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Inflation will probably melt away in 2022 – central banks will do far more harm trying to tackle it

The economy doesn’t have a real inflation problem, and not recognising the difference is the biggest danger.

It remains to be seen whether the omicron variant will shift Sars-CoV-2 towards becoming manageably endemic. But as and when this happens, there will still be “long COVID” to contend with. The latest headlines about inflation – a 7% annual rise in the US and more tough talk from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about bringing it down – confirm that something similar is happening with the global economy: it will be shaped by the after-effects of the pandemic even when all restrictions have been lifted.

To understand how this overhang effect may play out in 2022 requires looking back at how the pandemic has affected growth and inflation. The key lies in decisions taken after the initial phase in 2020 when governments shut down large parts of their economies while compensating households and businesses for lost income to prevent an economic depression. People both saved more than usual and redirected their spending from services like eating out or travel to goods for the home – notably digital equipment for remote working and leisure.

Such goods started running out of stock and it took longer than usual for supplies to recover, not least because COVID restrictions had hit the global supply chain. The same went for other key consumer requirements such as energy: as demand for oil rebounded, the supply was constrained either by political decisions, such as the Opec+ cartel declining to raise production, or the financial fragility of US shale oil producers.

Shortages have caused inflationary pressure, which has also been aggravated by factors linked to the climate emergency. Since replacing coal with a “greener” fossil fuel in electricity generation is one of the quickest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there has been increased demand for natural gas. And in food markets, agricultural production has been damaged by the growing frequency of extreme weather events.

Misapprehensions about inflation

In many advanced industrial countries, headline inflation rose by the end of 2021 to its highest level in two decades: that annual rate of 7% in the US in December, and 5% in the eurozone (the two regions measure inflation in slightly different ways).

Meanwhile, the bounce in world economic growth in 2021 after the initial pandemic slump has been naturally giving way to a slower pace of growth. This is in line with more normal trends now that major economies have returned to, or are approaching, their pre-pandemic levels of output. This combination of slowing growth and rising prices – often labelled “stagflation” – is pernicious if it continues, attracting widely voiced concerns as 2021 wore on.

I would argue, however, that this threat is exaggerated. It stems to a considerable extent from a confusion between an increase in price levels and genuine inflation defined as persistent and volatile increases in the rate of price growth. This is a subject close to my heart, which I discuss in my 2013 book Remembering Inflation.

The price rises can be largely explained by this problem of suppliers being unable to provide enough goods to meet the rebound in consumer demand. And one key development which became apparent by the end of 2021 was that the supply of manufactured goods had recovered sufficiently to correct this inflationary imbalance.

UK inflation, 1960-present

Macro Trends

China has made the running here, along with other Asian manufacturing powerhouses. In November 2021, manufacturing inventories in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were 20%-30% higher than the previous month. More generally in December, global industrial output was 12% higher than a year earlier, having shown a 5% annual contraction as recently as September.

This suggests not only that the stagflation threat will recede, but also that a “wage-price spiral” characteristic of any serious inflationary episode, is increasingly unlikely: this is where workers are able to demand higher and higher wages to make the rising cost of living affordable, which in turn further pushes up prices.

The central bank dimension

It follows that major central banks may err in going too far in their declared intention to raise interest rates to control inflation. The Bank of England has led the way by announcing its first post-pandemic rate hike in December (from 0.1% to 0.25%).

As for America, financial markets are pricing in a first rate hike by the US Federal Reserve in March – the same month as it aims to stop buying bonds and other financial assets as part of its quantitative easing (QE) programme to prop up the economy. Even the more doveish ECB recently announced a trimming of its QE programme, though it has no plans to raise interest rates this year.

Several commentators think these moves don’t go far enough. They argue that given the persistent threat of inflation, central banks should raise rates more aggressively and offload assets bought under QE programmes – which the Fed has signalled it might start doing by the middle of this year.

