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Stocks, Futures, Oil Tumble On Omicron Lockdowns, Manchin Shockwave

Stocks, Futures, Oil Tumble On Omicron Lockdowns, Manchin Shockwave

Global stocks and US equity futures are sharply lower to start the otherwise very quiet holiday week, dragged lower by Manchin’s shock decision to kill Biden’s economic agend

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Stocks, Futures, Oil Tumble On Omicron Lockdowns, Manchin Shockwave

Global stocks and US equity futures are sharply lower to start the otherwise very quiet holiday week, dragged lower by Manchin's shock decision to kill Biden's economic agenda (which Goldman said would cut US Q1 GDP from 3% to 2%), accelerating government measures to counter the fast-spreading omicron variant and fears over the growth outlook amid a tightening Fed. US equity futures tumbled almost 100 points from their Friday close (and more than 200 points from Thursday's all time high before paring some losses buoyed by optimism from news that Moderna’s booster vaccine increases antibodies 37-fold against omicron. Treasury yields also pared a sharp drop as low as 1.35% and the dollar held a jump from Friday, while crude oil slid on worries that mobility curbs to tackle the strain will hurt demand. As of 730am S&P 500 futures were down down 1.1%, Nasdaq 100 -1.3%, and Dow -1.0%.

Global stocks have retreated from record highs in recent weeks amid concerns about Covid-19 hurting the economic recovery and as central banks pivot toward fighting inflation. Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said a faster wind-down of the central bank’s bond-buying program puts it in a position to start lifting interest rates as early as March.

“In our view, markets can look through omicron concerns, and the gradual pace of monetary tightening won’t bring the equity rally to an end,” UBS Global Wealth Management wrote in a note. “Overall, the latest news does not change our outlook for equities.”

Luke Hickmore, investment director at Standard Life Investments, also recommended buying the dip. “The prospects for growth will improve rapidly from here,” he said. “The market will likely see a recovery in the new year when liquidity returns.”

In the weekend's biggest news, senator Joe Manchin blindsided the White House on Sunday by rejecting Biden’s $1.75 trillion tax-and-spending package, prompting a sharply critical statement from the White House which called Manchin’s decision a “sudden and inexplicable reversal.”  Biden and top Democrats must now regroup to see if a scaled-back version remains possible with little more than 10 months before midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. As noted late last night, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth for next year after Manchin’s move (more below). On Monday, Chuck Schumer said the Senate will still vote “very early” in 2022 on Biden’s economic agenda, although it was unclear just what the new plan will look like now that Build Back Better is dead.

Not helping matters were the latest development in the Omicron front where the biggest European countries are introducing more curbs, with U.K. officials keeping open the possiblity of stronger measures before Christmas and the Netherlands returning to lockdown, even as Biden’s chief medical advisor said further U.S. lockdowns are unlikely. In some "good" news, said a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine saw a 37-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies against omicron. Ironically. While investors remain on edge over the outlook for economic activity, there remains little evidence that the new variant causes illness as severe as the delta variant, especially among those already vaccinated.

“The main reason behind the market sell off today is the rejection of Biden’s $2 trillion tax-and-spending package, which will lead to a reduction in U.S. economic growth forecasts,” said Michel Keusch, a portfolio manager at Bellevue Asset Management. “With trading volumes getting thinner and thinner into the year end, this is the catalyst creating some short-term nervousness.” 

Then there are tightening concerns: the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase the pace of tapering last week is also adding to investor nerves about the outlook for 2022. And now, without either fiscal or monetary support, economists see a policy-induced slowdown in the economy where Goldman on Sunday cut its real GDP forecast for 2022: 2% in Q1 (vs. 3% prior), 3% in Q2 (vs. 3.5% prior), and 2.75% in Q3 (vs. 3% prior).

One place which is convinced the Fed will not meet its targets it the bond market where traders of eurodollar futures price rates much lower than FOMC targets for the end of 2023 and 2024.

Finally, as Bloomberg notes, there is also the issue of divergent global monetary policy to contend with, as the People’s Bank of China stepped up easing overnight with the first rate cut in 20 months.

