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“How Far Will The Fed Let Stocks Rally Before It’s Simply Too Much?”

"How Far Will The Fed Let Stocks Rally Before It’s Simply Too Much?"

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"How Far Will The Fed Let Stocks Rally Before It's Simply Too Much?" Tyler Durden Tue, 06/16/2020 - 11:20

A giant disconnect has emerged in what was formerly known as the "market" before the Fed took over: as highlighted in the latest BofA Fund Manager Survey, on one hand Wall Street professionals are extremely skeptical of the rally, with a record 78% of respondents saying the market is overvalued...

... and more than half confident the recent surge is just a bear market rally.

At the same time, hedge fund net equity exposure soared to 52% from 34%, highest since Sept’18 and one of the highest levels on record, as hedge funds chased retail investors into risk assets.

Why this apparent schizophrenia? There is simple answer, one which BMO's rates strategist Ian Lyngen today encapsulates as "a great question", and boils down to this: "how far will the Fed let stocks rally before it’s simply too much?" and one which unfortunately nobody knows the answer to: after all, the Fed has now fully embraced the bubble and as Powell said last week, liquidity will continue to be injected as long as it "preserves" jobs even if it means pushing risk assets to nosebleed bubble levels. And while nobody knows what is in Powell's mind, here is Lyngen's attempt to answer this "great question."

The Fed’s lack of ability to generate demand side inflation has been a disconnect between the traditional monetary policy framework and the actual results for years; long before the pandemic gripped global markets. The near-term disinflationary headwinds will occupy policymakers for much of the balance of 2020 and our expectation is that a reliance on asset-price inflation will remain thematic.

This dynamic has played out since global equities bottomed in mid-March and with the S&P 500 futures breaking above 3100 overnight it’s a difficult relationship to fade in the current environment. The reliance on financial conditions as guide for the Fed and the correlation between the VIX and the FCI leaves the Powell Put as effectively a permanent market feature.

As an astute client asked ‘how far will the Fed let stocks rally before it’s simply too much?’  Alas, another brilliant inquiry to which we can only sheepishly shrug our shoulders, cast our eyes downward, and respond ‘that’s a great question’.

At some point the systemic risk from overheated equity valuations will trump the Fed’s efforts to reemploy the US labor force, but given the broader ramification of persistently elevated unemployment, we suspect Powell will find it difficult to shift policy in the foreseeable futures simply to prick an asset bubble when so many are still without gainful employment.

And that's why with each passing month more and more professional investors will lament the giant bubble that is the market, even as they have no choice but to plow even more freshly print money into it.

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Gonorrhea became more drug resistant while attention was on COVID-19 – a molecular biologist explains the sexually transmitted superbug

The US currently has only one antibiotic available to treat gonorrhea – and it’s becoming less effective.

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The _Neisseria gonorrhoeae_ bacterium causes gonorrhea by infecting mucous membranes. Design Cells/iStock Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

COVID-19 has rightfully dominated infectious disease news since 2020. However, that doesn’t mean other infectious diseases took a break. In fact, U.S. rates of infection by gonorrhea have risen during the pandemic.

Unlike COVID-19, which is a new virus, gonorrhea is an ancient disease. The first known reports of gonorrhea date from China in 2600 BC, and the disease has plagued humans ever since. Gonorrhea has long been one of the most commonly reported bacterial infections in the U.S.. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which can infect mucous membranes in the genitals, rectum, throat and eyes.

Gonorrhea is typically transmitted by sexual contact. It is sometimes referred to as “the clap.”

Prior to the pandemic, there were around 1.6 million new gonorrhea infections each year. Over 50% of those cases involved strains of gonorrhea that had become unresponsive to treatment with at least one antibiotic.

In 2020, gonorrhea infections initially went down 30%, most likely due to pandemic lockdowns and social distancing. However, by the end of 2020 – the last year for which data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available – reported infections were up 10% from 2019.

It is unclear why infections went up even though some social distancing measures were still in place. But the CDC notes that reduced access to health care may have led to longer infections and more opportunity to spread the disease, and sexual activity may have increased when initial shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

As a molecular biologist, I have been studying bacteria and working to develop new antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections for 20 years. Over that time, I’ve seen the problem of antibiotic resistance take on new urgency.

