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Global Stocks Plunge On Bank, Election, Virus Fears; Treasuries, Dollar Spike

Global Stocks Plunge On Bank, Election, Virus Fears; Treasuries, Dollar Spike



Global Stocks Plunge On Bank, Election, Virus Fears; Treasuries, Dollar Spike Tyler Durden Mon, 09/21/2020 - 07:50

Global markets tumbled on Monday, as S&P futures slid below 3,300 after failing to hold 50DMA support on Friday, and with European stocks falling the most since July as investors worried about renewed covid lockdowns across European countries and a report detailing suspicious transactions at international banks, with a lack of U.S. stimulus and concerns about how the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg would impact what are already set to be extremely contested elections also hit sentiment.

U.S. stock index futures dropped 1.8% on Monday hit by bank stocks following media reports that several global banks moved sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades. Shares in JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon Corp fell 4% and 3.3%, respectively, after a after a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that said lenders “kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players” in the past two decades even after the U.S. imposed penalties. HSBC Holdings Plc fell to the lowest since 1995 and European bank shares slumped (more here).

Shares of airlines, hotels and cruise operators led declines in premarket trading, tracking their European peers as the UK signaled the possibility of a second national lockdown. Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Hyatt Hotels Corp dropped between 1.5% and 3.6%, while casino operators Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp shed between 2.7% and 6.0%. Tech giants including Apple, Facebook and which had dominated Wall Street's rally since April, slid between 1.5% and 2.6% in early deals.

Nikola crashed 27.9% after its founder Trevor Milton stepped down as executive chairman, as the U.S. electric-truck maker battles allegations from a short-seller that it misled investors and automakers. General Motors which took an 11% stake in Nikola for about $2 billion earlier this month, slipped 3.7%.

Another round of business restrictions would also threaten a nascent recovery in the wider economy, analysts said, and could spark a flight from equities. The first round of lockdowns in March had led the benchmark S&P 500 to suffer its worst monthly decline since the global financial crisis.

"The market remains concerned about the broader risk emulating from the U.S: Covid, the Supreme Court fight and the upcoming presidential elections,” said Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank SA. “With U.S. tech stocks looking weak, the need to jump right into U.S. assets feels less critical."

The MSCI world equity index was down 0.5%. European indexes opened lower, with the pan-European STOXX 600 down 1.7% at its lowest in nearly two weeks. London's FTSE 100 was at a two-week low, down 2.4% and Germany's DAX fell 2%, led by banking shares which slid after a media report on how several global banks moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades. HSBC shares tumbled to a 25-year low in Hong Kong.

Investors have also turned more cautious about Europe following a sharp uptick in new COVID-19 cases. European countries including Denmark, Greece and Spain have introduced new restrictions on activity. According to Reuters, Britain is considering a second national lockdown as new cases rise by at least 6,000 per day.  Germany’s health minister said the rising new infections in countries like France, Austria and the Netherlands is worrying. Investors will be looking ahead to flash PMI data on Wednesday for the first hints of how economies have fared in September.

"Concerns are rising that the summer recovery is probably as good as it gets when it comes to the recent rebound in economic activity," wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. "This reality combined with the growing realisation that a vaccine remains many months away, despite President (Donald) Trump’s claims to the contrary, has made investors increasingly nervous, as we head into an autumn that could see lockdowns reimposed."

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks fell, led by materials and finance, after rising in the last session. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.6%, with Sanxiang Advanced and Shandong Shida posting the biggest slides.

Emerging-market stocks and currencies headed for their biggest declines this month as surging coronavirus cases and uncertainty about additional US fiscal support dented demand for risky assets. The Mexican peso and South African rand led the retreat among peers as the U.S. political battle over who will be the next Supreme Court justice - following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg six weeks before Election Day - also weighed on sentiment. South Africa’s stock market was the worst performer, with the main benchmark headed for its longest losing streak since May 2019. The average spread on developing-nation dollar debt widened by 2 basis points.

Seven members of the Fed will speak this week - including chairman Jerome Powell appearing before Congressional committees - so investors will be looking for hints to determine the dollar’s direction.

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index reversed early losses and extended Friday’s advance to rise against all Group-of-10 peers apart from the safe-haven Japanese yen which was in its sixth consecutive session of gains versus the dollar, up around 0.4% at 104.185. Japan has public holidays on Monday and Tuesday this week, meaning volumes are thin in Asian trading. The euro dipped against the dollar, sliding to $1.1791 while the safe Swiss franc rose against both the dollar and euro.

The yuan headed for a third straight daily drop, the longest slide since July, as the greenback advanced. The onshore yuan slipped 0.14% to 6.7793 a dollar as of 5:53 p.m. in Shanghai after earlier rising as much as 0.2%. A measure of the dollar’s strength rose in the afternoon as risk appetite took a hit on concern that the climbing number of virus cases across Europe could lead to travel restrictions and cripple an economic recovery. Despite the retreat over past few days, the onshore yuan has surged 4.3% in the third quarter, on pace for the best performance on record. The rally has come as the greenback is set for its weakest quarter in a decade and amid investor optimism over China economy.