Looking at the premarket, travel stocks fell the most with United Airlines down 3.4% leading declines among major U.S. carriers, while a 4% slide in Royal Caribbean Cruises led the fall among cruise operators. Energy and industrial bellwethers also declined, with Chevron, 3M and Caterpillar falling over 2% each. Major U.S. tech and internet stocks slumped hitting shares in most highly valued names, as well as in cyclicals. Apple fell as much as 2.1% premarket while fellow large- cap tech names also drop, with Facebook-owner Meta Platforms down 1.9%, Alphabet -1.2%, Amazon.com -1.7%, Twitter -2.1%, Microsoft -1.6%. Here are some of the other big U.S. movers today:

  • Major U.S. tech and internet stocks drop in premarket trading as risk appetite sours globally amid worries over further pandemic- related restrictions, hitting shares in most highly valued names, as well as in cyclicals.
  • Shares in U.S. renewables firms drop in premarket after U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s surprise rejection of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion package.
  • Moderna (MRNA US) rises 6% in U.S. premarket after the company said that a booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine increased antibody levels against the omicron variant.
  • Society Pass (SOPA US) surges 22% in premarket after the loyalty platform operator said in a statement it has been added to the Russell 2000 Index.
  • Boston Beer (SAM US) upgraded to hold at Jefferies following pullback of more than 60% in the shares related to “massive” reset in expectations for hard seltzers, removing the only negative rating on the stock. Shares up 0.3% on low volume in premarket.

"After battling endless headwinds in recent weeks, markets have finally been knocked over as the rapid spread of Omicron finally reaches panic mode," Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, wrote in a client note.

Europe's Stoxx 600 also stumbled, now down about 1.4% after falling as much as 2.6%, weighed down the most by travel and insurance. All sectors are in red. FTSE 100 recovers slightly as energy gets a leg up, but is still off by 1.2%. Dax -2%. Germany’s new coalition government picked Joachim Nagel, a Bank for International Settlements official, as the central bank’s next president.

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks were set for the biggest drop since March, as the spread of the omicron variant and a surprising setback to U.S. President Joe Biden’s economic agenda forced traders to take bets off the table. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index sank as much as 2%, headed for its lowest close since November 2020, with tech and consumer shares the biggest drags.

Relatively thin trading ahead of the year-end exacerbated declines in the region, as investors grapple with fresh outbreaks of Covid-19 and monetary policy tightening globally. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index is down about 15% from a peak in February, compared with an 18% gain in the S&P 500. “Omicron’s spread over the festive holidays and Manchin” are driving the risk-off mood, said Wai Ho Leong, strategist at Modular Asset Management (Singapore). “But most of all, it is the lack of liquidity in all markets.” India was the worst performer around the region, with its benchmark index poised to enter a correction amid the spread of the omicron variant. Chinese stocks also dropped despite a cut to bank borrowing costs for the first time in 20 months

In FX, the dollar reversed gains and was little changed. The pound fell in line with other risk- sensitive currencies as global market sentiment soured; gilts advanced. Hedging the major currencies over the next month comes at a similar cost, yet the pound turns expensive further out as it holds a higher beta on monetary policy divergence. The Australian and New Zealand dollars followed a broader move lower in commodity FX amid a slide in oil and stocks. The yen advanced with Japanese government bonds. The lira tumbled to another record low after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to continue cutting interest rates.

In rates, Treasury yields fell by ~3bp in 5-year sector, steepening 5s30s spread by 3bp on the day as long-end yields were little changed; 10-year yields 1bp lower around 1.39%, outperforming bunds and gilts. Treasuries drifted higher Monday as global stocks extended losses. Gains were led by front- and belly of the curve, while eurodollars advanced and the amount of Federal Reserve rate-hike premium for 2024 and 2024 eased. Long-end lagged the move ahead of a 20-year bond auction Tuesday.  Bund and gilt curves are mixed. Italy lags in the peripheral complex, widening ~2bps to Germany.

In commodities, Brent crude extends dropped to trade down as much as 5.3%, trading as low as $69.60/bbl before paring some losses, with Brent down 3% to $71 per barrel, and WTI -4% to around the $68-handle. Spot gold drifts below the $1,800-handle. Base metals complex under pressure; LME aluminum and nickel decline the most. 

There is nothing on the economic calendar today except that Nov. Leading Index, which is estimated to print at  0.9%.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 1.6% to 4,535.75
  • MXAP down 1.8% to 187.95
  • MXAPJ down 1.8% to 607.98
  • Nikkei down 2.1% to 27,937.81
  • Topix down 2.2% to 1,941.33
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.9% to 22,744.86
  • Shanghai Composite down 1.1% to 3,593.60
  • Sensex down 2.0% to 55,848.23
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.2% to 7,292.16
  • Kospi down 1.8% to 2,963.00
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 2.2% to 463.29
  • German 10Y yield little changed at -0.40%
  • Euro up 0.2% to $1.1259
  • Brent Futures down 3.9% to $70.67/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.1% to $1,800.19
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 96.61

