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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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EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A

EY noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the…

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A recent trickle of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) announcements in the billion-dollar-and-up range suggests that biopharma may be ready to resume dealmaking this year—although the value and number of deals isn’t expected to return to the highs seen just before the pandemic.

2022 ended with a handful of 10- and 11-figure M&A deals, led by Amgen’s $27.8 billion buyout of Horizon Therapeutics, announced December 13. The dealmaking continued into January with three buyouts announced on the first day of the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: AstraZeneca agreed to acquire CinCor Pharma for up to $1.8 billion, while Chiesi Farmaceutici agreed to shell out up to $1.48 billion cash for Amryt, and Ipsen Group said it will purchase Albireo Pharma for $952 million-plus.

Biopharmas generated about $88 billion in M&A deals in 2022, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. The number of biopharma deals fell 17%, to 75 deals from 90. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine. [EY]
EY—the professional services firm originally known as Ernst & Young—recently noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021 [See Chart]. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. That $135 billion figure is less than half the record-high $313 billion recorded in 2019, including $261 billion in 70 biopharma deals.

The number of biopharma deals fell 17% to 75 deals from 90. EY’s numbers include only deals greater than $100 million. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine.

We expect this to be a more active year as the sentiment starts to normalize a little bit,” Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader, told GEN Edge.

Baral is not alone in foreseeing a comeback for biopharma M&A.

John Newman, PhD, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, predicted last week in a research note that biopharma companies will pursue a growing number of smaller cash deals in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion this year. He said rising interest rates are discouraging companies from taking on larger blockbuster deals that require buyers to take on larger sums of debt.

“We look for narrowing credit spreads and lower interest rates to encourage larger M&A ($50 billion and more) deals. We do not anticipate many $50B+ deals that could move the XBI +5%,” Newman said. (XBI is the SPDR S&P Biotech Electronic Transfer Fund, one of several large ETFs whose fluctuations reflect investor enthusiasm for biopharma stock.)

Newman added: “We continue to expect a biotech swell in 2023 that may become an M&A wave if credit conditions improve.”

Foreseeing larger deals than Newman and Canaccord Genuity is PwC, which in a commentary this month predicted: “Biotech deals in the $5–15 billion range will be prevalent and will require a different set of strategies and market-leading capabilities across the M&A cycle.”

Those capabilities include leadership within a specific therapeutic category, for which companies will have to buy and sell assets: “Prepared management teams that divest businesses that are subscale while doubling down on areas where leadership position and the right to win is tangible, may be positioned to deliver superior returns,” Glenn Hunzinger, PwC’s U.S. Pharma & Life Science Leader, and colleagues asserted.

The Right deals

Rising interest and narrowing credit partially explain the drop-off in deals during 2022, EY’s Baral said. Another reason was sellers adjusting to the drop in deal valuations that resulted from the decline of the markets which started late in 2021.

Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader

“It took a little bit longer to realize the reality of the market conditions on the seller side. But on the buyer side, the deals that they were looking at were not just simply a valuation issue. They were looking at the quality of the assets. And you can see that the quality deals—the right deals, as we call them—are still getting done,” Baral said.

The right deals, according to Baral, are those in which buyers have found takeover targets with a strong, credible management team, solid clinical data, and a clear therapeutic focus.

“Rare disease and oncology assets are still dominating the deal making, particularly oncology because your addressable market continues to grow,” Baral said. “Unfortunately, what that means is the patient population is growing too, so there’s this increased unmet need for that portfolio of assets.”

Several of 2022’s largest M&A deals fit into that “right” category, Baral said—including Amgen-Horizon, Pfizer’s $11.6-billion purchase of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals and the $6.7-billion purchase of Arena Pharmaceuticals (completed in March 2022); and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $4.1-billion buyout of Turning Point Therapeutics.

“Quality companies are still getting funded one way or the other. So, while the valuation dropped, people were all expecting a flurry of deals because they are still companies with a shorter runway of cash that will be running to do deals. But that really didn’t happen from a buyer perspective,” Baral said. “The market moved a little bit from what was a seller’s market for a long time, to what we would like to think of as the pendulum swinging towards a buyers’ market.”

Most biopharma M&A deals, he said, will be “bolt-on” acquisitions in which a buyer aims to fill a gap in its clinical pipeline or portfolio of marketed drugs through purchases that account for less than 25% of a buyer’s market capitalization.

Baral noted that a growing number of biopharma buyers are acquiring companies with which they have partnered for several years on drug discovery and/or development collaborations. Pfizer acquired BioHaven six months after agreeing to pay the company up to $1.24 billion to commercialize rimegepant outside the U.S., where the migraine drug is marketed as Nurtec® ODT.

“There were already some kind of relationships there before these deals actually happened. But that also gives an indication that there are some insights to these targets ahead of time for these companies to feel increasingly comfortable, and pay the valuation that they’re paying for them,” Baral said.

$1.4 Trillion available

Baral sees several reasons for increased M&A activity in 2023. First, the 25 biopharma giants analyzed by EY had $1.427 trillion available as of November 30, 2022, for M&A in “firepower”—which EY defines as a company’s capacity to carry out M&A deals based on the strength of its balance sheet, specifically the amount of capital available for M&A deals from sources that include cash and equivalents, existing debt, and market cap.