The Turkish lira continued to plumb record lows with Moody's adding more fuel to the fire warning that the country has almost depleted its buffers against a Balance of Payments crisis.

In rates, Treasuries jumped after risk sentiment deteriorated in global markets. Yields were lower by 5.5bp across long-end of the curve, flattening 2s10s, 5s30s by 3.1bp and 3.5bp; 10-year yields richer by 3.8bp at 0.655%. Treasuries bull flatten from London open after cash markets closed in Asia for Japan holiday. Risk-off backdrop supports long-end of the curve with S&P e-minis lower by 1.6% and Estoxx 50 dropping 3% over European morning session. U.S. 2-, 5-, 7-year sales due this week for comb. $155b, while Fed chair Powell is due to speak three times. In Europe, the benchmark 10-year German bund yield was down 2 basis points at -0.507% with most high-rated euro zone government bond yields down by a similar amount. The European Central Bank will review how long its emergency pandemic bond-purchase scheme should go on, the Financial Times reported. The European Council meets in a summit on Thursday and Friday this week.

Elsewhere, oil prices fell, with Brent crude down 1.8% at $42.39 a barrel while WTI was down 1.9% at $40.34 a barrel. Gold prices slumped, hit by the rising dollar, with spot gold down to $1,931 per ounce at 730am ET>

Data include the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. No major earnings are expected.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 1.8% to 3,262.75
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 2.2% to 360.69
  • MXAP down 0.6% to 172.88
  • MXAPJ down 1% to 563.47
  • Nikkei up 0.2% to 23,360.30
  • Topix up 0.5% to 1,646.42
  • Hang Seng Index down 2.1% to 23,950.69
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.6% to 3,316.94
  • Sensex down 0.9% to 38,482.09
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.7% to 5,822.62
  • Kospi down 1% to 2,389.39
  • Brent futures down 2% to $42.29/bbl
  • German 10Y yield fell 2.6 bps to -0.511%
  • Euro down 0.3% to $1.1807
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 0.7 bps to 0.756%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 0.2 bps to 0.283%
  • Gold spot down 0.5% to $1,940.89
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.3% to 93.19

Top Overnight News

  • U.S. deaths related to Covid-19 approached 200,000 and the nation’s new cases rose in line with a one-week average. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he expects the U.S. to experience “at least one more cycle” of the virus in the fall and winter
  • The dollar’s weakest quarter in a decade may get even worse as investors respond to the effects that massive American equity-market gains have had on the composition of their portfolios
  • The European Union will unleash as many green bonds as the world issued last year, testing the level of investor interest in financing a shift toward cleaner economies
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden blasted Republican efforts to speed through a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, warning that such a process would “inflict irreversible damage” on the country
  • Britain is at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be told on Monday, as concern mounts that a second lockdown may be needed to stop the renewed spread of the disease.
  • The European Central Bank has launched a review of its pandemic bond-buying program to consider how long it should continue and whether its exceptional flexibility should be extended to older programs, the Financial Times reported, citing two Governing Council members that it didn’t identify
  • New Zealand cabinet has confirmed that gathering limits in Auckland will ease from Sept 23 while they will be lifted entirely for the rest of the country tonight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday
  • Oil steadied following its biggest weekly gain since June as a lack of clarity over the global energy demand recovery was balanced by the possibility that Saudi Arabia could press for more OPEC+ output cuts

A quick look at global markets courtesy of NewsSquawk:

Asian equity markets were subdued and US equity futures traded choppy after last Friday’s losses on Wall St amid quadruple witching and continued tech woes, with risk appetite also dampened by holiday conditions as Japanese participants observe a 4-day weekend. ASX 200 (-0.7%) was negative with losses in metal miners and financials underperforming in the broad weakness across its sectors aside from Health Care and Energy, while KOSPI (-1.0%) swung from gains and losses on varied COVID-19 headlines with South Korea to extend level 2 social distancing curbs by an additional week but will also be distributing emergency funds from the 4th extra budget within days. Hang Seng (-2.0%) and Shanghai Composite (-0.6%) were downbeat with HSBC shares slumping to a 25-year low in Hong Kong after a leaked document noted that the bank had permitted GBP 62mln to be moved to Hong Kong in suspicious transactions during 2013-2014 despite being warned by a regulator, while Standard Chartered also declined after being implicated by the ‘FinCEN’ leak, and other reports noted concerns HSBC and Standard Chartered could be frozen out of the US banking system in the event of a further escalation US-China tensions. Elsewhere, Tencent shares were pressured amid uncertainty regarding its US future despite a California judge halting President Trump's ban on WeChat downloads, while weekend news that President Trump gave his blessing to the TikTok-Oracle-Walmart deal, also did little to spur risk appetite.