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • President Joe Biden faces the unexpected task of quickly rewriting his policy agenda in a crucial election year after a key Senate Democrat abruptly rejected his signature $1.75 trillion economic plan
  • Germany’s new coalition government picked Joachim Nagel, a former Bundesbank senior official, as the central bank’s next chief, according to a person with knowledge of the matter
  • The ECB will not raise interest rates in 2022 if inflation behaves as expected, governing council member Pablo Hernandez de Cos told Expansion newspaper in an interview
  • Europe’s biggest countries are introducing more curbs to fight a surge in Covid-19 infections, from another lockdown in the Netherlands to stricter travel restrictions at the height of the holiday period
  • Chinese property stocks tumbled close to a fresh five-year low after a series of asset sales underscored concern that equity investors will bear the brunt of losses as developers offload projects to repay debt
  • Chinese banks lowered borrowing costs for the first time in 20 months, foreshadowing more monetary support to an economy showing strain from a property slump, weak private consumption and sporadic virus outbreaks

A more detail look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pac equities traded mostly lower following the volatile session on Wall Street on Friday, which saw the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all posting varying degrees of losses, whilst the Russell 2000 outperformed with decent gains. Overnight, US equity futures opened with a mild upside bias, albeit the optimism faded in early trade as risk aversion materialised, with the ES Mar 2022 contract falling below its 50 DMA (4,596) whilst the NQ and RTY saw losses of over 1% apiece. Sentiment was hit by the slew of concerning COVID headlines over the weekend, whilst Friday saw further hawkish rhetoric from Fed officials - with Fed’s Waller suggesting the whole point of accelerating the bond taper was to make the March Fed meeting a live meeting for the first hike, and under his base case March is very likely for lift-off, although it could be pushed back to May. The ASX 200 (-0.3%) was pressured by some large-cap miners and banks, whilst the Nikkei 225 (-2.1%) and KOSPI (-1.8%) conformed to the downbeat tone, with upside in the former also capped by recent JPY strength. The Hang Seng (-1.9%) and Shanghai Comp (-1.1%) initially saw shallower losses after the PBoC opted to cut the 1yr Loan Prime Rate by 5bps, whilst the 5yr rate was maintained, although the property sector faced more woes after S&P downgraded Evergrande to Selective Default, whilst Kaisa shares slumped after trade resumed following a two-week hiatus, with the Co. in discussions regarding a debt restructuring plan. The Hang Seng dipped below 23,000 for the first time since May 2020. Elsewhere, US 10yr futures continued edging higher as APAC risk aversion supported the haven, whilst Goldman Sachs also cut its US real GDP Growth forecasts on the Build Back Better blockade.

Top Asian News

  • Coal India Defends Quality Level of Shipments After Complaints
  • Hong Kong Eyes New Security Law After Electing Loyalist Council
  • Asian Stocks Drop to Lowest in 13 Months on Virus Woes, Manchin
  • Best Way for China to Lower Market Rates is to Sell Yuan: Nomura

European bourses commenced the week on the backfoot, continuing the broad pressure seen in APAC trade, as focus is firmly fixed on the Omicron variant. The downside in APAC hours was also a feature of the choppy trade in the US on Friday, and amid non-COVID catalysts such as US Senator Manchin presenting a stumbling block to BBB which effectively ends the chances it can be passed this year, while hawkish central banks is also a theme traders are cognizant of for next year. Euro Stoxx 50 -1.4%, benchmarks are lower across the board as further COVID-19 restrictions are imposed/touted; thus far, the most stringent has seen the Netherlands return to lockdowns, while the likes of the UK and Germany are mulling measures. Vaccine producer Moderna (+5.5% in premarket trade) released preliminary booster data vs Omicron, which saw a modest paring of the risk-off conditions; the vaccine boosts neutralising antibody levels by 37-fold vs pre-boost levels. All sectors remain in the red however, with underperformance in those most exposed to COVID restrictions, such as Travel & Leisure, Oil & Gas and Autos. Individual movers were predominantly dictated by the broader price action; however, THG (+12.5%) is the morning’s outperformer following reports that a notable short on the name has removed its position. Meanwhile, US futures are softer across the board (ES -1.3%) ahead of a very sparse docket where focus will, as it is in European hours, centre around the fiscal narrative and COVID. On the latter, President Biden is due to speak on the situation on Tuesday, calling for individuals to get vaccinated.