That firepower is up 11% from 2021, and surpasses the previous record of $1.22 trillion in 2014, the first year that EY measured the available M&A capital of large biopharmas.

Unlike recent years, Baral said, biopharma giants are more likely to deploy that capital on M&A this year to close the “growth gap” expected to occur over the next five years as numerous blockbuster drugs lose patent exclusivity and face new competition from lower-cost generic drugs and biosimilars.

“There is not enough R&D in their pipeline to replenish a lot of their revenue. And this growth gap is coming between 2024 and 2026. So, they don’t have a long runway to watch and stay on the sidelines,” Baral said.

This explains buyers’ interest in replenishing pipelines with new and innovative treatments from smaller biopharmas, he continued. Many smaller biopharmas are open to being acquired because declining valuations and limited cash runways have increased investor pressure on them to exit via M&A. The decline of the capital markets has touched off dramatic slowdowns in two avenues through which biopharmas have gone public in recent years—initial public offerings (IPOs) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

EY recorded just 17 IPOs being priced in the U.S. and Europe, down 89% from 158 a year earlier. The largest IPO of 2022 was Prime Medicine’s initial offering, which raised $180.3 million in net proceeds for the developer of a “search and replace” gene editing platform.

Another 12 biopharmas agreed to SPAC mergers with blank-check companies, according to EY, with the largest announced transaction (yet to close at deadline) being the planned $899 million merger of cancer drug developer Apollomics with Maxpro Capital Acquisition.

“For the smaller players, the target biotech companies, their alternate source of access to capital pathways such as IPOs and SPACs is shutting down on them. So how would the biotech companies continue to fund themselves? Those with quality assets are still getting funded through venture capital or other forms of capital,” Baral said. “But in general, there is not a lot of appetite for the biotech that is taking that risk.

Figures from EY show a 37% year-to-year decline in the total value of U.S. and European VC deals, to $16.88 billion in 2022 from $26.62 billion in 2021. Late-stage financing rounds accounted for just 31% of last year’s VC deals, down from 34% in 2021 and 58% in 2012. The number of VC deals in the U.S. and Europe fell 18%, to 761 last year from 930 in 2021.

The decline in VC financing helps explain why many smaller biopharmas are operating with cash “runways” of less than 12 months. “Depending on the robustness of their data, their therapeutic area, and their management, there will be a natural attrition. Some of these companies will just have to wind down,” Baral added.

M&A headwinds

Baral also acknowledged some headwinds that are likely to dampen the pace of M&A activity. In addition to rising interest rates and inflation increasing the cost of capital, valuations remain high for the most sought-after drugs, platforms, and other assets—a result of growing and continuing innovation.

Another headwind is growing regulatory scrutiny of the largest deals. Illumina’s $8 billion purchase of cancer blood test developer Grail has faced more than two years of challenges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and especially the European Commission—while Congress acted last year to begin curbing the price of prescription drugs and insulin through the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Those headwinds may prompt many companies to place greater strategic priority on collaborations and partnerships instead of M&A, Baral predicted, since they offer buyers early access to newer technologies before deciding whether to invest more capital through a merger or acquisition.

“Early-stage collaboration, early minority-stake investment becomes increasingly important, and it has been a cornerstone for early access to these technologies for the industry for a long, long time, and that is not changing any time soon,” Baral said. “On the other hand, even on the therapeutic area side, early-stage development is still expensive to do in-house for the large biopharma companies because of their cost structure.

“So, it is efficient cost-wise and speed-wise to buy these assets when they reach a certain point, which is probably at Phase II onward, and then you can pull the trigger on acquisitions if needed,” he added.

The post EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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Pfizer’s Albert Bourla spells out ‘transition year’ for Covid products, with sales expected to reach a low point

On the heels of a record sales year, Pfizer is bracing for impact as it expects Covid-19 revenue to bottom out in 2023.
That’s due to lower compliance…

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On the heels of a record sales year, Pfizer is bracing for impact as it expects Covid-19 revenue to bottom out in 2023.

That’s due to lower compliance with vaccine recommendations, fewer primary vaccines being administered, and a “significant” government supply that’s expected to last throughout early this year, execs said Tuesday on the company’s Q4 earnings call.

CEO Albert Bourla anticipates $13.5 billion in Comirnaty sales this year, down 64% from 2022, and just $8 billion in Paxlovid revenue, down 58% from 2022.

“We expect 2023 to be a transition year in the US,” he said on the call, adding that the company sold more vaccine and treatment doses this year than were actually used. “This resulted in a government inventory build that we expect to be absorbed sometime in 2023 — probably the second half of the year. Around that time, we expect to start selling Comirnaty through commercial channels at commercial prices.”

Just 15.5% of eligible Americans have received bivalent booster doses, compared to 69.2% who completed their primary series, according to the CDC’s latest data. Last week, the FDA’s vaccines advisory committee voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all new vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent shot, regardless of whether they’ve received the primary series.