Top Asian News

  • Hedge Funds Raise Long Aussie Bets to 2018 High on China Rebound
  • Amundi Sanguine on Indonesian Bonds on Attractive Real Yields
  • China Tried to Dramatize Its Handling of the Virus. It Backfired
  • SCG Packaging Seeks to Raise Up to $1.27 Billion in Thai IPO

Stocks in Europe see deep losses across the board (Euro Stoxx 50 -3%) as the region coat-tailed on the downbeat APAC handover before extending on losses amid an intensifying risk averse tone and a number of sector-specific factors. Firstly, Travel & Leisure resides as the marked underperformer as the resurging cases across Europe trigger warning bells for the sector, with some of the region’s worst performers including the likes IAG (-12%), Tui (-8.6%), easyJet (-8.4%), Carnival (-8.0%), Lufthansa (-7.7%) and Ryanair (-7.1%). Secondly, the European banking sector plumbs the depths in light of a leaked US government document accused HSBC (-5%), Standard Chartered (-4.4%), Barclays (-6.2%), Deutsche Bank (-5.6%), JPM (-3.6% premkt) and BNY Mellon (-2.5% premkt) of moving large sums of illegal cash for shady characters and criminal networks. The documents center around the number of SAR's (Suspicious Activity Reports) sent to US authorities between 1999 and 2017. The Basic Resources and Oil & Gas sectors are also among the laggards. As such, the UK’s FTSE 100 (-3.4%) underperforms the region despite a softer Sterling, given its heavy exposure to the aforementioned sectors. In terms of other movers and shakers, United Internet (-24%) and 1&1 Drillisch (-27%) reside as the biggest losers in Europe after cutting their respective FY EBTIDA guidance, whilst their spat with Telefonica (-3.6%) intensified over its subsidiary Telefonica Deutschland (-3.4) being accused of raising user costs significantly from July. Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce (-8.5%) holds onto its losses amid reports that the group is planning to raise as much as GBP 2.5bln to brace itself for another demand decline for aircraft engines. As such, Leonardo (-6.0%) continues falling despite an early halt, whilst Safran (-4.4%) is also pressured in sympathy. Finally, the Norwegian government has proposed that its Sovereign Wealth Fund should invest more within the US stock market and less within Europe.

Top European News

  • Unilever’s Dutch Investors Said to Approve Single Headquarters
  • European Stocks Drop Most Since July as HSBC Leads Bank Slump
  • Sweden Loosens Purse Strings With Virus Stimulus Budget
  • U.K. House Prices Up Most Since 2016 as Britons Seek More Space

In FX, although the Dollar has regained some poise amidst more pronounced risk aversion at the start of a new week, Usd/Jpy continues to decline alongside Yen crosses in the absence of Japanese market participants for ‘Old Age Day’. The headline pair has now breached another key chart if not major technical level in the form of July 31’s 104.20 low and there is little in the way of 104.00 to stop a 250+ pip cumulative fall from this month’s early peaks, especially given another holiday on Tuesday (Autumnal Equinox). However, it remains to be seen whether a 103.00 print provokes some verbal intervention from the MoF, and for now greater safe-haven demand for the Jpy is keeping the Usd index relatively capped beyond 93.000 within a 93.322-92.746 band.

  • AUD/CAD/CHF - All succumbing to the increasingly sour tone and deterioration in broad sentiment as the Aussie loses 0.7300+ status vs its US counterpart, the Loonie retreats through 1.3200 with added fuel from a reversal in crude prices and the Franc falls back below 0.9100, albeit holding above 1.0800 against the Euro following latest weekly Swiss bank sight deposit balances showing perhaps surprise declines ahead of the SNB. Question is, are these coincidental or significant in advance of a more official shift in policy to be revealed at Thursday’s quarterly review?
  • NZD/EUR/GBP - The Kiwi is back-pedalling further from Friday’s near 0.6800 peak vs its US peer and 1.0800+ apex on the Aud/Nzd cross even though NZ PM Adern scaled down the country’s COVID-19 alert level outside of Auckland again, while the Euro is retesting bids/support around 1.1800 and Sterling has recoiled over a big figure to sub-1.2850 on the ongoing rise of the pandemic across Europe.
  • SCANDI/EM - A sea of red as risk assets tumble, while the aforementioned downturn in oil takes a heavier toll on the Norwegian Crown compared to the Swedish Krona that seems to be deriving some traction from upbeat commentary by the nation’s Finance Minister. Similarly, the Yuan is drawing a degree of comfort from a steady PBoC Cny fixing, net liquidity injection and unchanged loan prime rates to offset other less favourable issues like the ongoing Sino-US spat and reports from China’s top infectious disease expert warning that a 2nd wave is inevitable. Conversely, diplomatic strains and the retracement in Brent are undermining the Lira and Rouble again, while the Rand has unwounded all and more of its post-SARB gains.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures continue to decline with losses driven by the broader risk averse sentiment coupled with a firmer Dollar and the prospect of dwindling demand given the resurgence of COVID-19 prompting talks of renewed lockdown measures. Furthermore, on the supply side of the equation, Libya’s NOC said it will lift the force majeure at ports and facilities that were deemed safe, with the gradual return of Libyan oil raising questions in terms of an OPEC quota for the country. WTI Nov resides around USD 40.50/bbl, having declined from a high ~41.50/bbl, whilst Brent Nov hovers just under USD 42.50/bbl vs. a high of USD 43.30/bbl. Another thing to keep on the radar – unconfirmed twitter reports noted that Saudi King Salman is reportedly in a critical condition, albeit nothing has been seen since on this front, with participants likely to dwell on the future of the Kingdom’s oil policy should he be replaced. Elsewhere, precious metal prices succumb to the Dollar, with spot gold now losing ground below the USD 1950/oz mark having traded on either side of the level in APAC hours. Spot silver meanwhile extends losses below USD 26.50/oz after printing a high just shy of USD 27/oz earlier in the session. In terms of base metals, LME copper is pressured by the broader equity sell-off and the firmer Buck, whilst Dalian iron ore futures slipped over 2% amid the soured risk tone and sluggish downstream demand.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, est. 1.2, prior 1.2
  • 12pm: Household Change in Net Worth, prior $6.55t deficit