Top European News

  • Johnson Appoints Truss to Key Brexit Role After Torrid Week
  • Germany Picks Bundesbank Veteran Nagel as Central Bank Chief
  • Czech Billionaire Family Faces Final Showdown Over Bank Merger
  • Flashpoints That May Heal or Deepen the Lira’s Pain in 2022

In FX, the Dollar is mixed across the board, but retaining an upward bias overall amidst greater gains vs high beta, activity and cyclical currencies compared to losses against safer havens as broad risk sentiment sours on a number of factors, but mainly COVID-19. Hence, the index is holding quite firmly above 96.500 within a 96.504-680 range even though US Treasury yields are soft and the curve is marginally flatter, with traction or the Greenback coming via hawkish comments in wake of last week’s FOMC from Fed’s Waller who would not object to lifting rates as soon as tapering is done next March. Ahead, a very sparse Monday agenda only comprises November’s leading index.

  • JPY/EUR/CHF/XAU - As noted above, risk-off positioning due to the ongoing spread of Omicron has prompted demand for the Yen, the Euro, with added momentum from bullish Eur/Gbp cross flows, plus the Franc and Gold to lesser extents. Usd/Jpy is tethered around 113.50 in response, though unhindered by imposing option expiries in contrast to last Friday and the headline pair capped by technical resistance in the form of 21 and 50 DMAs that come in at 113.77 and 113.83 respectively today. Meanwhile, Eur/Usd is back above 1.1250 amidst mixed ECB vibes as de Cos underscores guidance for no hikes in 2022, but sources say that GC hawks wanted explicit recognition of upside inflation risks and were shouted down by chief economist Lane. However, Eur/Gbp has bounced even more firmly from sub-0.8500 lows on what looks like a combination of early year end demand or RHS orders and Pound underperformance on pandemic, political and Brexit-related factors. Elsewhere, Usd/Chf is hovering mostly sub-0.9250 and Eur/Chf is pivoting 1.0400 with latest weekly Swiss sight deposits showing no sign of intervention and Gold is rotating around Usd 1800/oz after a false upside breach of Usd 1810, but not quite enough follow-through buying to scale another upside target circa Usd 1815.
  • GBP/AUD/NZD/CAD - The major fall guys, as Sterling loses 1.3200+ status yet again on all the aforementioned negatives, and also feels some contagion from weakness in Brent, while the Aussie is straddling 0.7100, the Kiwi is trying to keep its head above 0.6700 and the Loonie contain declines through 1.2900 alongside the latest retracement in WTI.

In commodities, WTI and Brent are also risk-off, moving in tandem with the equity action, on the COVID-19 narrative and implementation/prospect of further restrictions hitting the demand-side of the equation. WTI relinquishes USD 67.00/bbl and Brent gave up the USD 70.00/bbl level. In fitting the broader market move, some easing of the initial downside was seen post-Moderna’s update. Elsewhere, in crude specifics, Libya’s NOC confirmed reports that the Petroleum Facilities Guard was blocking several fields in the region; some suggest production of oil has dropped to 950k BPD due to losses of production at El Sharara field (estimated at 280k BPD). Elsewhere, OPEC+ compliance has reportedly increased marginally in November, in-fitting with the assessments in earlier sourced reports. In metals, spot gold and silver are contained on the session with little evidence of risk-off making its self-known at this point in time, with the yellow metal pivoting USD 1800/oz. Elsewhere, copper is impacted on the risk tone but offset somewhat by Chile’s President-elect Boric saying he will oppose the Dominga copper-iron mine project.

US Event Calendar

  • 10am: Nov. Leading Index, est. 0.9%, prior 0.9%

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

As we arrive at the final week before Christmas, there’s plenty of newsflow from the weekend for markets to digest this morning. In particular, there was the announcement from the US that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia wouldn’t be able to support the Build Back Better Bill, which has been the subject of intense negotiations over recent weeks and marks a significant blow for President Biden’s economic agenda. Meanwhile on the Covid front, there was a further ratcheting up of concerns about the Omicron variant, with the Netherlands becoming the latest European country to go back into lockdown as of yesterday, as cases continue to spread elsewhere. But otherwise, the events calendar is looking fairly quiet for now in this holiday-shortened week, with just a few lower-tier data releases and the occasional central bank speaker.

We’ll start with Omicron, since that remains one of the biggest issues for markets right now and has significantly clouded the outlook moving into year-end. In a nutshell, the news over the weekend from Europe has only pointed in the direction of further restrictions across multiple countries, with the Netherlands being the most severe as a full lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday that leaves just supermarkets and essential shops open, with even schools shut. When it comes to socialising, people will not be allowed to receive more than 2 visitors aged 13 and over per day, although over 24-26 December, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, this will be raised to 4 people.