Gonorrhea, in particular, is a major public health concern, but there are concrete steps that people can take to prevent it from getting worse, and new antibiotics and vaccines may improve care in the future.

How to recognize gonorrhea

Around half of gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic and can only be detected through screening. Infected people without symptoms can unknowingly spread gonorrhea to others.

Typical early signs of symptomatic gonorrhea include a painful or burning sensation when peeing, vaginal or penal discharge, or anal itching, bleeding or discharge. Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause blindness and infertility. Antibiotic treatment can cure most cases of gonorrhea as long as the infection is susceptible to at least one antibiotic.

There is currently only one recommended treatment for gonorrhea in the U.S. – an antibiotic called ceftriaxone – because the bacteria have become resistant to other antibiotics that were formerly effective against it. Seven different families of antibiotics have been used to treat gonorrhea in the past, but many strains are now resistant to one or more of these drugs.

The CDC tracks the emergence and spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea strains.

Why gonorrhea is on the rise

A few factors have contributed to the increase in infections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, most U.S. labs capable of testing for gonorrhea switched to testing for COVID-19. These labs have also been contending with the same shortages of staff and supplies that affect medical facilities across the country.

Many people have avoided clinics and hospitals during the pandemic, which has decreased opportunities to identify and treat gonorrhea infections before they spread. In fact, because of decreased screening over the past two and a half years, health care experts don’t know exactly how much antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea has spread.

Also, early in the pandemic, many doctors prescribed antibiotics to COVID-19 patients even though antibiotics do not work on viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Improper use of antibiotics can contribute to greater drug resistance, so it is reasonable to suspect that this has happened with gonorrhea.

Overuse of antibiotics

Even prior to the pandemic, resistance to antibiotic treatment for bacterial infections was a growing problem. In the U.S., antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea infections increased by over 70% from 2017-2019.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a specialist at picking up new genes from other pathogens and from “commensal,” or helpful, bacteria. These helpful bacteria can also become antibiotic-resistant, providing more opportunities for the gonorrhea bacterium to acquire resistant genes.

Strains resistant to ceftriaxone have been observed in other countries, including Japan, Thailand, Australia and the U.K., raising the possibility that some gonorrhea infections may soon be completely untreatable.

Steps toward prevention

Currently, changes in behavior are among the best ways to limit overall gonorrhea infections – particularly safer sexual behavior and condom use.

However, additional efforts are needed to delay or prevent an era of untreatable gonorrhea.

Scientists can create new antibiotics that are effective against resistant strains; however, decreased investment in this research and development over the past 30 years has slowed the introduction of new antibiotics to a trickle. No new drugs to treat gonorrhea have been introduced since 2019, although two are in the final stage of clinical trials.

Vaccination against gonorrhea isn’t possible presently, but it could be in the future. Vaccines effective against the meningitis bacterium, a close relative of gonorrhea, can sometimes also provide protection against gonorrhea. This suggests that a gonorrhea vaccine should be achievable.

The World Health Organization has begun an initiative to reduce gonorrhea worldwide by 90% before 2030. This initiative aims to promote safe sexual practices, increase access to high-quality health care for sexually transmitted diseases and expand testing so that asymptomatic infections can be treated before they spread. The initiative is also advocating for increased research into vaccines and new antibiotics to treat gonorrhea.

Setbacks in fighting drug-resistant gonorrhea during the COVID-19 pandemic make these actions even more urgent.

Kenneth Keiler receives funding from NIH.

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Economics

Dollar Slump Halted as Stocks and Bonds Retreat

Overview: Hopes that the global tightening cycle is entering its last phase supplied the fodder for a continued dramatic rally in equities and bonds….