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

one of the reasons we have a widening bias for credit into year-end ( see our YE outlook here from a couple of weeks back) is that it seemed inevitable to us that we’d see a second wave causing confusion and chaos to many government’s strategies. Well as we sweltered in a pretty hot late September weekend here in the U.K. (and across much of Europe) the fact that the virus is already spreading quite rapidly is a big worry. It doesn’t feel like fatalities are going to be as big as an issue as they were in the first wave but it really is hard to understand what the strategies of governments are at the moment. They pretty much all don’t want a further wide scale lockdown but they also don’t want the virus to spread. Its not going to be easy to solve for both and as such It’s going to be a pretty difficult few months ahead if September is seeing numbers as high as they are already. I personally didn’t think these type of numbers would take place until well into October. Expect lots more restrictions over the days and weeks ahead, especially in Europe.

The latest on virus is that its spread has continued in the Europe with France reporting 37,282 new cases in the last 3 days, the highest since pandemic began. The 7 day average of new cases for France stands at 10,123,versus 8,161 a week ago. Over in the UK, the 3-day number stands at 12,661, the highest since May 9 with Health Secretary Matt Hancock not ruling out that London office employees might have to work from home again this week as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is set to warn on today that the UK is at a “critical point.” Meanwhile, the LBC radio reported yesterday that London Mayor Sadiq Khan will recommend tightened rules for the capital today. Across the other side of world, South Korea reported 70 new cases yesterday, the lowest since the second wave began. However, the country is set to strengthen social distancing rules from September 28 to October 11, which will be designated as special quarantine period as the country celebrates Chuseok holidays from September 30 to October 4. So restrictions are tightening in even successful virus fighting places.

The weekend political press has also been full of news after US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away late Friday night following a long battle with cancer. Afterwards, President Trump said that he would put forth a nominee to fill the seat and Senate Majority Leader McConnell said “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” indicating that Republican leadership will try to fill the seat ahead of the election.This represents a turn in the Majority leader’s thinking from 2016, where he did not allow a floor vote for then-President Obama’s nominee in an election year. The nomination and confirmation process will introduce a new element to an election not least because the court can hold sway over highly contentious issues like healthcare, abortion rights and gun law.

It brings lots of fascinating scenarios to the table. If Trump succeeds at getting his nomination through before the election there will be a 6-3 Republican bias to the Supreme Court which as discussed could have policy ramifications for the US for a generation. Democrats are up in arms that the Republicans won’t wait until after the election and are suggesting that may do extraordinary things to address the balance (like adding new judges to the bench) if they gain control of both the Senate and the White House. Congress altered the size of the bench seven times in the first eighty years of the republic (ranging from 5 to 10 justices) but this has not changed since the Judiciary Act of 1869. However getting the current Senate to confirm a nominee won’t be straight forward for Mr Trump as the GOP only hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate (with Vice President Pence serving as the tie-breaker) and a few members have already made noises that they don’t think a new judge should be added this close to the election. So even more drama added to an election campaign.

Another interesting weekend story is of China revealing how it will manage its “unreliable entity list” that aims to punish firms, organizations or individuals that pose a threat or potential threat to China’s sovereignty, national security, development and business interests; and those that discriminate against or harm Chinese businesses, organizations or individuals. According to details, penalties will include restrictions on trade, investment and visas of any company, country, group or person that appears on its “unreliable entity list.” The Global Times has carried an article that HSBC is a possible candidate and is down -2.91% to the lowest level it has traded since the 2008 financial crisis.

In overall trading, the Hang Seng (-0.95%) is leading the declines this morning not helped by this. Other Asian markets have also started the week on a weak footing with the Shanghai Comp (-0.41%), Kospi (-0.29%) and Asx (-0.54%) all down along with S&P 500 futures (-0.21%). In fx, all G-10 currencies are trading strong against the greenback with the US dollar index down -0.21%.

In other news, the FT reported that the ECB has launched a review of its pandemic bond-buying program to consider how long it should continue and whether its exceptional flexibility should be extended to older programs. The report added that the review is expected to be discussed by policy makers next month.

Looking to this week now, the flash PMIs on Wednesday will probably get the most attention due to it being one of the first glimpses of September economic performance around the world. Economic and social restrictions are mounting again in various places due to the virus but it may be a bit too early to see their impact in these numbers.

It’ll also be worth keeping an eye on Germany’s Ifo survey on Thursday, which has so far been rising each month since its April low, even as it remains below its pre-pandemic level. The consensus is looking for a further increase to 93.8, which would be just 2 points below its level in February.