Elsewhere in Europe there was a similar pattern towards tougher measures, with the Irish PM announcing on Friday evening that there would be an 8pm closing time for bars, restaurants and theatres, among others, which would last from today until January 30. Over in Spain, Prime Minister Sánchez said in a televised address yesterday that he’d be meeting with regional leaders virtually on Wednesday to look at measures for the weeks ahead. In Italy, it’s been widely reported that the government is looking at further measures to contain the spread as well, and they’re set to meet on Thursday to discuss these, whilst here in the UK, Health Secretary Javid was not ruling out further restrictions this side of Christmas. Separately in the US, President Biden is set to deliver a speech tomorrow about Covid and the steps that the administration will be taking, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeting that Biden would also be “issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated.”

For those after a bit more optimism ahead of Christmas, then a couple of DB research notes out on Friday about the new variant will definitely be of interest. The first by FX Strategist Shreyas Gopal (link here) looks at London, which is the epicentre of Omicron infections in the UK, and tracks cases there against those in the South African province of Gauteng a couple of weeks back. The good news is that if the relationship is similar, then that does suggest a peak in cases soon. The other note comes from our head of rates research Francis Yared (link here) who shows that although deaths are starting to increase in South Africa, they’re currently on a much lower trajectory relative to cases compared to previous waves. An important question for markets is whether these patterns from South Africa can be extrapolated over to the advanced economies, which have much higher vaccination rates on the one hand, but also much older populations on the other, so there are factors that could push in either direction. Keep an eye out on these leading indicators from South Africa, as well as London, since they’ll have implications for what could occur in the coming weeks elsewhere.

Away from Covid, the other main piece of news over the weekend came from the US, where the moderate Democratic senator Joe Manchin said that he couldn’t support the Build Back Better package that forms a key part of President Biden’s economic agenda, with much of his proposals on social programs and climate change. The news broke in an interview from Manchin on Fox News Sunday, when Manchin said “I can’t get there” when it comes to supporting the package, and follows direct negotiations that he’d been having with the president. Manchin’s support is crucial for the bill’s passage, since the Senate is split 50-50 between the Democrats and Republicans, with the Democrats having control only by virtue of Vice President Harris’ casting vote. So with zero Republican support for the package, that required every single Democratic senator on board with the proposals, giving Manchin enormous influence.

A statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in response to Manchin did not sound impressed, saying that his comments “are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.” It went on to say that “we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.” Nevertheless, Manchin’s own written statement wasn’t using the language of compromise, saying that his “Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” So the implication from Manchin is that Build Back Better won’t be happening this side of the mid-terms in its current form, and would require a fundamental rethink and meaningful slimming down were it to have any chance of passing.

Those twin factors of further Omicron restrictions and Manchin’s announcement have weighed heavily on Asian equities overnight, with the Nikkei (-2.17%), KOSPI (-1.66%), Hang Seng (-1.44%), CSI (-0.98%) and Shanghai Composite (-0.75%) all moving lower. In India, the benchmark NIFTY is also down 10% from its peak in October, putting the index in correction territory. However, we did get a policy easing in China, with banks lowering the 1yr prime rate by -5bps to 3.8%. That move came alongside separate remarks from Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda, who said it was too early to think about policy normalisation, and that discussion should take place once inflation is closer to the 2% target. European and US equities are set to follow Asia lower later on, with futures on both the S&P 500 (-0.97%) and the DAX (-1.63%) both pointing lower this morning. And oil prices been struggling overnight as well in light of the recent virus news, with Brent Crude down -3.02% to $71.30/bbl at time of writing.

Recapping last week now, and the main events were the array of central bank meetings ahead of the holidays. In the US, the Fed doubled the pace of their tapering as expected, which would bring net asset purchases to an end in mid-March, and the median dot now expects three rate hikes in 2022. By the close on Friday, Fed funds futures were pricing in a 55% chance of an initial hike by the March meeting, and an 87% chance of one by the May meeting. The ECB was then up next, and started a wind down of net PEPP purchases that are also set to finish in March next year. The ECB is cushioning the landing though, having moved to increase APP purchases until October next year after PEPP ends, following which they’ll maintain a pace of €20bn a month until shortly before liftoff. The ECB maintained some policy optionality through flexibility on PEPP reinvestments, which our Europe economists read as a commitment to smoothing the transmission of monetary policy.

In the UK, the BoE hiked Bank Rate by +15bps to 0.25%. The MPC noted the decision was finely balanced due to Covid uncertainty, but the vote was still 8-1 in favour of a hike. Over in Japan, the BoJ rounded out the major DM central bank meetings, keeping rates unchanged and announcing a slow reduction in corporate debt holdings. At the same time, they extended a special covid loans program targeted at small and medium-sized firms to September 2022.