The difficulty for central banks is that prices could certainly keep increasing for a while. For instance, when the omicron wave subsides, demand for services like restaurants or travel should recover. Yet rather like someone with long COVID, the supply side in many of these industries remains “scarred”: numerous service businesses closed during the pandemic – witness the shuttered retail premises on high streets – and it can take time to raise working capital and re-hire the staff required to reopen. So just like in 2020-21 as regards goods, extra demand chasing too little supply could now push up prices in services.

Though raising interest rates won’t solve this problem, it’s the potential for a resulting wage-price spiral that is worrying central banks. Numerous developed countries have already been seeing pressure on wages developing naturally from the recovery of employment, since this means employees are in higher demand. This trend is being further intensified by labour shortages, largely caused by impediments to migration such as the difficulty of applying for H1B visas to the US and the UK government’s post-Brexit strategy of reducing migrant labour inflows.

Though concerns about wage pressure are well founded, they should nevertheless be offset by an important disinflationary impulse likely in 2022. In China, the first major economy to recover from the pandemic, the authorities are now relaxing monetary and fiscal policy (government spending) to counter the ensuing slowdown. But unlike previous Chinese stimulus drives in the years between the global financial crisis and the pandemic, which largely drove global growth, this latest easing only seeks to stabilise the economy. The Chinese fear further increases in the country’s indebtedness and the associated threat to stability.

With global supply chains returning to some kind of normality and China in this cautious mode, the overall effect will probably be that inflation eases of its own accord. If so, raising rates and quickly rolling back QE will just choke off recovery at a time when many countries are barely on their feet after COVID. The next problem could well end up being slowdown or even recession.

Brigitte Granville 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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About 35% of People Who Received Placebo in Vaccine Trials Report Side Effects and More COVID-19 News

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 76 percent of the adverse side effects (such as fatigue or headache) that people experienced after receiving their first COVID-19…

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About 35% of People Who Received Placebo in Vaccine Trials Report Side Effects and More COVID-19 News

The placebo effect is where a person who received a placebo instead of a drug or vaccine shows clinical signs, positive or negative, associated with the actual treatment. Much has been made about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, but a new study found a startlingly high number of adverse events associated with people who received placebos in clinical trials. For that and more COVID-19 news, continue reading.

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects: Real or Placebo Effect?

A recent study out of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center evaluated 12 COVID-19 vaccine trials with a total of 45,380 participants. The study found that 76% of the adverse side effects reported, such as fatigue or headache, after the first shot were also reported by participants who received a placebo. Mild side effects were more common in people receiving the vaccine, but a third of those given the placebo reported at least one adverse side effect. The statistics from the study showing that 35% of placebo recipients reported adverse side effects is considered unusually high. Several experts suspect that there’s such a high report of adverse events because of the amount of misinformation found on social media about the dangers of the vaccines and the amount of media coverage.

This is not to say that the adverse side effects felt by people who received the vaccines are all in their heads. People do have side effects to vaccines, but this study reports on an unusually high level of the placebo effect. Nocebo is used to describe a negative outcome associated with the placebo.

Source: BioSpace

“Negative information in the media may increase negative expectations towards the vaccines and may therefore enhance nocebo effects,” said Dr. Julia W. Haas, an investigator in the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess and the study’s lead author. “Anxiety and negative expectation can worsen the experience of side effects.”

Four Factors for Long COVID

A study published in Nature Communications identified specific antibodies in the blood of people who developed long COVID. Long COVID is not well understood and has a range of up to 50 different symptoms, and it is difficult to diagnose because there is no one test for it. The study, conducted by Dr. Onur Boyman, a researcher in the Department of Immunology at University Hospital Zurich, compared more than 500 COVID-19 patients and found several key differences in patients who went on to present with long COVID. The most obvious was a significant decrease in two immunoglobulins, IgM and IgG3. The study found that a decrease in these two immunoglobulins, which generally rise to fight infections, combined with other factors, such as middle age and a history of asthma, was 75% effective in predicting long COVID.

