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Omicron is not a threat for the retail sector in the short-term

Investors are responding rather strongly to reports of a new COVID variant of concern the WHO designated “Omicron” on Friday. But the former Walmart CEO Bill Simon is confident it doesn’t pose much of a threat for the retail sector in the short…

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Investors are responding rather strongly to reports of a new COVID variant of concern the WHO designated “Omicron” on Friday. But the former Walmart CEO Bill Simon is confident it doesn’t pose much of a threat for the retail sector in the short term.

Simon’s remarks on CNBC’s ‘Closing Bell’

Bill expects consumer strength and holiday season to help the retail sector absorb this news with minimal reaction. On CNBC’s “Closing Bell”, he said:

People were out shopping today, looking for deals. Stores were crowded, prices were very good and aggressive, particularly in the big-box chains. So, in the short run, with the Black Friday weekend and everything else going on, I don’t think you’ll see much of a reaction.

He refrained from commenting on the long-term impact of the new variant on the retail sector and said it would depend on how the situation unravels. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF is down more than 3.0% on Friday.

Retail has been divided into winners and losers

During the same interview, BMO Capital Markets’ Simeon Siegel said the retail sector was no longer moving in unison; the pandemic had split it into winners and losers.

The question is, who has the pricing power versus who saw fewer promotions. All of them will deal with externalities, whether it’s the variant or the supply chain. But what brands actually structurally improved their business through the pandemic; that’s the dynamic.

According to Siegel, the recent earnings season already made this division evident. On the one hand, we had companies like Capri Holdings that jumped about 20% after reporting results for the latest quarter, and on the other, there was Nordstrom that was down the same after its quarterly report.

The post Omicron is not a threat for the retail sector in the short-term appeared first on Invezz.

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Mercantile Appoints New Members to Bank Board of Directors

Mercantile Appoints New Members to Bank Board of Directors
PR Newswire
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Dec. 1, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Dec. 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Mercantile Bank Corporation (NASDAQ: MBWM) (“Mercantile”), announced today the appointments o…

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Mercantile Appoints New Members to Bank Board of Directors

PR Newswire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Dec. 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Mercantile Bank Corporation (NASDAQ: MBWM) ("Mercantile"), announced today the appointments of Amy L. Sparks, CPA and Nelson F. Sanchez, CPA to the Bank's Board of Directors in the second half of 2022.

"We are thrilled to welcome two new Directors who bring a wealth of experience in business, finance and manufacturing as we expand the diversification of perspectives across our Board. Amy's executive leadership of solidifying financial performance, organizational development, diversifying into new markets and increased employee engagement, coupled with Nelson's deep experience in a variety of business sectors encompassing domestic, international, private, public, and family-owned organizations across start-ups, turnarounds, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic planning will help support our growth as a leading community bank," said Robert B. Kaminski Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercantile.

Ms. Sparks has nearly three decades of demonstrated expertise and success. She is the Owner, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Nuvar, Inc., a Michigan-based manufacturing company specializing in finished product contract manufacturing for the office furniture, health care, education, appliance and transportation industries. Ms. Sparks is also a Certified Public Accountant and currently serves on the Grand Valley State University Seidman School of Business Dean's Advisory Board and is the West Michigan Chair of the Great Lakes Women's Business Council.

Mr. Sanchez is a strong finance executive with broad strategic leadership experience in all aspects of finance, operations, marketing and general management. He is the Chief Operating Officer of RoMan Manufacturing, Inc., where he has also served as the Chief Financial Officer. Nelson is a Certified Public Accountant, is fluent in Spanish and has an extensive background in leadership and diversity training. He serves on various boards and committees in the West Michigan community, including the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and Holland Home.

About Mercantile Bank Corporation

Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mercantile Bank Corporation is the bank holding company for Mercantile Bank. Mercantile provides banking services to businesses, individuals, and governmental units, and differentiates itself on the basis of service quality and the expertise of its banking staff. Mercantile has assets of approximately $5.0 billion and operates 46 banking offices. Mercantile Bank Corporation's common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "MBWM." For more information about Mercantile, visit www.mercbank.com, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MercBank and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/merc-bank