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Overview: Hopes that the global tightening cycle is entering its last phase supplied the fodder for a continued dramatic rally in equities and bonds. The euro traded at par for the first time in two weeks, while sterling reached almost $1.1490, its highest since September 15. The US 10-year yield has fallen by 45 bp in the past five sessions. Yet, the scar tissue from the last bear market rally is still fresh and US equity futures are lower after the S&P 500 had its best two days since 2020. Europe’s Stoxx 600, which has gained more than 5% its three-day rally is more around 0.9% lower in late morning turnover. The large Asia-Pacific bourses advanced, led by a nearly 6% rally in Hong Kong as it returned from holiday. Similarly, the bond market, which rallied with stocks, has sold off. The US 10-year yield is up around seven basis points to 3.70%, while European yields are 7-14 bp higher. Peripheral premiums are also widening. The dollar is firmer against most G10 currencies, with the New Zealand dollar holding its own after the central bank delivered was seems to be a hawkish 50 bp hike. Emerging market currencies are mostly lower, including Poland where the central bank is expected to deliver a 25 bp hike shortly. After rising to $1730 yesterday, gold is offered and could ease back toward $1700 near-term. December WTI is consolidating after rallying around 8.5% earlier this week as the OPEC+ decision is awaited. Speculation over a large nominal cut helped lift prices. US and European natural gas prices are softer today. Iron ore is extended yesterday’s gains, while December copper is paring yesterday’s 2.35% gain. December wheat is off for a third session, and if sustained, would be the longest losing streak since mid-August.  

Asia Pacific

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand quickly laid to rest ideas that the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hike only a quarter of a point yesterday instead of a half-point was representative of a broader development. It told us nothing about anything outside of Australia. The RBNZ delivered the expected 50 bp increase and acknowledged it had considered a 75 bp move. In addition, it signaled further tightening would be delivered. It meets next on November 23, and the market has more than an 85% chance of another 50 bp hike discounted.

Both Australia and Japan's final service and composite PMI were revised higher in the final reading. Japan's service PMI was tweaked to 52.2 from 51.9. It was 49.5 in August. Similarly, the composite is at 51.0, up from 50.9 flash reading and 49.4 in August. In Australia, the service and composite PMI were at 50.2 in August. The flash estimate put it at 50.4 and 50.8, respectively. The final reading is 50.6 and 50.9 for the service and composite PMI.

Softer US yields weighed on the dollar against the yen. On Monday, it briefly traded above JPY145. Today, it traded at a seven-day low, slightly above JPY143.50. US yields are firmer, and the greenback has recovered and traded above JPY144.50 in early European turnover. The intraday momentum indicators are getting stretched, and the JPY144.75 area may cap it today. The Australian dollar traded to almost $.06550 yesterday but has struggled to sustain upticks over $0.6520 today. Initial support is seen in the $0.6450-60 area. Trade figures are out tomorrow. The New Zealand dollar initially rose to slightly through $0.5800 on the back of the hike but has succumbed to the greenback's strength. It returned little changed levels around $0.5730 before finding a bid in Europe. The US dollar reached CNH7.2675 last week and finished last week near CNH7.1420. It fell to almost CNH7.01 today and bounced smartly. A near-term low look to be in place, a modest dollar recovery seems likely. 

Europe

UK Prime Minister Truss will speak at the Tory Party Conference as the North American session gets under way. We argued that calling retaining the 45% highest marginal tax rate a "U-turn" was an exaggeration and misreading of the new government. It was the most controversial part of the mini budget apparently among the Tory MPs. This was a strategic retreat and a small price to pay for the other 98% of Kwarteng's announcement. Bringing forward the November 23 "medium-term fiscal plan" (still to be confirmed with specifics) is more about process than substance. The fact that she seems to be considering not making good her Tory predecessor pledge to link welfare payments to inflation suggests she has not been chastened by the cold bath reception to her government's first actions. However, on another front, Truss is changing her stance. As Foreign Secretary she drafted legislation that overrode the Northern Ireland Protocol unilaterally. In a more profound shift, she has abandoned the legislation and UK-EU talks resumed this week Truss is hopeful for a deal in the spring. Lastly, we note that the UK service and composite PMI were revised to show smaller deterioration from August. The service PMI is at 50 not 49.2 as the flash estimate had it. It was at 50.9 previously. The composite remains below 50 at 49.1, but the preliminary estimate had it at 48.4 from 49.6 in August. 

