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Maybe The Fed Too Was Trolled

Maybe The Fed Too Was Trolled

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

The Federal Reserve – and central banks the world…

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Maybe The Fed Too Was Trolled

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

The Federal Reserve – and central banks the world over – played a crucial role in making lockdowns possible and weaponizing the panic of politicians. As the lender of last resort and the provider of liquidity for the entire federal government, it removes normal fiscal restraint. It writes checks that cannot bounce to fuel governments in normal times but is always ready to make possible emergency spending too even if existing revenue and public consensus is otherwise absent. 

Starting with the $2.2 trillion CARES act of March 27, 2020, and continuing for a full year, Congress massively subsidized and hence funded and rewarded states that locked down, enabling stimulus payments to businesses and individuals amounting to some $10.4 trillion over two years. It was all funded by debt that the Federal Reserve added to its balance sheets, even while the Fed drove interest rates back to zero in the hope of avoiding economic collapse. 

In short, the lockdown was monetized with the printing press. Without a Fed, spending on that level would have destroyed the credit worthiness of the US. So yes, the Fed is wholly culpable in making the entire calamity possible and allowing for its continuation for two years and more. The results are as inevitable as the sunset: we now face the highest rates of inflation in forty years. Because central banks around the world collaborated in this operation, inflation is global too. 

There was no avoiding this fate. Early on, I joined many others in doubt that Fed chairman Jerome Powell was serious about stopping inflation. Initially, it seemed like his reversal from the zero-interest rate policy — the one that began back in 2008 and eventually unleashed this whole beast — was cosmetic. But he has kept it up. Six times this year he has bumped up the federal funds rate. And he promises there is more to come. 

Yes, there have been terrible consequences of this tightening for bubbly markets. Real estate is crashing hard. We would call it a buyers’ market if there were buyers. There seem only to be sellers but they are having little success because financing is too expensive. The curves in home sales are turning vertically downwards. In some ways, the results could be worse than in 2008 simply because the crazy boom was in such close calendar proximity to the bust. 

Then there’s devastation to the bond and stock markets, plus an emerging crisis in the tech sector that flew so high during lockdowns, with job losses and hiring freezes everywhere. Twitter’s firing of 50% of workers will likely be the norm in the tech sector in a matter of months. 

To top it off, high inflation isn’t going anywhere, and, in some sectors like utilities, is higher than ever (14%). Nothing Powell is doing now is going to fix that problem in the near and medium term. We are stuck with $6.5 trillion in newly printed dollars sloshing around the world today. And that is added to by the damage done by central banks the world over. All out of panic. 

And yes, it is Powell’s fault. Now he is trying to reverse the damage he caused by driving rates higher and higher, virtually guaranteeing the entrenchment of stagflation. 

Why is he doing this? One possible theory: he is mad as hell. I explain why in the scenario below which combines what we know with new research and fills in some gaps with my own informed speculations. 

Think back to the first and second quarters of 2019. Powell had already decided that he was done with zero-interest-rate policies. He started to tighten money by raising rates in the Spring and Summer. He was determined to patch up the Fed’s balance sheet and offload all the junk they had bought over the previous ten years. This was his policy and he was determined to push through. He flinched a bit in the Fall of 2019 but generally had every ambition to clean up the mess. 

Then February 2020 came along. As best we can tell from documents that we’ve pieced together and connections we’ve made, Powell was likely getting phone calls and office visits. They were not only from Anthony Fauci but also from the National Security Council and FEMA, which was then itching to take over pandemic planning. They eventually did

Powell was surely told that the virus was much worse than a regular flu bug. It was a result of a lab leak in Wuhan, China, the one funded in part by US taxpayers indirectly through a grant from the National Institutes of Health. But now this very lab has released a bioweapon. That meant that national security was at stake. 

We are at war, he was likely told, and he’d better get on board. He didn’t want to but, at the same time, it’s better when you are Fed chairman not to be accused of sedition in the midst of a major national security operation. 

And so, he decided to go along. The long march to profligate credit expansion began with lowered federal funds rates on March 5, 2020. This was before lockdowns had begun in the US and before Congress had allocated any money to states and the pandemic response. Following travel restrictions, the release of the HHS pandemic plan on March 13, and especially following the March 16 lockdowns, each step toward easy money was more extreme than the last. 

Powell was there, ready to buy any and all debt that Congress created. It kept going on and on, for more than $10 trillion by the time things settled down. Powell was good for $6.5 trillion of that, with the rate of money expansion reaching 27% at the height. 

The entire time, because he is not an idiot, he knew for sure what the results would be: inflation, pricing chaos, and financial disaster. But he went along because FEMA, the NSC, and the Department of Homeland Security told him that this was a better fate than mass death. And that’s what they believed or pretended to believe. 

Public health officials made every effort to make apocalyptic predictions come true. They distributed deeply flawed PCR tests, and subsidized hospitals provided they declare Covid deaths, and encouraged misclassified people all over the place. The National Security Council and FEMA, along with the CDC, set out to get Big Tech and the national media to join them in the holy crusade against the pathogen

But there was a problem. As time went on, it became ever more obvious that the pathogen behaved like a textbook respiratory virus. It was severe in the elderly with comorbidities but had only a 0.035% infection fatality rate for anyone under the age of 70. Meanwhile, the lockdowns that the Fed’s money pumping made possible killed more people than the virus, based on excess death data from 2021. And the vaccine that was supposed to solve all the problems didn’t work as advertised.

Meanwhile, we are stuck with terrible inflation results that have so harmed the economic well being of everyone. Powell is being blamed for it all. He came into office with the hope of going down in history as a great Fed chairman like Volcker but has been stuck with the results of policies that he quite possibly never wanted. 

Perhaps this is what accounts for his current anger and his dogged determination to strangle the inflationary beast one way or another. His powers are limited mostly to messing around with interest rates but that is what he is doing. He has come to believe that his best hope at this point is to get real interest rates into positive territory. 

What does this mean? It means that there are two or three increases of 75 basis points left in his arsenal. That will get the federal funds rate to 6%, still below the Fed’s favorite measure of inflation, personal consumption expenditures. But he might be betting that the damage is cooling off. At this point, and perhaps it will happen by the Spring of 2023, he will obtain a match of the PCE rate and the federal funds rate, if he is lucky.

Even if Powell is successful, there is a massive ocean of money out there that needs to wash through the global economy, like a virus that must become endemic. The velocity of money is increasing right now, and labor costs are rising too, which means that inflation is wholly embedded, as David Stockman has observed. Prices have not increased enough to make business growth viable for anyone but the largest companies. Meanwhile, savings are plummeting and credit card debt is rising. 

Based on what we are seeing now, we have another year of inflation ahead of us before it drops down to the Fed’s target of 2%. Meanwhile, there will be no going back to 2019 prices in any sector. 

Powell knows this. He hates it but he is determined not to be blamed for it. For his part, he believes the blame lies elsewhere: with the apocalyptics, the conspirators, a profligate Congress, a confused President, and the shadowy bunch in the national security state. With them, and under this scenario, he is not likely on speaking terms. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us are left with stagflation as far as the eye can see.

What’s important at this point is to avoid the crack-up boom that can sometimes follow these kinds of policy disasters. We should count ourselves lucky if we somehow avoid that plus dodge the bullet of a full-scale financial crisis. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 11/07/2022 - 16:20

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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…

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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…

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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….

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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. www.insilico.com 


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