When all was said and done, many sovereign bond yields actually ended the week lower, even with the hawkish pivot from the various central banks. 10yr yields on Treasuries (-8.2bps) and bunds (-3.1bps) both declined, although those on gilts did post a small +1.7bps gain over the week. Meanwhile growing Covid pessimism served to dampen risk appetite and send global equity indices lower last week. By Friday the S&P 500 (-1.94%) had fallen for the 3rd week out of the last 4, hampered by an underperformance from tech stocks that saw the NASDAQ (-2.95%) and the FANG+ index (-4.53%) both lose significant ground. Over in Europe the moves were smaller, albeit still lower, and the STOXX 600 ended the week -0.35%.

 

Tyler Durden Mon, 12/20/2021 - 08:02

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Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment…

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Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment period with the antiviral medication, Paxlovid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and scientific adviser to the White House, said the plan for the new studies could come over the next few days, Reuters reported this afternoon. During a White House briefing on COVID-19, Fauci pointed out that the rising cases of COVID-19 driven by an Omicron sub-variant are increasing the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid. So far, more than 660,000 courses of Paxlovid have been administered across the U.S., Reuters said.

However, there is a growing concern that some patients are not shaking the virus as quickly as expected following a treatment regimen of the antiviral. Some continue to experience symptoms, or see a recurrence of their COVID-19 symptoms, following treatment with Paxlovid, Reuters said. Currently, there is no clear indication on the number of patients who are experiencing such a recurrence, or whether or not it is due to the variant type of COVID-19. But, the numbers appear to be enough to warrant such a conversation between America’s top infectious disease expert and Pfizer.

Paxlovid was granted Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December. It was granted EUA for the treatment of high-risk adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are at serious risk of hospitalization. A combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets, during clinical trials, Paxlovid significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized, high-risk adults with COVID-19 within three days of symptom-onset. However, even then, there were cases of a recurrence of symptoms in some clinical trial patients.

Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has suggested that those patients who experience a recurrence of symptoms should undergo a second round of treatment with Paxlovid. As BioSpace previously reported, Bourla said if symptoms reoccur, “then you give a second course, like you do with antibiotics, and that’s it.”

However, the FDA has balked at that suggestion. Dr. John Farley, director of the FDA’s Office of Infectious Diseases, argued that there is no evidence of benefit for a longer course of treatment, such as 10 days instead of the current five days of administration, or a second five-day round of treatment.

Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

While Pfizer may undertake these additional studies, as BioSpace reported earlier Wednesday, the pharma giant has so far reportedly resisted requests to use Paxlovid in combination studies. The nonprofit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative said that Pfizer rejected a January request to offer doses of Paxlovid to be used in a study alongside an inhaled steroid in Africa.

Also Wednesday, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly said studies have confirmed that bebtelovimab, the company’s monoclonal antibody against COVID-19, is effective against all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including BA.2, which is currently the dominant strain in the U.S., Seeking Alpha reported.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/pfizer-nih-in-talks-to-begin-study-of-longer-paxlovid-dosing-regimen

 

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Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The…

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Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Missouri lawmakers passed legislation that prevents state licensing boards from disciplining doctors who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs a bill in Jefferson City, Mo., on May 24, 2019. (Summer Balentine/AP Photo)

Sponsored by Rep. Brenda Kay Shields (R-Mo.), HB 2149 also bars pharmacists from questioning doctors or disputing patients regarding the usage of such drugs and their efficacy.

With a convincing 130–4 vote in the House, HB 2149 passed both chambers on May 12 and currently heads to the office of Gov. Mike Parson to be potentially signed into law.

The board shall not deny, revoke, or suspend, or otherwise take any disciplinary action against, a certificate of registration or authority, permit, or license required by this chapter for any person due to the lawful dispensing, distributing, or selling of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use in accordance with prescriber directions,” reads the draft of the bill (pdf).

It adds, “A pharmacist shall not contact the prescribing physician or the patient to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use unless the physician or patient inquires of the pharmacist about the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.”

Critics of the bill have noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given approval for usage of the drugs. Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine have been divisive drugs and politically polarized throughout the pandemic.

“But, nevertheless, the Missouri legislature has chosen to ‘own the libs’ by issuing a gag order against every pharmacist in this state from offering their medical opinion on taking either one of those medications—even if it could kill their patient,” wrote former Democratic nominee Lindsey Simmons in a May 12 Twitter post.

