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Global Stocks Slide After Fed Minutes Disappoint

Global Stocks Slide After Fed Minutes Disappoint



Global Stocks Slide After Fed Minutes Disappoint Tyler Durden Thu, 08/20/2020 - 08:03

US equity futures, Asian and European markets fell on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest meeting minutes did not guide to more easing or hint at yield curve control while highlighting doubts about the recovery of the world’s largest economy which knocked the S&P500 from its record highs, although sentiment got a modest boost overnight after China announced it had agreed with the US to resume trade talks "in the coming days" to evaluate the progress of their Phase 1 trade deal.

Among early movers, Nvidia Corp slipped 1.1% in premarket trade after results from the data center business of the rising semiconductor industry star disappointed some investors. Intel Corp rose 4% after announcing an accelerated $10-billion share buyback plan. L Brands rose 1.3% after reporting a surprise quarterly profit, boosted by strong demand for Bath & Body Works’ products as well as higher online sales of Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

Markets stumbled after the Fed’s minutes from its July meeting highlighted doubts about the U.S. economic recovery, showing that the swift labor market rebound seen in May and June had likely slowed. "Of course, the Fed agreed that the virus is weighing heavily on the economy: is that some kind of surprise? Apparently it was," Rabobank’s global strategist Michael Every wrote in a note to clients.

Yet despite the overall dovish sentiment, U.S. Treasury yields and the dollar surged with investors focusing on parts of the minutes that showed policymakers downplaying the need for yield caps and targets, nor did they hint at any additional QE.

"There is still a fair amount of uncertainty around the path of the coronavirus, through the flu season, and what that may mean for economic growth,” Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Northern Trust, said on Bloomberg TV. “Stocks are somewhat expensive here - we struggle to get to a meaningful positive return on stocks over the next year just because we’ve priced in so much of a recovery already."

As Bloomberg notes, equities in several continents are seeing fresh weakness as investors debate whether momentum that pushed the S&P 500 to a record high this week can be sustained amid lofty valuations and delays in further stimulus to counter the pandemic. While France, Spain and Austria reported the highest daily infections in months, cases have subsided in a few populous U.S. states. Weekly unemployment figures are due in Washington later Thursday.

"The key question for investors is whether the policy responses are enough to mitigate the economic damage,” hedge fund firm Brevan Howard said in an interim report published on Thursday.  "Many businesses face solvency risks that are not addressed by borrowing; a debt overhang cannot be cured by more borrowing no matter how cheap it may be,” the fund’s report added.

“Improved financial conditions are narrowly focused on a handful of large companies and benefiting stakeholders who need relatively little economic assistance. The result is that financial assets are expensive by many standard metrics. So long as a V-shaped recovery in risky assets fails to create a V-shaped recovery in economic activity, this tension is a recipe for increased volatility."

The MSCI world equity index was also impacted, sliding 0.6% early on Thursday. The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.9% and London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.8%. European equities slumped following a downbeat Asian session. Eurostoxx 50 dropped as much as 1.5%, with the CAC lagging peers. Miners, banking names and financial services are the worst performing sectors; real estate manages small gains

Earlier in the session, MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had its biggest daily decline in five weeks. All markets in the region were down, with South Korea's Kospi Index dropping 3.7% and Taiwan's Taiex Index falling 3.3%. The Topix declined 0.9%, with Carta Holdings Inc and Mitani Sekisan falling the most. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 1.3%, with Junzheng Energy and Yijiahe Tech posting the biggest slides. Hong Kong stocks fell for a second session as the U.S. suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and ended reciprocal tax treatment with the former British colony.

In FX, the dollar index was choppy overnight after yesterday's sharp spike but appeared to resume rolling over following the news the US and China had agreed to resume trade talks.

Elsewhere, the euro fluctuated ahead of the release of the ECB meeting’s minutes, and the Norwegian Krone slipped after Norges Bank announced it will probably keep interest rates at a record low for "some time ahead." The Turkish lira tumbled after the central bank kept rates on hold. The CBRT also increased required FX reserves ratio for banks that meet growth target by 700bps for all maturities for precious metal repo accounts; all other RRR for FX raised by 200bps.

Treasuries reversed their Wednesady slump and were higher across the curve, led by the long end, amid gains for most developed sovereign bond markets and declines for equities globally. Yields are lower by about 4bp at long end, 10-year by ~3bp at 0.65%, flattening 2s10s and 5s30s curves by ~2bp; S&P 500 futures are lower after cash index Wednesday declined from a record high. 20-year yield is lower by 3bp at 1.165%. The new 20-year bond, which got a cool reception at Wednesday’s auction, is trading at a profit, as are the new 10-year and 30-year issues sold last week. This week’s final auction, a $7b 30-year TIPS reopening, is ahead at 1pm ET.