Meanwhile Fed Chair Powell will be speaking three times before congressional committees. He’ll be appearing tomorrow before the House Financial Services Panel about the CARES Act. Then on Wednesday he’ll be appearing on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, before Thursday sees him speak before the Senate Banking Committee on the CARES Act once again. Otherwise, there’ll be remarks from Fed Vice Chair Quarles on the economic outlook, while Bank of England Governor Bailey will be speaking twice next week.

There’ll also a special European Council summit on Thursday and Friday. As well as taking stock of the Covid-19 pandemic, the agenda includes a discussion of the single market, industrial policy and digital transformation, along with the EU’s external relations. Brexit may get a small mention as relationships between the EU and the U.K. are just about hanging by enough of a thread enough to merit it. The day by day calendar of the week ahead is at the end.

Recapping last week now and equity markets continued to feel the pullback in mega-cap tech stocks. The S&P 500 dropped -0.64% (-1.12% Friday) to six week lows, having declined for a third straight week for the first time since October 2019. The index is now down -7.30% from 2 Sept highs. The NASDAQ also fell a third week in a row itself, declining -0.56% (-1.07% Friday) and is now down -10.48% from recent highs. Meanwhile European equities edged higher for a second straight week with the Stoxx 600 ending the week +0.22% higher (-0.66% Friday). While the broader index rose on the week, many individual bourses across Europe finished lower with the DAX (-0.66%), FTSE 100 (-0.42%), FTSE MIB (-1.49%), CAC 40 (-1.11%) and IBEX (-0.19%) all posting losses as Covid-19 caseloads continue to rise throughout western Europe, prompting some restrictions to be reinstated. Asian equities were mixed with the CSI 300 up +2.37% on the week, while the Nikkei (-0.20%) and the Kospi (+0.66%) saw smaller weekly moves.

Similar to risk assets, core sovereign bonds were mixed on the week. US 10yr Treasury yields rose +2.8bps (+0.5bps Friday) to finish at 0.694%, while 10yr Bund yields were down -0.4bps (+0.6bps Friday) to -0.49% and gilts were largely unchanged (+0.1bps) at 0.18%. The dollar fell -0.44% on the week after rising in 3 of the previous 4 weeks. This in part supported gold’s +0.53% rise on the week, while copper gained +2.62%. However, the largest move in commodities was in oil. Brent (+8.34%) and WTI (+10.13%) rose in part on news that Russia and Saudi Arabia would push their fellow OPEC+ members on keeping to quotas.

On the data front from Friday, UK August retail sales rose more than expected and up +0.6% MoM (+0.4% expected) and +4.3% YoY (+4.2% expected). In Germany, August PPI was -1.2% YoY, up from last month’s -1.7% reading and slightly higher than expected (-1.4%). While in the US, the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan Sentiment survey showed an +4.9pt increase to 78.9 (75.0 expected), which is the highest since March.

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This course asks, ‘What is mindfulness?’ – but don’t expect a clear-cut answer

Mindfulness is everywhere in pop culture today, but that doesn’t mean people agree on what it means.




Practicing mindfulness doesn't have to mean being removed from the world. PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Text saying: Uncommon Courses, from The Conversation

Uncommon Courses is an occasional series from The Conversation U.S. highlighting unconventional approaches to teaching.

Title of course:

“What is Mindfulness?”

What prompted the idea for the course?

As a professor of religion and ethics, particularly Asian traditions, I had already been interested in teaching a course about mindfulness. Its popularity seems to be surging: I see “Mindful” on magazine racks, and almost everyone I’ve met at my university has used the word at some point.

But oftentimes people say to be “mindful” when they mean “pay attention” or “don’t forget”: being “mindful” of a slippery road, say, or telling students to be “mindful of the deadline.” I started wondering what other people meant each time they used the word. This made me realize my course shouldn’t be a lecture about mindfulness, but an opportunity to explore what it is in the first place.

What does the course explore?

The course explores the origins of mindfulness in yoga and Buddhism. Mindful meditation – being attentive to one’s body, feelings and thoughts – is part of one of the Buddha’s central teachings, the Noble Eightfold Path, and considered key to enlightenment.

But we explore the many meanings of “mindfulness” that have emerged in recent decades, too. American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn is credited with popularizing the kind of mindfulness that has caught on with non-Buddhists today, starting with his “mindfulness-based stress reduction” program in the 1970s.

Some people are upset that mindfulness has become too mainstream and fear that it has lost its intended meaning. Buddhism scholar Ronald Purser’s book “McMindfulness,” for example, argues that capitalist societies have embraced mindfulness as a way to put the burden of mental health back on the individual rather than address root problems.

Students in my class read a variety of these perspectives and discuss themes such as mindfulness and mental health, mindful eating and breathing, environmental mindfulness and even meditation apps. In the end, I want each student to decide for themselves what mindfulness is.

A woman in exercise clothes does a yoga pose inside a dark cathedral with stained glass windows.
Mia Michelson-Bartlett, yoga teacher and manager of visitors’ services, practices yoga and mindfulness meditation inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Why is this course relevant now?