Although 22 countries across the world have approved the use of ivermectin in treating COVID-19, the FDA maintains that the current data show the drug to be ineffective. Large doses can be dangerous, it says.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases analyzed a national federated database of adults that compared ivermectin with the FDA-approved COVID-19 medication, remdesivir.

After using propensity score matching and adjusting for potential confounders, ivermectin was associated with reduced mortality vs remdesivir,” researchers wrote. “To our knowledge, this is the largest association study of patients with COVID-19, mortality, and ivermectin.”

According to The Associated Press, Missouri state Rep. Patty Lewis, a Democrat, agreed to the bill to satisfy a group of conservatives in the Senate. She added that the bill will not change anything significantly as medical boards do not engage in punishing doctors who prescribe drugs legally.

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 23:25

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“They Shut Us Down”: Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

"They Shut Us Down": Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis…

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"They Shut Us Down": Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A coalition of five bowling alleys and family entertainment centers is suing Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, for losses incurred due to her mandatory COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer listens to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in Clawson, Mich., on March 18, 2019. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon is also a defendant in the case.

The plaintiffs allege that the shutdowns imposed by Whitmer and Gordon were a “taking” of their businesses without just compensation in violation of both the state and the U.S. Constitution.

The case has been winding its way through the federal courts since January 2021.

Fred Kautz runs the lane oiler at Kautz Shore Lanes in Lexington, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

The coalition lost the first round of the legal battle when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled against it.

Oral arguments were recently held before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit.

Plaintiff’s chief counsel David Kallman told The Epoch Times after the appeals court hearing, “The oral arguments from both sides were vigorous. The judges asked a lot of questions. It was the kind of proceeding that makes you proud to be a lawyer.

“Even the defense acknowledges that we are presenting ‘novel’ arguments.

“Michigan is the only state in the nation where a governor’s public health emergency powers were overturned as unconstitutional.

“If we lose in the court of appeals, we will take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Scott Bennett, executive director of the Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association, told The Epoch Times,

“The governor’s actions were devastating to our industry.

“Things went from ‘two weeks to slow the spread’ to indefinite shutdowns.”

Bennett said that the forced closures were not based on solid scientific proof that bowling alleys and family entertainment centers would spread the virus any more than the Walmart stores or the GM plants that were allowed to remain open.

“They were allowed to operate with hundreds and even thousands of people in them but we had to shut down. We feel our industry was unfairly singled-out.

“We cannot stand for a repeat of such arbitrary treatment and don’t want the people of Michigan to forget what was done to them.”

With the recent uptick in COVID cases and the approaching mid-term elections, Bennett said his members that survived the 2020 shutdowns feel like it can happen all over again.

“It’s like operating day-to-day with a hammer held over your head. The uncertainty is altering business plans. The value of our businesses is dropping through the floor,” Bennett said.

Brian and Mindy Hill work the counter at their bowling alley in Imlay City, Mich. on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)

Fred Kautz, the proprietor of Kautz’s Shore Lanes in Lexington, Michigan, started working in the family business when he was 13.

The business has 12 bowling lanes, a bar, an arcade, a restaurant, and living quarters upstairs.

“We’ve owned this place for 42 years. For me and my family, it’s more than a place to work. It’s a way of life. And it has become an institution in our community—a real gathering place,” said Kautz.

He said he is still smarting from what happened after Whitmer’s executive actions were ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in the fall of 2020.

“We got a little reprieve. We thought we were in the clear until she came back with another round of forced closures, this time under the authority of the Michigan Department of Public Health.

The first 30 days knocked us right on our butts. But we were willing to cooperate, to do our part. We were all scared and we did not want to see harm come to anybody.

We lost a lot of money at the time. We are coming back slowly, but our overall revenue is still down 20 percent from pre-pandemic days. That’s hard to make up.

“In the spring of 2020, I tried to do what was recommended and go along. Never again!

“If my Dad was still alive, he’d have never closed at all,” said Kautz.

Brian and Mindy Hill, owners of I.C. Strikes, a 16-lane bowling alley, bar, and snack bar in Imlay City said their business was hit hard by the shutdowns.

Brian was the town barber for 25 years, before purchasing the bowling alley where he learned to bowl as a child.

“We took over in December 2018. We’d saved up money to buy this place and make some upgrades. When COVID hit, we were forced to close down. It took all the money we saved for improvements just to survive,” said Brian.

The Hills said they never thought they’d see the day when their own government could do something like that to them.