Germany’s benchmark 10-year Bund yield was at -0.473%, little changed after falling for the past four days in a row. Three-month Euribor fell to a record low, less than four months after rising to a four-year high, helped by the ECB’s policy to provide lenders with cheap loans in response to the economic damage of the pandemic.

In commodities, spot gold rebounded overnight, after declining to a near one-week low on Wednesday, when markets were more bullish. It was up 0.6% at $1,940.4478 per ounce. Oil prices fell, as major producers warned of a risk to demand recovery. OPEC and its allies pressed oil nations that are pumping above output targets to cut more in August to September. Brent crude was down 32 cents, or 0.7%, at $45.05 a barrel while WTI was down 38 cents, or 0.9%, at $42.55 a barrel.

Overnight, U.S. Congressional leaders hinted they were looking for a path toward reviving stalled talks on the next round of pandemic relief - even as both sides remain far from a deal. Any accord is still likely to wait until September despite the fact that the U.S. economy is limping along with many businesses still struggling and millions of Americans out of work.

On the day's calendar, data from the Labor Department, due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT), is expected to show the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits dipped to 925,000 in the week ended Aug. 15.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.4% to 3,360.00
  • Brent futures down 0.8% to $45.00/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,934.33
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.3% to 93.16
  • Stoxx Europe 600 down 1.4% to 364.59
  • MXAP down 1.6% to 169.27
  • MXAPJ down 1.8% to 557.36
  • Nikkei down 1% to 22,880.62
  • Topix down 0.9% to 1,599.20
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.5% to 24,791.39
  • Shanghai Composite down 1.3% to 3,363.90
  • Sensex down 1.2% to 38,160.20
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.8% to 6,120.02
  • Kospi down 3.7% to 2,274.22
  • German 10Y yield fell 1.2 bps to -0.484%
  • Euro down 0.2% to $1.1818
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 1.3 bps to 0.788%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 1.1 bps to 0.303%

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • U.S. central bankers backed off in July from an earlier readiness to set a clearer bar for raising interest rates, a step that would underscore their commitment to an extended period of ultra-loose monetary policy
  • Coronavirus infections flared in Europe, with France and Spain reporting their biggest increases in months. South Korea confirmed 288 more cases, while Hong Kong’s outbreak showed signs of easing
  • French president Emmanuel Macron ruled out shutting down the country once again even as the virus resurges across several European nations. He said the “collateral damage of confinement is considerable”. Cases in France were up 3,776, the most in three months, while Spain recorded 3,715 new infections. Germany recorded more than 1,000 new infections for the third day in a row.
  • Russia’s opposition leader Alexey Navalny is in intensive care in “serious condition” with suspected poisoning. Navalny is Russia’s most prominent opponent to Vladimir Putin.
  • As Brexit trade talks approach their deadline, the European Union’s top markets regulator called for rule changes that could limit firms’ ability to manage money in the bloc from London.
  • China and the U.S. will hold talks in the near term to discuss the progress of their trade deal, Beijing said, without mentioning a precise date, after last week’s call was postponed.
  • Three-month Euribor fell to a record low, less than four months after rising to a four-year high, helped by the ECB’s policy to provide lenders with cheap loans in response to the economic damage of the pandemic.
  • The U.S. suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and ended reciprocal tax treatment on shipping with the former British colony, the latest salvo in escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing
  • President Donald Trump said he would call on the United Nations Security Council to restore all nuclear- related sanctions on Iran, an attempt to kill off the 2015 nuclear agreement and force Tehran back to the negotiating table
  • OPEC+ kept up the pressure on Nigeria and Iraq to stop cheating on their crude-production targets, emphasizing the need for all members to stick closely to their agreement because the market recovery remains fragile
  • Kamala Harris, the California senator Joe Biden selected as his running mate, opened the third night of the Democrats’ virtual convention by urging the party to defy what she called a Republican effort to suppress their votes