Germany's announcement of the weekend of a 200 bln euro off-budget "defensive shield" has spurred more rancor in Europe. Not all countries have the fiscal space of Germany. Two EC Commissioners called for an EU budget response. They seem to look at the 1.8 trillion-euro joint debt program (Next Generation fund) as precedent. This is, of course, the issue. During the pandemic, some suggested this was a key breakthrough for fiscal union, a congenital birth defect of EMU. However, this is exactly what the fight is about. If there is no joint action, the net result will likely be more fragmentation of the internal markets. Still, the creditor nations will resist, and Germany's Finance Minister Linder was first out of the shoot. While claiming to be open to other measures, Linder argued that challenge now is from supply shock, not demand. On the other hand, the European Parliament mandated that all mobile phones, tablets, and cameras are equipped with USB-C charge by the end of 2024. The costs savings is estimated to be around 250 mln euros a year. No fiscal union, partial banking, and monetary union, but a charger union.

The final PMI disappointed in the eurozone. The Big 4 preliminary readings were revised lower, suggesting conditions deteriorated further since the flash estimates. It was small change, but the direction was uniform. On the aggregate level, the service PMI was revised lower to 48.8 from 48.9 and 49.8 in August. The composite reading eased to 48.1 from 48.2 preliminary estimate and 48.9 in August. Italy and Spain, for which there is no flash report, were both weaker than expected, further below the 50 boom/bust level. France was the only one of these four that had a composite reading above 50 and improved from August. Separately, France reported a dramatic 2.4% rise in the August industrial output. The median forecast in Bloomberg's survey was for an unchanged report. Lastly, we note that Germany's August trade surplus was a quarter of the size that economists (median in the Bloomberg survey) expected at 1.2 bln euros instead of 4.7 bln. Adding insult to injury, the July balance was revised to 3.4 bln euros from 5.4 bln.

The euro stalled near $1.00 yesterday, the highest level since September 20. However, it has come back better offered today and fell slightly below $0.9925 in early European activity. Initial support is seen around $0.9900 and then $0.9840-50. The euro finished last week slightly above $0.9800. We suspect that market may consolidate broadly now ahead of Friday's US jobs report. The euro's gains seem more a function of short covering than bottom picking. Sterling edged a little closer to $1.15 but could not push through and has been setback to about $1.1380. The intraday momentum indicators allow for a bit more slippage and the next support area is around $1.1350.

America

Fed Chair Powell has explained that for inflation, one number, the PCE deflator best captures the price pressures. However, he says, the labor market has many dimensions and no one number does it justice. Weekly initial jobless claims fell to five-month lows in late September. On the other hand, the ISM manufacturing employment index fell below the 50 boom/bust level for the fourth month in the past five. The JOLTS report showed the labor market easing, with job openings falling by nearly a million to its lowest level in 14 months. Yet, despite the talk about the Reserve Bank of Australia's smaller cut as some kind of tell of Fed policy (eye roll) and the drop in JOLTS, the fact of the matter is that the market view of the trajectory of Fed policy has not changed. Specifically, the probability of a 75 bp hike is almost 77% at yesterday's settlement, which is the most since last Monday. The terminal rate is still seen in 

Attention may turn to the ADP report due today but recall that they have changed their model and explicitly said that it is not meant to forecast the national figures. Those are due Friday. Also, along with the ADP data, the US reports the August trade figures today. We are concerned that the US trade deficit will deteriorate again and note that dollar is at extreme levels of valuation on the OECD's purchasing power parity model. That may be a 2023 story. What counts for GDP, of course, is the real trade balance, and in July it was at its lowest level since last October. Despite the strong dollar, US goods exports reached a record in July. Imports fell to a five-month low, which, at least in part, seems to reflect the difficult in many consumer businesses in managing inventories. The final PMI reading is unlikely to draw much attention. The preliminary reading had the composite rising for the first time in six months but still below the 50 at 49.3. The ISM services offer new information. The risk seems to be on the downside of the median forecast for 56.0 from 56.9.