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains statements or information that may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as: "anticipate," "intend," "plan," "goal," "seek," "believe," "project," "estimate," "expect," "strategy," "future," "likely," "may," "should," "will," and similar references to future periods. Any such statements are based on current expectations that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from the results expressed in forward-looking statements. Factors that might cause such a difference include changes in interest rates and interest rate relationships; increasing rates of inflation and slower growth rates; significant declines in the value of commercial real estate; market volatility; demand for products and services; the degree of competition by traditional and nontraditional financial services companies; changes in banking regulation or actions by bank regulators; changes in tax laws; changes in prices, levies, and assessments; the impact of technological advances; potential cyber-attacks, information security breaches and other criminal activities; litigation liabilities; governmental and regulatory policy changes; the outcomes of existing or future contingencies; trends in customer behavior as well as their ability to repay loans; changes in local real estate values; damage to our reputation resulting from adverse publicity, regulatory actions, litigation, operational failures, and the failure to meet client expectations and other facts; changes in the method of determining Libor and the phase-out of Libor; changes in the national and local economies, including the ongoing disruption to financial markets and other economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and unstable political and economic environments; and other factors, including those expressed as risk factors, disclosed from time to time in filings made by Mercantile with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mercantile undertakes no obligation to update or clarify forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements contained herein.

For Further Information:


Robert B. Kaminski, Jr.

Charles Christmas

President & CEO

Executive Vice President & CFO

616-726-1502

616-726-1202

rkaminski@mercbank.com 

cchristmas@mercbank.com

 

View original content to download multimedia:https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mercantile-appoints-new-members-to-bank-board-of-directors-301692145.html

SOURCE Mercantile Bank Corporation

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November Employment Preview

On Friday at 8:30 AM ET, the BLS will release the employment report for November. The consensus is for 200,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 3.7%.There were 261,000 jobs added in October, and the unemployment rate was at…

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On Friday at 8:30 AM ET, the BLS will release the employment report for November. The consensus is for 200,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 3.7%.

There were 261,000 jobs added in October, and the unemployment rate was at 3.7%.

Click on graph for larger image.

• First, as of October there are 804 thousand more jobs than in February 2020 (the month before the pandemic).

This graph shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms.  As of August 2022, the total number of jobs had returned.

This doesn't include the preliminary benchmark revision that showed there were 462 thousand more jobs than originally reported in March 2022.

• A few brief excerpts from a note by Goldman Sachs economist Spencer Hill:
We estimate nonfarm payrolls rose by 175k in November (mom sa), below consensus of +200k and a slowdown from the +261k pace in October. ... We estimate the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%
emphasis added
ADP Report: The ADP employment report showed 127,000 private sector jobs were added in November.  This is the fourth release of ADP's new methodology, and this suggests job gains below consensus expectations.

ISM Surveys: Note that the ISM services are diffusion indexes based on the number of firms hiring (not the number of hires).  The ISM® manufacturing employment index decreased in November to 48.4%, down from 50.0% last month.   This would suggest 30,000 jobs lost in manufacturing.

The ISM® services employment index for November has not been released yet.

Unemployment Claims: The weekly claims report showed an increase in the number of initial unemployment claims during the reference week (includes the 12th of the month) from 214,000 in October to 223,000 in November. This would usually suggest above the same number of layoffs in October as in September. In general, weekly claims were slightly higher than expectations in November.

•  COVID: As far as the pandemic, the number of weekly cases during the reference week in November was around 282,000, up slightly from 265,000 in October.  

Conclusion: The consensus is for job growth to slow to 200,000 jobs added in November.  The ADP report was below expectations, and weekly claims were slightly negative.  My guess is the report will be below consensus.

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From qubits to potential cancer treatments: laser upgrade opens new research possibilities

Things are looking brighter than ever at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center run by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National…

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Things are looking brighter than ever at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center run by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A recently completed upgrade will expand the center’s capabilities into new areas, including studies of particle acceleration, extremely hot plasmas, cancer treatment techniques, and materials for quantum science.

Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab

Things are looking brighter than ever at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center run by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A recently completed upgrade will expand the center’s capabilities into new areas, including studies of particle acceleration, extremely hot plasmas, cancer treatment techniques, and materials for quantum science.

The new experimental area, known as Interaction Point 2 (iP2), will use the lab’s petawatt laser to provide intense pulses of protons and ions – building on the center’s expertise in accelerating electrons and lower-energy protons. 

“At iP2, we can focus the laser to a very small spot size, which makes it about 1,000 times brighter,” said Eric Esarey, director of the BELLA Center. “Creating this extreme intensity opens up a wide range of physics research and potential applications, like a new technique that could revolutionize radiotherapy for cancer treatment.”

Following two years of installation, researchers successfully commissioned iP2 and produced high-energy ion beams this fall. The upgrade expands opportunities for scientists who use DOE’s LaserNetUS, a collection of laser facilities across the United States.   