I first proposed this course right before the arrival of COVID-19, so when it launched for the first time, we met remotely over Zoom. I was tempted to drop the class after we went remote, but I quickly realized that it might help students who were wrestling with mental health issues at the beginning of the pandemic.

Each student kept a journal of our topics every week to practice mindfulness and to explore some of the therapeutic techniques. First, I asked them to find examples of the word in their everyday experiences – used on a poster at the student rec center, for example.

Later, I asked them to practice breathing and visualization techniques from the influential Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, such as asking yourself every hour “What am I doing?” and reflecting on your mind, emotions and posture.

What’s a critical lesson from the course?

Buddhism changes dramatically depending on “whose” Buddhism you are talking about. The dalai lama’s form of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, is not the same as the Zen Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh.

A row of monks stand next to a small crowd of schoolchildren in uniform as one monk takes a child's hand.
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh reaches for a student’s hand during a meditation walk on a ‘day of mindfulness’ in Hong Kong in 2007. Steve Cray/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

It’s the same with mindfulness. Thirteenth-century Zen master Dōgen taught pupils to seek mindfulness in seated meditation. Five hundred years later, on the other hand, Zen master Hakuin taught mindfulness in the midst of activity – practicing it not just on the meditation pillow, but amid the hustle and bustle of the streets.

All forms of Buddhism, though, focus on transforming suffering into lovingkindness. So teaching this course has persuaded me that if the way you teach mindfulness helps someone, it doesn’t matter if it’s “real” Buddhist mindfulness or not. If pop culture’s version of the concept relieves someone’s suffering, then I don’t want to be a gatekeeper and say, “This is not real mindfulness.”

What will the course prepare students to do?

All of the students in this course are first-semester freshmen. The class began as a way to get them to think critically about what mindfulness is but also offers tools to deal with the stress of college life.

Muscles grow after they heal and rest. The same is true when it comes to learning. Our minds need to take time to breathe, reflect on new information and absorb it.

I also hope students will understand that taking care of oneself can be an act of care for others. Just as on an airplane we are told to put on our own oxygen mask before helping the person next to us, we all need to take care of our own mental health in order to help those around us.

Kevin C. Taylor does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Post-bariatric surgery exercise modulates brain regions associated with regulation of food intake

Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety,…



Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety, for example. This was the result observed in a clinical trial conducted at Hospital das Clínicas (HC), the hospital complex run by the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil. An article on the study, pointing to positive effects of exercise on obesity-related conditions in post-bariatric patients, is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Credit: Carlos Merege Filho

Physical exercise practiced by patients submitted to bariatric surgery acts on brain regions involved in food intake, reducing hunger or accelerating satiety, for example. This was the result observed in a clinical trial conducted at Hospital das Clínicas (HC), the hospital complex run by the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil. An article on the study, pointing to positive effects of exercise on obesity-related conditions in post-bariatric patients, is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study showed that an exercise training program starting three months after bariatric surgery produced functional alterations in brain networks associated with food intake and modified by obesity. The findings confirm the hypothesis that exercise and bariatric surgery act synergistically on the connectivity among brain regions associated with cognition, reward and emotional regulation, potentially moderating hunger and enhancing satiety.

According to the article, exercise increased the connectivity between the hypothalamus (the brain region that controls homeostasis, including regulation of appetite and energy expenditure) and the brain’s sensory areas. At the same time, it apparently decreased the link between the default mode network, which is more active during a resting state, and the salience network, the brain region involved in decision-making.

The researchers also found that exercise after bariatric surgery appeared to modulate the medial hypothalamic nucleus involved in appetite suppression and increased energy expenditure.

“The regulation of energy expenditure is governed by multiple internal and external signals. People with obesity display major dysregulation of brain regions associated with appetite and satiety. Our study showed that exercise by post-bariatric patients helped ‘normalize’ these complex networks so as to improve the central control of food intake. For example, some of these regions are activated and connect more intensely in people with obesity when they eat fatty or sugary food, increasing their desire to consume such food. We found that exercise counteracts this effect, at least in part,” Bruno Gualano, last author of the article, told Agência FAPESP. Gualano is a professor at FM-USP.

The study was supported by FAPESP via a research grant for the project “Effects of exercise training in patients undergoing bariatric surgery: a randomized clinical trial” and was part of the PhD research of Carlos Merege Filho, first author of the article, with a scholarship from FAPESP. The co-authors included Hamilton RoschelMarco Aurélio SantoSônia BruckiClaudia da Costa LeiteMaria Concepción García Otaduy and Mariana Nucci (all of whom are affiliated with HC-FM-USP); and John Kirwan of Pennington Biomedical Center (USA).

Considered one of the world’s main public health problems, obesity is a chronic disease characterized by excessive body fat accumulation and a major risk factor for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as severe COVID-19. The parameter used for diagnosis in adults is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms divided by height squared in meters. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates overweight, while 30 or more signals obesity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Brazil has one of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world. According to projections, almost 30% of the adult population will be obese in 2030. A billion people, or 17.5% of the world’s adult population, will be obese by then, according to the World Obesity Atlas 2022 published by the World Obesity Federation.