Even so, only 31% of people in the US received a Covid vaccine this year, and Pfizer expects that number to dip to about 24% in 2023.

David Denton

Bourla’s expecting a similar slump in Paxlovid sales, due to existing unused government supply. According to data from ASPR updated last week, states have about 4 million unused Paxlovid courses.

The antiviral significantly underperformed this year, missing Bourla’s prior full-year projections by just over $3 billion. Comirnaty seemed to pick up the slack, however, raking in roughly $37.8 billion in global sales, or about $3.8 billion more than Bourla predicted at the end of the third quarter.

“While patient demand for our Covid products is expected to remain strong throughout 2023, much of that demand is expected to be fulfilled by products that were delivered to governments in 2022 and recorded as revenues last year,” CFO David Denton said on the call.

Angela Hwang

Commercial pricing for both Comirnaty and Paxlovid will likely kick in around the second half of this year, according to Bourla. While the pharma giant previously said it expects to charge between $110 and $130 for the BioNTech-partnered shot (almost quadrupling the price), chief commercial officer Angela Hwang said the team is still “preparing what those pricing scenarios could look like” for Paxlovid and will “share more at the right time.”

The Pfizer team is expecting Covid sales to pick back up in the next couple years — and if all goes according to plan, a successful combination shot for flu and Covid-19 would “bring the percentage of Americans receiving the Covid-19 vaccine closer to the portion of people getting flu shots, which is currently about 50%,” Bourla said. The company launched a Phase I study for an mRNA-based combo vaccine back in November.

Lower projected Covid sales led Bourla to set his full-year sales expectations in 2023 at $67 billion to $71 billion, down roughly 30% from 2022, which let down some analysts.

“PFE guidance for 2023 provided with 4Q22 results was disappointing despite the company talking down financial prospects in recent weeks,” SVB Securities analysts wrote in a note to investors on Tuesday.

However, when it comes to R&D investment, Bourla’s keeping his foot on the gas. As the CEO said back in November, “It’s all about what’s next.”

That’s why he’s earmarking around $12.4 billion to $13.4 billion for R&D this year, up nearly 9% from last year. It’s all part of his effort to make up for an expected $17 billion loss due to patent expiries between 2025 and 2030.

Last quarter, he spelled out ambitious plans to bring 19 new products or indications to market over the next year and a half. The chief executive highlighted a few of those programs on Tuesday, including potential combo shots for flu, Covid-19 and RSV, an oral GLP-1 candidate for diabetes and obesity, and potential vaccines for Lyme disease and shingles.

Other programs, however, didn’t make the cut. Pfizer also disclosed on Tuesday that it cut eight programs, including recifercept, an achondroplasia drug that was the centerpiece of Pfizer’s Therachon buyout in 2019, and two Paxlovid indications that failed their respective Phase III trials.

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday,…

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday, painting a slightly less gloomy picture than three and a half months ago, as inflation appears to have peaked in 2022, consumer spending remains robust and the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been less severe than initially feared.

But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, that’s not to say the outlook is rosy, as the global economy still faces major headwinds.

However, the IMF predicts the slowdown to be less pronounced than previously anticipated.

Global growth is now expected to fall from 3.4 percent in 2022 to 2.9 percent this year, before rebounding to 3.1 percent in 2024.

The 2023 growth projection is up from an October estimate of 2.7 percent, as the IMF sees far fewer countries facing recession this year and does no longer anticipates a global downturn.

Infographic: IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast as Inflation Cools | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

One of the reasons behind the cautiously optimistic outlook is the latest downward trend in inflation, which suggests that inflation may have peaked in 2022.

The IMF predicts global inflation to cool to 6.6 percent in 2023 and 4.3 percent in 2024, which is still above pre-pandemic levels of about 3.5 percent, but significantly lower than the 8.8 percent observed in 2022.

“Economic growth proved surprisingly resilient in the third quarter of last year, with strong labor markets, robust household consumption and business investment, and better-than-expected adaptation to the energy crisis in Europe,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s chief economist, wrote in a blog post released along with the report.

“Inflation, too, showed improvement, with overall measures now decreasing in most countries—even if core inflation, which excludes more volatile energy and food prices, has yet to peak in many countries.”

The risks to the latest outlook remain tilted to the downside, the IMF notes, as the war in Ukraine could further escalate, inflation continues to require tight monetary policies and China’s recovery from Covid-19 disruptions remains fragile. On the plus side, strong labor markets and solid wage growth could bolster consumer demand, while easing supply chain disruptions could help cool inflation and limit the need for more monetary tightening.

In conclusion, Gourinchas calls for multilateral cooperation to counter “the forces of geoeconomic fragmentation”.

“This time around, the global economic outlook hasn’t worsened,” he writes. “That’s good news, but not enough. The road back to a full recovery, with sustainable growth, stable prices, and progress for all, is only starting.”

However, just because the 'trend' has shifted doesn't mean it's mission accomplished...

That looks an awful lot like Central Bankers' nemesis remains - global stagflation curb stomps the dovish hopes.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/31/2023 - 14:45

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