75% of COVID-19 ICU Survivors Show Symptoms a Year Later

A study out of the Netherlands found that a year after being released from an intensive care unit (ICU) for severe COVID-19, 75% of patients reported lingering physical symptoms, 26% reported mental symptoms, and up to 16% noted cognitive symptoms. The research was published in JAMA. The research evaluated 246 COVID-19 survivors treated in one of 11 ICUs in the Netherlands. The mental symptoms included anxiety (17.9%), depression (18.3%), PTSD (9.8%). The most common new physical symptoms were weakness (38.9%), stiff joints (26.3%), joint pain (25.5%), muscle weakness (24.8%), muscle pain (21.3%) and shortness of breath (20.8%).

Pennsylvania Averaging Most COVID-19 Deaths Per Day in a Year

In general, COVID-19 deaths are dropping across the country. However, in two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the numbers are increasing. Pennsylvania is averaging 156 COVID-19 deaths per day over the past seven days, which is a 17% uptick compared to two weeks ago. The number of deaths per day in Pennsylvania is below what was hit in January 2021, largely due to the availability of vaccines. New Jersey averages 111 deaths from COVID-19 per day, an increase of 61% over the last two weeks and the highest since May 2020. Similarly, New Jersey cases and hospitalizations are declining.

Omicron Surge: Shattering Cases and Hospitalizations, but Less Severe

According to the CDC, although the current Omicron surge is setting records for positive infections and hospitalizations, it’s less severe than other waves by other metrics. Omicron has resulted in more than 1 million cases per day in the U.S. on several occasions, and reported deaths are presently higher than 15,000 per week. However, the ratio of emergency department visits and hospitalizations to case numbers is lower compared to COVID-19 waves for Delta and during the winter of 2020–21. ICU admissions, length of stay, and in-hospital deaths were all lower with Omicron. They cite vaccinations and booster shots as the likely cause. Although the overall result is that Omicron appears less severe, it’s not completely clear if that’s because the viral variant doesn’t infect the lower lung as easily as other variants, or because so much of the population has either been vaccinated or exposed to the virus already. It is clearly far more infectious than other strains, which is placing a real burden on healthcare systems. The number of emergency department visits is 86% higher than during the Delta surge.

J&J Expects Up to $3.5 Billion in COVID-19 Vaccine Sales This Year

Johnson & Johnson projected annual sales of its COVID-19 vaccine for 2022 to range from $3 billion to $3.5 billion. This was noted during the company’s fourth-quarter 2021 report. In December 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the PfizerBioNTech or Moderna shots over J&J’s due to a rare blood condition observed with the J&J shot. By comparison, Pfizer and BioNTech project their vaccine will bring in $29 billion in 2022, after having raked in almost $36 billion in 2021. Moderna expects approximately $18.5 billion this year, with about $3.5 billion from possible additional purchases. Although final figures for Moderna aren’t in yet, they projected 2021 sales between $15 and $18 billion.

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/about-35-percent-of-people-receiving-placebo-in-vaccine-trials-report-side-effects-and-more-covid-19-news

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Economics

Oil Could Be The Haven Stocks Traders Need To Shelter From Fed

Oil Could Be The Haven Stocks Traders Need To Shelter From Fed

By Nour Al Ali, Bloomberg Markets Live commentator and analyst

Oil is starting to look like an unlikely haven from the stocks selloff in the run-up to anticipated Fed tightening.

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Oil Could Be The Haven Stocks Traders Need To Shelter From Fed

By Nour Al Ali, Bloomberg Markets Live commentator and analyst

Oil is starting to look like an unlikely haven from the stocks selloff in the run-up to anticipated Fed tightening.