From the clinical standpoint, Gualano believes, the findings suggest that exercise should be considered an important complementary therapy to improve brain functions and enhance the known benefits of bariatric surgery, such as a reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors, as well as preservation of muscle mass and bone health.

He and his group have been conducting research in this field since 2018, as evidenced by other publications, one of which showed that exercise attenuated and reversed loss of muscle mass, improving muscle strength and function in post-bariatric patients. Genotypic and phenotypic analysis evidenced metabolic and structural remodeling of skeletal muscle.

In another study, exercise reduced risk factors for diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), by increasing sensitivity to insulin, combating inflammation and improving the health of blood vessels.


The randomized clinical trial reported in the International Journal of Obesity involved 30 women aged between 18 and 60 who had been submitted at HC-FM-USP’s bariatric surgery unit to a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which creates a small stomach pouch to restrict food intake and bypasses a large portion of the small intestine to limit calorie absorption. A majority of patients admitted to the unit are women. 

Half the study sample were randomly assigned to a six-month exercise program of resistance and aerobic training three times a week, starting three months after the operation and supervised by a team of physical education professionals.

Clinical, laboratory and brain functional connectivity parameters were assessed at the start of the trial, as a baseline, and again three and nine months after the operation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to detect connectivity between anatomically distinct brain areas organized as networks, and to analyze the combined effects of the surgical procedure and exercise training. Data collection began in June 2018 and ended in August 2021.

“The literature has already shown that post-bariatric patients have many brain alterations compatible with improved control of appetite, satiety and hunger in neural circuits that govern food intake. Our study found that exercise training bolstered this response,” Gualano said, noting the importance of lifestyle changes to maintain the benefits of weight loss for people with obesity.

Bariatric surgery can currently be performed on patients with a BMI of between 30 and 35 and type 2 diabetes that has not been controlled for more than two years, and patients with a BMI over 35 who have other diseases associated with overweight, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea or hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease). For people with comorbidities, the recommended BMI is over 40.

In the past five years, 311,850 bariatric surgeries have been performed in Brazil; 14.1% were paid for by the SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde), the national health service. The rest were covered by insurance policies or paid for privately, according to the Brazilian Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Society (SBCBM).

“Regular exercise is known to induce several physiological adaptations that translate into health benefits. These benefits are reversed if the patient stops exercising regularly. Our study didn’t measure the duration of the brain changes induced by exercise, however. They’re highly likely to diminish and possibly even go into reverse as the amount and intensity of exercise decrease. It’s crucial to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order for the responses to bariatric surgery to be long-lasting,” Gualano said.

Next steps for the research group will include studying the effects in people with obesity of exercise and diet combined with other weight loss strategies, including new drugs such as peptide analogs or incretin mimetics, a class of medications commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. Incretins are gut hormones that aid digestion and blood sugar control by signaling to the brain to stop eating after a meal.

In early January, the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) approved semaglutide as an anti-obesity drug for long-term weight management. The drug had previously been approved only for patients with type 2 diabetes. It is the first injectable anti-obesity medication available in Brazil and is supposed to be administered once a week. It is said to enhance satiety, modulate appetite and control blood sugar. 

About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at and visit FAPESP news agency at to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at

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The CeMM & Angelini Ventures Healthy Lifespan Expansion Initiative

CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion…



CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion initiatives leveraging a novel academic/entrepreneurial dual-track program. De Rooij and Rendeiro, in collaboration with their teams, will lead an original research program on healthy lifespan expansion.  In parallel, they will collaborate on venture creation based on scientific and business insights developed by their work. Venture creation and related business development activities will take place along with scientific research.  The expectation is that this double-track initiative will allow for virtuous feedback cycles, propelling innovation through scientific research and bold venture creation goals.

Credit: CeMM

CeMM and Angelini Ventures are joining forces to support CeMM Principal Investigators Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro in critical lifespan expansion initiatives leveraging a novel academic/entrepreneurial dual-track program. De Rooij and Rendeiro, in collaboration with their teams, will lead an original research program on healthy lifespan expansion.  In parallel, they will collaborate on venture creation based on scientific and business insights developed by their work. Venture creation and related business development activities will take place along with scientific research.  The expectation is that this double-track initiative will allow for virtuous feedback cycles, propelling innovation through scientific research and bold venture creation goals.

(Vienna, 22 March 2023) Some societal challenges are of such importance to assume the central stage in the public discourse on sustainability and the future of humanity. Such a challenge is aging. Aging is a multidimensional phenomenon, occurring at the individual and population levels of society and on the molecular, cellular, and organ level of the human body. The urgency of dealing with the consequences of aging is illustrated by the fact that in just over ten years from now, more than a third of the population of Italy, one of the world’s most rapidly aging countries, will be over 65 years of age. Expanding the lifespan in which individuals enjoy a healthy status, in which they can be independent and productive, is critical for economic, social, and cultural reasons.