Asian equity markets traded lower across the board amid headwinds from Wall St where stocks faltered in the aftermath of the less accommodative than expected FOMC Minutes which triggered a pullback in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq from record highs, while Apple shares also retraced the majority of the early gains that had briefly pushed the tech giant to the unprecedented USD 2tln market cap status. ASX 200 (-0.8%) was pressured by a slate of weak earnings and with underperformance seen in energy names, while Nikkei 225 (-1.0%) retreated below the 23,000 level with Tokyo exporters dragged by a predominantly firmer currency. Hang Seng (-1.5%) and Shanghai Comp. (-1.3%) conformed to the downbeat tone after the US State Department either suspended or terminated three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong and reports also suggested the likelihood of a RRR cut this year has declined with the central bank expected to inject liquidity through reverse repos and MLF operations instead. In addition, the PBoC maintained the 1-year and 5-year Loan Prime Rates at 3.85% and 4.65% as expected, while there were reports US and Chinese trade negotiators plan to confer by video in the coming days regarding the Phase 1 trade deal progress and US actions against Chinese tech firms, although this failed to provide any support for stocks. Finally, 10yr JGBs were initially kept afloat by the risk averse tone but with the upside restricted following the post-FOMC pressure in T-notes and with participants sidelined heading into the 5yr JGB auction which turned out to a be a weaker than previous auction and subsequently weighed on prices.

Top Asian News

  • Saudi Support for 2002 Plan Shows It Won’t Copy UAE-Israel Pact
  • RBL Bank to Raise $209 Million With Preference Share Sale
  • Thailand Arrests Leaders of Protests Challenging the Monarchy
  • Philippines Central Bank Pauses After Series of Rate Cuts

European equities trade lower across the board (Eurostoxx 50 -1.3%) as market participants digest the fallout of the FOMC minutes which were judged to be less dovish than some had hoped for. Furthermore, geopolitical tensions have been ratcheted up once again in the wake of comments from US Secretary of State Pompeo who warned that the US will hold China and Russia accountable if they attempt to block sanctions snapback on Iran. Separate reports have noted that US and Chinese trade negotiators plan to confer by video in the coming days over Phase One progress, however, no date has been set yet and expectations for the call, should it take place, will likely be relatively low. In terms of the tone of the market in Europe, all sectors trade in the red, with some of the more defensive sectors such as health care and utilities faring slightly better than peers, but ultimately still lower on the day. Basic resources are a laggard in the region following recent declines in both precious and base metals and post-Antofagasta (-4.8%) earnings with the Co. reporting a 22.4% decline in H1 core earnings amid the COVID-19 crisis; note, the Co. will nonetheless pay an interim dividend. Somewhat of a divergence has been seen in the travel & leisure sector with airlines such as IAG (-4.8%), Ryanair (-3.1%) and easyJet (-2.3%) lower as the UK is set to further expand its list of countries which will force travelers to self-isolate upon return. Conversely, hotel names are faring slightly better with Accor (+0.7%) and InterContinental Hotels (+1.0%) supported by reports in French media suggesting that the former could put in a bid for the latter. Elsewhere, as part of a more anti-cyclical bias, banks and auto names are faring relatively poorly this morning, for banks-specifically, some of the laggards are predominantly Spanish names, which could be a reflection of mounting COVID-19 cases in the nation.

Top European News

  • Schaeffler Looks to Raise $1.5 Billion Amid Pandemic Fallout
  • Swedish Match Misrepresented Oral Nicotine, Lawmakers Say
  • Macron Rules Out Shutdown as Europe Grapples With Virus Upsurge
  • Adyen Clinches Wirecard Clients During Online Shopping Boom

In FX, the DXY index oscillates on either side of 93.000 in the aftermath of the FOMC minutes - which pushed back on expectations that further policy action will arrive soon as it indicated that members are not inclined to a forward guidance change and YCC. The release propped up the broader Dollar and index back above the 93.000 mark to a high (yesterday) at 93.059, but thereafter trickled back below the figure as the dust settled in early European hours. The index has since regained traction and printed a fresh intraday peak just under 93.200. with the 21 DMA in proximity at 93.336. US stimulus talks will likely regain focus alongside US-Sino developments, whilst US Philly Fed and the weekly initial and continuing jobless claims, and Fed non-voter Daly are on today’s docket.