Traders are pricing lower volatility in the commodity than in the Nasdaq and S&P 500. Barometers of market anxiety for both indexes have shot up recently, suggesting trader sentiment is souring. Meanwhile, the CBOE Crude Oil Volatility Index, which measures the market’s expectation of 30-day volatility of crude oil prices applying the VIX methodology to USO options, shows that oil prices are expected to remain relatively muted in comparison.

With a producer cartel to support prices, the outlook for oil is more sanguine, even if the Fed raises rates. The commodity has ample support, with global oil demand expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year. The U.S. administration has been pushing oil-producing nations under the OPEC+ cartel to ramp up output, while the group has stuck to a modest production-increase plan and is expected to rubber-stamp another 400k b/d output hike when they meet next week. This means that oil is likely to stay a lot more stable than in recent years.

The relatively low correlation between the asset classes provide diversification benefits. The relationship between the S&P 500 and the global oil benchmark is weak and lacks conviction; it’s even weaker between the Nasdaq 100 and Brent crude contracts. The divergence in price action this week could indicate that stocks have been tumbling in fear of a hawkish Feb, more so than geopolitical risk alone. That would perhaps offer traders an opportunity to seek shelter amid stock volatility in anticipation of the Fed’s next move.

Oil might have tracked the decline in stocks at the beginning of this week, but the commodity is back to its highs now. It’s up close to 15% this year, while the S&P 500 is struggling to reclaim its footing after plunging as much as 10%.

Tyler Durden Wed, 01/26/2022 - 13:45

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Economics

AT&T down 10% despite topping estimates

AT&T (NYSE: T) has revealed that Q4 results indicated continued users for the HBO MAX, wireless and fiber segments. In addition, the company gained more postpaid phone users for the whole year than the last ten years adding one million fiber subscribe

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AT&T (NYSE: T) has revealed that Q4 results indicated continued users for the HBO MAX, wireless and fiber segments. In addition, the company gained more postpaid phone users for the whole year than the last ten years adding one million fiber subscribers. Similarly, the company beat its high-end outlook for international HBO Max and HBO users with almost 74 million subscribers as of December 31, 2021.

CEO John Stankey said:

We ended 2021 the way we started it – by growing our customer relationships, running our operations more effectively and efficiently, and sharpening our focus. Our momentum is strong and we’re confident there is more opportunity to continue to grow our customer base and drive costs from the business.

Q4 2021 revenue dropped 10% YoY

Consolidated revenue in Q4 2021 was $40.96 billion beating consensus estimates $40.68 but dropping 10% YoY, which reflects the impact of divested segments and low Business Wireline revenues. In the third quarter, the company divested US Videos, and in Q4, it divested Vrio. The drop was partially offset by high Warner Media revenues, recovery from pandemic impacts, and high Consumer Wireline and Mobility revenues. Stankey commented:

We’re at the dawn of a new age of connectivity. Our focus now is to be America’s best connectivity provider and also ensure our media assets are positioned to grow and truly become a global media distribution leader. Once we do this, we’ll unlock the true value of these businesses and provide a great opportunity for shareholders.

AT&T reported Q4 net income (loss) attributable to $5 billion or $0.69 per diluted shared share. On an adjusted basis, including merger-amortization fees, a share of DirecTV intangible amortization, gain on benefit plans, and related items, the company had an EPS of $0.78 topping consensus estimate of $0.76 per share.

AT&T had total revenue of $168.9 billion in 2021

AT&T’s consolidated revenues were $168.9 billion in 2021, compared to $171.8 billion a year ago, reflecting the split of the U.S Video division in Q3 2021, as well as the effects of other divested operations. However, higher revenues in WarnerMedia and Communications somewhat offset these declines.

For the full-year, net income (loss) attributable to commons shares was $19.9 billion or $2.76 p were per diluted share. On an adjusted basis, FY 2021 earnings per share were $3.4.

La notizia AT&T down 10% despite topping estimates era stato segnalata su Invezz.

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