“We’re ushering in a new era of high-intensity laser experiments,” said Cameron Geddes, director of Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics (ATAP) Division, which manages the BELLA Center. “This is a great milestone that broadens the whole science reach of the facility and the possibilities for our field.”

The upgrade, funded through DOE’s Fusion Energy Sciences program, is the second completed at BELLA in 2022. This summer, teams also finished adding a second beamline where researchers plan to stack laser-powered modules to make small, high-energy electron accelerators.

Cancer cells, qubits, and magnetic tornadoes

Researchers already have a number of experiments lined up at iP2 that will take advantage of the laser’s high-energy and its ability to fire quickly (about once per second), delivering particle blasts that last femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second). The system at iP2 can also focus the laser down to a minuscule size: about 3 microns, a fraction of the width of a human hair.

One of the first experiments will explore what’s known as the FLASH effect, a phenomenon where radiation delivered by protons in an intense, short burst can kill cancer cells while sparing the healthy tissue nearby. In 2020, researchers at BELLA’s original interaction point (iP1) saw promising results looking at thin layers of cells in Petri dishes. They now plan to use protons with more energy to study the FLASH effect in thicker skin and tumor tissue.  

“We are investigating the potential of using these laser-accelerated protons for radiotherapy, which would require significantly higher proton energies to penetrate deep into the human body,” said Lieselotte Obst-Huebl, a research scientist in ATAP at Berkeley Lab who led the installation work at iP2. “This is basic research and is in its infancy, but it could potentially someday be a powerful tool in our toolkit.”

Other groups are interested in using the facility to create and test new materials. These could be useful in making qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers, or in high-temperature superconductors, which would carry electricity efficiently without needing to operate in extreme cold. Researchers plan to fire the laser into thin sheets of material such as boron or gold, accelerating the resulting ions and embedding them in targets like silicon wafers or synthetic diamonds. They can then study how these doped materials respond and see whether they have any helpful properties.

Teams are also planning to explore an area known as high energy density science: the study of matter under extreme pressure or density. Among them are certain plasmas, gas-like collections of electrically charged particles. Understanding these incredibly hot (relativistic) plasmas made in the lab could help advance fusion energy sciences, studies in astrophysics (like how stars are born), and the next generation of particle accelerators.

Scientists at BELLA are already combining lasers and plasmas to reduce the size of particle accelerators for lightweight particles such as electrons. New techniques could further improve their power. Researchers will set up experiments at iP2 to study one method called magnetic vortex acceleration (MVA), which could produce more energetic proton and ion beams. They’ll test out special thin, foam-like targets that will interact with the laser to generate rotating magnetic fields that swirl through the plasma like a tornado.

“With MVA, the idea is to absorb as much laser energy as possible into the electrons to create this magnetic vortex through the target that then accelerates the ions with it,” Obst-Huebl said. Boosting particles to higher energies in a shorter distance means new applications and potentially lower-cost ways to explore the fundamental workings of our universe.  

Simulations and expansions

Most of the processes studied at BELLA take place over incredibly short periods: around one millionth of one millionth of a second. As a result, it can be difficult to physically measure every aspect, so scientists need to pair their experiments with simulations on some of the most powerful computers in the world to better understand what’s happening.

“It’s complicated physics, and 3D simulations of this type of experiment are relatively new,” said Jean-Luc Vay, head of the ATAP Accelerator Modeling Program at Berkeley Lab. “We’re ready to do the simulations on new exascale computers in support of iP2 experiments.”

Computer modeling was also key to successfully installing the iP2 upgrade during the pandemic, when fewer people were on site. Simulations helped the team plan the experimental setup to measure key plasma and beam properties, and can be used to prepare for future experiments at iP2.

“We have this nice setup, but we don’t yet have all the diagnostic tools,” said Axel Huebl, a computational physicist in ATAP at Berkeley Lab. “So, in parallel with the experiments, we’re getting ourselves ready to build a fully digital twin so that we can measure as many virtual diagnostics in the simulations as possible.”

The simulations will let researchers look at detailed plasma behaviors at any timescale, which they can then compare with measurements from experiments. The results will prove or improve scientists’ best models and feed into other areas of science.

Researchers can submit proposals through LaserNetUS to conduct research at the BELLA Center and take advantage of the expansion at iP2.

“People can bring detectors and new targets and get supported by our team here,” said Kei Nakamura, the associate deputy director for experiments at the BELLA Center. “They can propose pure acceleration experiments or applications of accelerated particle beams. Topics we don’t even know now will be happening in the future.”

This work was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Fusion Energy Sciences program.

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

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Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 16 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.


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