  • AUD, NZD, CAD, GBP, EUR - All softer against the Buck to various degrees, with the non-US Dollars taking their cue from the subdued risk tone across the market, with the antipodeans bearing the brunt of the pressure. AUD/USD remains sub-0.7200 having had dipped below its 21 DMA (0.7165) in early European trade, whilst the NZD/USD meanders around its 50 DMA (0.6550) after side-lining comments from RBNZ Assistant Governor Hawkesby whose speech largely proved to be a rehash of recent communication. The Loonie also see modest weakness, albeit fares better than its antipodean counterparts, with USD/CAD matching Tuesday’s high around 1.3231 but remaining contained within a tight band ahead of BoC Deputy Governor Beaudry’s panel discussion later today.  The core European FX trade in tandem with the Dollar. EUR/USD is edging closer towards 1.1800 to the downside from 1.1868 at best ahead of its 21 DMA at 1.1789 as trades eye the release of the ECB Minutes (Full preview available in the Research Suite). EUR/GBP resides around its 50 DMA (0.9034) having had printed a current parameter of 0.9030-69. Note: EUR/USD sees several large option expiries for today’s NY cut, including EUR 833mln at 1.1800, EUR 2.2bln between 1.1840-50 and 1.4bln at 1.1900.
  • NOK, SEK - The Norwegian Crown saw little immediate reaction upon the release of the Norges Bank decision, which kept rates unchanged and reiterated forward guidance as expected with focus turning to the September update for a possible tweak to the repo path. The NOK however is weaker on the day but more so a function of the risk tone across the market, with EUR/NOK closer to the top of its current parameter 10.5380-5940, albeit faring better than its Swedish counterpart which sees more pronounced losses despite the Swedish unemployment rate printing below forecasts. EUR/SEK continues gaining above 10.3000 with a current high of 10.3380.
  • CHF, JPY - Both modestly firmer against the USD as the risk averse tone persists during early EU hours, with EUR/CHF straddling around the 1.0800 (vs. 1.0842 at best) mark whilst USD/JPY encounters a barrier at 106.00 to the downside from a high of 106.21.
  • EM - EM FX conforms to the overall risk tone with broad-based losses seen across most pairs. USD/TRY gears up for the CBRT’s rate decision where no change is expected to the One-Week Repo rate amid a number of “backdoor” policy tightening measures taken up by the bank to stem the Lira’s freefall, although some have flagged the possibly of hikes to its overnight lending rate alongside its late liquidity window, currently at 9.75% and 11.25% respectively. Meanwhile, the CNH remains resilient to broader USD action after the PBoC left its LPR setting unchanged, whilst Chinese press noted that  the likelihood of the PBoC lowering RRR this year has declined, with the central bank expected to inject liquidity through reverse repos and MLF.
  • RBNZ Assistant Governor Hawkesby said the balance sheet will continue to expand as it supports the economy while the size and composition of the balance sheet will become a more active instrument for monetary policy decisions. Furthermore, Hawkesby added that it is not necessarily the case that the central bank's balance sheets should revert to their former levels  and reiterated the view that a lower or negative OCR, funding for lending programme, foreign asset purchases and interest rate swaps remain possible options. (Newswires)

In commodities, WTI and Brent October futures hold onto modest losses in the aftermath of the FOMC-induced USD strength and the fallout of the JMMC meeting – which in a nutshell reaffirmed the commitments to the OPEC+ deal, made no recommendations for changes to the output target and emphasised the importance of compliance; laggards set to submit their over-compliance plans to the JMMC by August 28th. Note, Argus media citing delegates stated that OPEC+ needs a cumulative 2.3bln BPD of cuts over the next two months to make up for the stragglers’ shortfalls, albeit journalists with access to the ministers’ memo of the meeting say there is no such mention. WTI October meanders around USD 42.75/bbl (vs. high 42.98/bbl) while its Brent counterpart trades on either side of USD 45/bbl (vs. high 45.18/bbl). Elsewhere, spot gold and silver remain impaired by post-FOMC losses sub-USD 1950/oz and below USD 28/oz respectively as a firmer Dollar persists, having had traded within a USD 25/oz intraday range thus far. In terms of base metals, LME copper prices remain subdued by the Dollar and as the red metals track the equity sell-off, whilst Dalian iron ore futures ended the overnight session lower by over 1% against the same backdrop.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook, est. 20.8, prior 24.1
  • 8:30am: Initial Jobless Claims, est. 920,000, prior 963,000; Continuing Claims, est. 15m, prior 15.5m
  • 9:45am: Bloomberg Economic Expectations, prior 38.5; Bloomberg Consumer Comfort, prior 43.7
  • 10am: Leading Index, est. 1.1%, prior 2.0%

DB's Craid Nicol concludes the overnight wrap

The repetitiveness of virus, fiscal and geopolitical headlines was finally put to one side yesterday with last night’s FOMC minutes offering an insight into the latest thinking over at the Fed. The minutes showed a Fed that aimed to wrap up its review in the ‘near future’ - most likely at the September meeting - though did not see a massive urgency to provide additional monetary accommodation. Neither were there any clues about imminent changes in either the size of composition of QE. The minutes also showed that officials were unenthusiastic about yield curve control, with our economists continuing to expect the Fed to move towards average inflation targeting. See our US economists’ full recap on the minutes here.

