit headlines once again, though overall they didn’t really add much new information to where we were already at. The main one that sent sterling lower initially was a Bloomberg report saying that the UK planned to quit the trade talks next week if a deal weren’t in sight by then. However, this simply echoed what UK Prime Minister Johnson had said back in early September, in that next week’s European Council meeting on October 15 was the deadline for reaching an agreement, and sterling swiftly clawed back most of its losses. Later on in the session, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that “The EU prefers a deal, but not at any cost. Time for the UK to put its cards on the table.” And an FT report also tweeted that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier had told EU ambassadors that he expected Brexit talks to continue after the EU summit on October 15-16. We think if progress is being made both parties will agree to extend talks beyond this point. As I said on Monday I continue to think the positive headlines are increasing and stand by my thesis that it’s moving forward on a 7 steps forward, 5 back type framework.

Just on this, Bloomberg has reported overnight that officials in the EU with knowledge of the negotiations suggest an elaborate choreography is being worked out, in which, despite some level of differences remaining, both sides will find a way to carry on discussions into the second half of October. The report also suggested that both sides are now softening their stance on the two key sticking point of fisheries and state aid.

In terms of data yesterday, there weren’t a great deal of releases, though we did get German industrial production for August, which unexpectedly fell by -0.2% (vs. +1.5% expected), which ended a run of 3 successive monthly gains.

To the day ahead now, and an array of central bank officials will be speaking today, including Bank of England Governor Bailey, the Fed’s Rosengren and Bostic, ECB Vice President de Guindos, and the ECB’s Schnabel, Hernandez de Cos and Mersch. The ECB will also be releasing the account of their September monetary policy meeting. Data releases include the weekly initial jobless claims from the US, Canadian housing starts for September, and the German current account balance for August.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…



Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…



To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….



Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 


About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. 

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