The fundamental mechanisms of aging, at the molecular, cellular, and tissue level, are still unclear and most single theories fail to explain the phenomenon. Scientific leaders are increasingly interested in combining cutting-edge research with immediate value creation and effective societal impact. Laura de Rooij and André Rendeiro will be supported by a network of mentors and experts. At CeMM, the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the team will benefit from access to faculty peers, the center’s scientific leadership, a scientific advisory board, and the biotech ventures built in CeMM’s ecosystem of spinoffs. Through Angelini Ventures, the team will be supported to ideate and develop viable start-up companies emerging from their work and have access to an international network of investors, healthcare experts, and industry innovators.


“The Angelini Ventures team is delighted to partner with CeMM to collaborate on accelerating lifespan expansion research and venture creation. We believe this type of collaboration is the connective tissue between innovation and entrepreneurship. By combining our venture creation capabilities with the breakthrough research from CEMM, we can accelerate the pace of healthcare transformation,” says Paolo Di Giorgio, Chief Executive Officer of Angelini Ventures.

“CeMM is proud to pioneer a new training, research, and innovation method meant to foster a novel generation of professionals familiar with both the research and business worlds. In addition to expecting commercial success, the desired outcome is to create leaders able to inspire a new generation of scientists. Our goal is for the dual track of scientific research and business development to expand beyond the CeMM-Angelini network,” says CeMM Scientific Director Giulio Superti-Furga.


About the Principal Investigators

Laura de Rooij joined CeMM as principal investigator in September 2022. Her lab focuses on deciphering the transcriptomic landscape and role of circulating endothelial cells in health and aging. Laura de Rooij studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She then joined the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton (Canada), where she studied the role of RNA binding proteins in leukemic stem cells via an in vivo two-step CRISPR-Cas9-mediated screening approach. For her post-doctoral studies, she returned to Europe to work under the mentorship of Prof. Carmeliet in the lab of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism at VIB-KU Leuven (Belgium). Here she led and contributed to numerous single-cell transcriptome atlases of endothelial cells, generated from a diverse range of tissues, preclinical models, and clinical patient material in health and disease. Her studies have shed new light on the degree of vessel subtype heterogeneity in different tissues, as well as the altered composition and rewired molecular circuitries of endothelial cell subtypes in disease. Moreover, her efforts led to the discovery of previously unknown vascular subtypes and functions, including endothelial cells with a lipid-processing phenotype and potential prognostic relevance in breast cancer, and endothelial cells with a putative pro-fibrotic function in COVID-19. At CeMM, her lab focuses on deciphering the transcriptomic landscape and role of circulating endothelial cells in health and aging.
Read more about Laura de Rooij’s research

André Rendeiro is a Principal Investigator at CeMM since June 2022. He leads a group studying how cells interact to generate complex physiology in the human body, and how this changes over the lifespan of individuals and gives rise to disease. To do that, his group develops computational methods for the analysis of spatial data (spatial transcriptomics, highly multiplexed imaging, histopathological images), and its integration with various modalities of molecular, demographic, and clinical data of individuals along their lifespan. Prior to starting his group, André studied in Portugal, Austria, and Norway and earned his PhD in Molecular Medicine at CeMM in Vienna. During his PhD he developed methods for high-throughput cellular profiling and perturbation at single-cell resolution, applying them to leukemia, in the lab of Christoph Bock at CeMM. Between 2020 and 2022 he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute for Precision Medicine and the Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. There he developed computational methods for the analysis of highly-multiplexed imaging that incorporate expression, morphology, micro-anatomy, and clinical covariates, in the lab of Olivier Elemento. He led the first tissue-level, single-cell resolution maps of lung pathology during COVID-19, and also contributed to the study of cancer, lung development, and disease, as well as COVID-19 immunology.
Read more about André Rendeiro’s research

The CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is an international, independent, and interdisciplinary research institution for molecular medicine under the scientific direction of Giulio Superti-Furga. CeMM is oriented toward medical needs and integrates basic research and clinical expertise to develop innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for precision medicine. Research focuses on cancer, inflammation, metabolic and immune disorders, and rare diseases. The Institute’s research building is located on the campus of the Medical University and the Vienna General Hospital.

Angelini Ventures, the venture capital arm of Angelini Industries, is an early-stage investment firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in digital health and life sciences. The group will invest €300M across a global portfolio led by investment professionals and advisors in Europe, North America, and Asia. Angelini Ventures has deep domain expertise and leverages a global team, advisors, and strategic partners to help entrepreneurs scale their businesses into transformative category-leading companies.

Angelini Industries is a multinational industrial group originally founded in Ancona (Italy) in 1919 by Francesco Angelini. Today it is a solid, structured industrial business with around 5,800 employees operating in 21 countries.  Angelini Industries operates in the health, industrial technology, and consumer goods businesses. Its investment strategy aimed at growth, constant commitment to research and development, and deep knowledge of markets and business sectors make Angelini Industries an Italian leader in the industries in which it operates.  The group is committed to reducing its environmental impact and finding increasingly cutting-edge circular economy solutions. It adopts the most advanced health and safety standards for workers and the most rigorous processes to ensure the highest quality by verifying the entire supply chain: from supplier certification to the control of raw materials, the production process, the finished product, and packaging, to spot checks at the point of sale.  For over 100 years, the Angelini family has steered the development of Angelini Industries with an entrepreneurial style typical of Italian family businesses.

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