Yesterday, we mistakenly said that would report is August building permits and trade figure, but they are out today. Permits, which likely fell for the third straight month, as the tighter monetary policy bits. The combination of slowing world growth and softer commodity prices warns the best of the positive terms-of-trade shock is behind it. The trade surplus is expected to fall for the second consecutive month. Even before the RBA delivered the 25 bp rate hike, the market had been downgrading the probability of a half-point move from the Bank of Canada. Last Thursday, the swaps market had it as a 92% chance. At the close Monday, it had been downgraded to a little less 72%. Yesterday, it slipped slightly below 65%. Further softening appears to be taking place today, even after the RBNZ's 50 bp hike. The odds have slipped below 50% in the swaps market.

After finishing last week slightly above CAD1.38, the US dollar has been sold to nearly CAD1.35 yesterday. No follow-through selling has been seen and the greenback was bid back to CAD1.3585. The Canadian dollar has fallen out of favor today as US equity index futures are paring gains after two strong advances. There may be scope for CAD1.3630 today if the sale of US equities resumes. The greenback has found a base around MXN19.95. The risk-off mod can lift it back toward MXN20.10-15. Look for the dollar to also recover more against the Brazilian real after bouncing off the BRL5.11 area yesterday.

 


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Government

Vir awarded $1 billion multi-year BARDA influenza contract

The US Government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has made an initial investment of approximately $55
The post Vir awarded…

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The US Government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has made an initial investment of approximately $55 million for rapid development of VIR-2482, the Vir Biotechnology’s investigational prophylactic monoclonal antibody (mAb) for seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses.

Its purpose being to support pandemic preparedness for influenza and other infectious disease threats, this is the first award from BARDA – part of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) – for pre-exposure prophylaxis for influenza.

VIR-2482 is an investigational intramuscularly administered influenza A-neutralising mAb. It has been shown in vitro to cover all major influenza A strains that have arisen since the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic and is designed as a universal prophylactic for influenza A.

Furthermore, VIR-2482 could have the potential to overcome the limitations of current flu vaccines and result in higher levels of protection, given it does not rely on an individual to create their own protective antibody response. Additionally, the incorporated Xencor Xtend Technology is half-life engineered, meaning a single dose could potentially last an entire flu season.

Seasonal influenza (or flu) is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications. In just the past few years, seasonal influenza has resulted in around 4 million hospitalisations and circa 500,000 global annual deaths.

Pandemic influenza, by contrast, is a contagious airborne respiratory disease with unpredictable timing and severity and against which humans have little or no immunity. Four such pandemic influenzas have occurred in only the past century, with the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ alone having resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide.

Given the past two years’ and ongoing experience with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, the BARDA multi-year contract – potentially an investment of up to $1 billion in total – aims to continue the Authority’s efforts in preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. Currently, there is a significant unmet need to address shortcomings in preventative and therapeutic options for influenza, the efficacy of the present options that do exist ranging from only 10% to 60%.

Therefore, this initial $55 million investment aims to address these shortcomings. It includes for a phase 2 pre-exposure prophylaxis trial, to begin this second half of the year, with initial data expected by mid-2023. The balance of the award is subject to up to 12 options being exercised by BARDA in further support of the development of pre-exposure prophylactic antibodies, including and beyond VIR-2482.

This extended area, beyond prevention of influenza illness, will potentially be for supportive medical countermeasures for up to 10 “other pathogens of pandemic potential”, whether they be “chemical, biological, radiological [or] nuclear”.

Dr Rajesh Gupta, vice president, global health portfolio and public-private partnerships at Vir Biotechnology, said: “COVID-19 reinforced the ever-present global threat of infectious diseases, and the critical need for readily available solutions in advance of the next pandemic.”

A commercial-stage immunology company, Vir Biotechnology’s current development pipeline includes product candidates targeting hepatitis B and hepatitis D viruses and human immunodeficiency virus, in addition to influenza A and COVID-19, the latter of which Vir (together with GSK) previously delivered the antibody sotrovimab (Xevudy) for. The company also co-discovered ansuvimab-zykl for addressing the Ebola crisis.

Bolyn Hubby, PhD, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at Vir Biotechnology, said: “Just as the COVID-19 pandemic required unprecedented cross-sector collaboration around the globe, tackling the outbreaks and pandemics of tomorrow will require an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that unites a broad array of public and private organisations.”

Under a collaboration agreement signed with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2021, GSK holds an exclusive option to lead post-phase 2 development and commercialisation of VIR-2482.

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