The minutes had enough in them to see equities make a decent U-turn. By the close of play the S&P 500 finished -0.44%, falling -0.71% in the last two hours of the session after the release. The NASDAQ also lost -0.57%, however not before Apple’s market cap had briefly passed the $2tn mark for the first time ever – the first US company to do so. Keep in mind that Apple’s market cap dipped below $1tn on March 23rd. So that works out to over $6.7bn of value added for every business day since, which is staggering. For context it took four decades for Apple to reach a $1tn market cap in 2018.

The dollar has been moving in a hurry in recent weeks too however yesterday did see a large reversal of some of the recent weakness with the dollar index bouncing back +0.67%. Half the move came after the minutes were released and it’s held onto gains overnight too. As for rates, 10y yields ended the session +1.1bps having traded a touch lower going into in the minutes although they have reversed much of that move overnight. The same goes for the bear steepening which was a big talking point last week, with 2s10s up +1.3bps and 5s30s up +2.4bps yesterday but curves flatter this morning.

This morning in Asia markets are following Wall Street’s lead with the Nikkei (-0.88%), Hang Seng (-2.11%), Shanghai Comp (-1.08%), Kospi (-2.93%) and ASX (-0.91%) all in the red. The move for the Kospi hasn’t been helped by the latest virus data in South Korea, with a reported 288 cases in the past 24 hours. Meanwhile, reports that the US has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and ended reciprocal tax treatment on shipping also isn’t helping broad sentiment this morning, as is the news that President Trump is calling on the UN to renew all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. Futures on the S&P 500 are also down -0.64% while spot gold and silver prices are up +1.15% and +1.88% respectively.

Back to yesterday, where some of the focus was on earnings in the US retail sector – notably from Target, Lowe’s and TJX. The former’s shares were the best performing in the S&P, jumping +12.65% after reporting both record profit and sales last quarter. Lowe’s share price was up a much more modest +0.30%. Even though the home improvement store beat sales growth expectations, the stock was dragged lower with the overall index over the course of the day. TJX was down -5.33% after announcing that they expect sales this quarter will fall over -20%, as the business model is more geared to in-store purchases rather than online.

In other news, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said yesterday on fiscal discussions that “the outlook for a skinny deal is better than it’s ever been, and we’re still not there”. That followed the comments from Pelosi who suggested there could be a meet in the middle near term solution and a Bloomberg story which suggested that the Trump administration sees a possibility for the two sides to agree on a pared-down $500bn deal that would omit the biggest areas of disappointment for now. The question remains whether the market would see this as enough and whether it would be enough to filter through the economy and into late summer/early fall economic data.

Meanwhile, in emerging markets the Turkish lira rallied after reports yesterday that the country had made an energy discovery in the Black Sea, which was most likely natural gas. We don’t have the full details yet, but the market reaction was notable, with the currency strengthening by +1.17% against the US dollar. Other Turkish assets similarly rallied, with the country’s BIST 100 equity index up +2.95%. Turkey is likely to be in the headlines again today with a monetary policy decision expected later. Our economists are anticipating a hike in the 1w repo rate to an above-consensus 10.0%.

As for the rest of markets yesterday, in Europe the STOXX 600 closed up +0.65% while European banks rallied +2.04%. That was despite bond markets in Europe closing down 1-2bps. In commodities Gold ended -3.67% lower as the dollar rallied, while WTI oil was -0.23%. Finally, in credit markets both HY and IG spreads were little changed in both the US and Europe. On that note, this week we published a report titled “Is duration risk the new credit risk in IG”, specifically looking at the impact of a pick-up in long dated issuance in the US IG market and the subsequent shift that has had in terms of spread duration. See the full note here.

Wrapping things up, in terms of data yesterday, there was a big upward surprise in the UK’s CPI reading, which came in at +1.0% in July (vs. +0.6% expected), whilst core CPI also surprised to the upside at +1.8%. It was the reverse picture in Canada however, where July’s CPI fell to +0.1% (vs. +0.5% expected). Finally, we also had the World Trade Organization’s Goods Trade Barometer, which fell to its lowest since data began back in 2007 at 84.5, below the baseline value of 100 and -18.6 points lower than at the same point a year ago.

To the day ahead now, and there are a number of data highlights from the US, including the weekly initial jobless claims, the leading index for July, as well as August’s Philadelphia Fed business outlook. Over in Europe, we’ll get the latest ECB minutes from their July meeting, as well as the German PPI reading for July. On the central bank front, there’s also a monetary policy decision from the Central Bank of Turkey, as well as remarks from San Francisco Fed President Daly. Finally, the Democratic convention will wrap up tonight, with their presidential candidate Joe Biden due to speak.

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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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