Mary Bacon, assistant manager of Jump City, a family recreation center, cleans an arcade machine in Imlay City, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

They shut us down. They took away our livelihood with no end date in sight. Then they wanted to loan us money. Think about that. They first put us in a situation where we had zero income to pay our previous debt. And then they wanted to loan us more money.

“Lots of small business people lost their businesses but kept their debt. It ruined them,” said Brian.

The Hills did apply for and receive a Small Business Administration loan at 3.25 percent interest for 30 years, and they participated in the Paycheck Protection Program which helped their business survive.

Up the road from the Hill’s bowling alley is Jump City, a large indoor recreation center offering an array of bouncy houses and arcade games for children.

Assistant manager Mary Bacon told The Epoch Times, “We lost a lot of business. We were forced to close for 15 months and had to make our payments with no income.”

Bacon remembers the morning of March 16, 2020, when many area businesses were gearing up for big St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“By afternoon everybody had to close. All that food went to waste.

“The shutdown was supposed to be for a couple of weeks. Nobody foresaw it would drag on for a year and three months.

“Oh, they said we could open again, but they so severely restricted the number of customers that we lost all of our big birthday parties. With so few kids allowed in, we couldn’t operate. We were losing too much money.”

Bacon said people are coming back to the center but are still scared, even though the games and bouncy houses are continuously cleaned and sanitized.

Navaeh Smalstig, 8, climbs out of a bouncy house at Jump City in Imlay City, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

Before the pandemic, Danny Brown owned a roller rink in Grand Blanc and Owasso, two south-central Michigan towns.

“The lockdowns forced us to sell the Owasso rink for less than half of what we paid for it. We will be trying to make up our loss for years to come.”

Brown, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times, “To keep going I had to decide to triple our debt. Since the shutdown, I am three-quarters of a million dollars deeper in debt.

“Small businesses put everything on the line. All of our personal and family money. I am personally responsible for our debt. If I die my children will have to pay it.”

Brown said Michigan’s government acted without a real understanding and regarded the state’s small businesses as “nonessential throwaways.”

“One of the reasons we filed suit is to push the government to think differently,” he said.

According to Brown, family entertainment centers like skating rinks, bowling alleys, arcades, pool halls, miniature golf, and go-cart tracks have been nearly wiped out.

“A few years ago, there were 3,500 roller skating rinks in the United States. Now there are 700. There were five rinks in Genesee County, now there are two.” he said.

Brown attributes the decrease to years of ongoing government mandates and interference that led up to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“They took, they stole our businesses!” he said.

Donn Slimmen, another plaintiff in the case, owns Spartan West Bowling in the west Michigan resort town of Ludington.

“The lockdown just about killed us. It was 14 to 15 months of agony. Our bank payments and utility bills didn’t stop. We went from being two to three months behind to more months behind.

“We entered into survival mode. We ate a lot of pork and beans and hotdogs. We’re still trying to work ourselves out of the hole. By the end of this summer, we might be solvent again.

“We were lucky to survive. We are still hanging on by threads,” said Slimmen.

Along with 16 bowling lanes, Slimmen operates a full-service restaurant.

It’s never come back. Pre-pandemic, we’d serve 200 customers at an ordinary Friday fish fry. Now our best night is 100.

“Our restaurant went from a thriving seated-guest business to a take-out operation grossing only two to three percent of the seated sales.

“We were spending $400 to take in proceeds of $100.

“The politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand. They never cleaned a toilet seat or climbed into a bowling machine to fix it,” said Slimmen.

Slimmen blames Gov.Gretchen Whitmer for the plight of his community and the state.

“You didn’t see Republican governors closing businesses. Their states did so much better.

“Drive through downtown Ludington or Muskegon and look at all the boarded-up storefronts. So many places are out of business. Michigan is in terrible shape,” Slimmen said.

The Tomassoni family has been in the bowling business for 84 years in the western Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain, Michigan.

We had to close bowling and our banquet facility a total of 161 days in two different periods of time in 2020. After the second shutdown, we could operate at 25 percent occupancy and only during restricted hours. No wedding receptions, no special events. It was a disaster.

“It ripped my heart out. I am so bitter towards my government,” said owner Pete Tomassoni.

Tomassoni’s business suffered further because of its proximity to Wisconsin which is only minutes away.

“Wisconsin closed for just 30 days. For the most part, they were wide open. That really hurt us.

“Our governor was picking and choosing which of our state’s businesses could operate. To force a business to close with no notice and without proven science is straight out wrong.

“I think that she came down so hard on small business because we, by and large, lean to the right.

“The state dangled the threat of yanking business licenses to keep people in line.

“Some of our businesses tried to defy the state and stayed open

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 21:25

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