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Tactical asset allocation — December 2020 recap

Macro update Financial markets roared back to life over December, boosted by news of potential breakthroughs on multiple COVID-19 vaccine trials. The confluence…

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Macro update

Financial markets roared back to life over December, boosted by news of potential breakthroughs on multiple COVID-19 vaccine trials. The confluence of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca results increased investor confidence and expectations for a broad-based distribution of vaccines in the first half of 2021. Even discounting delays on the availability of the vaccine for the wider population, the immunization of healthcare workers, the elderly, and the more vulnerable parts of society should meaningfully alleviate the pressure on hospitals, and reduce the need for lockdown measures despite the absence of herd immunity. Next to their positive economic implications, these developments represent, first and foremost, a remarkable success for science and societies around the world.

This positive news flow comes at a time when the return of the virus is threatening the global recovery. While parts of the world, especially in Europe, may be experiencing a brief double dip recession in Q4 2020, financial markets are forward-looking and discounting the continuation of the recovery, considering vaccine news and ample monetary and fiscal support. The most notable shift in market performance has occurred with the long-awaited rotation from quality, momentum, and large-cap equities into value, mid-cap, and small-cap equities. We have been positioned for this rotation since June, and held on to it despite the noteworthy underperformance during the summer months. This rotation started in October, supported by a modest bear steepening in the yield curve, and sharply accelerated in November with positive vaccine news. Increasing investor confidence on a normalization of the economic cycle, particularly a recovery in face-to-face sectors, has benefited value and (small) size factors given higher operating leverage and higher sensitivity to the economic cycle compared to large-cap, quality, and low-volatility stocks. This shift has led to a reversal in the momentum factor, and in the relative performance between sectors that benefited the most during the pandemic, namely technology, health care, and communication services, versus sectors that were negatively impacted by lockdowns such as energy, industrials, materials, and financials. We expect these trends to continue.

Based on our macro regime framework, we expect the global recovery to continue, with emerging markets (EM) to expand and grow above trend and developed markets to follow soon after as they approach trend growth. Within the developed world, Europe is lagging given the more stringent lockdown measures following the second wave.

Figure 1: Leading economic indicators and market sentiment suggest the global recovery continues, despite rising infection rates and renewed lockdowns in part of the world.

Source: Bloomberg L.P., MSCI, Citi, Barclays, JPMorgan, Invesco Investment Solutions research and calculations, from January 1992 to December 2020. The Global Risk Appetite Cycle Indicator (GRACI) is a proprietary measure of the markets’ risk sentiment. A GRACI level above (below) zero suggests above (below) trend risk sentiment.

Investment positioning

Despite the large moves in global financial markets, we implemented no meaningful change in December to our asset allocation. We expect the global recovery to continue and anticipate a supportive environment for equity and credit premia, cyclical factors, and risk assets more broadly.

We maintain a higher risk posture than our benchmark1 in the Global Tactical Asset Allocation model, sourced through an overweight exposure to equities and credit at the expense of government bonds. In particular:

Within equities, we hold large tilts in favor of emerging markets compared to developed markets, driven by favorable cyclical conditions, improving risk appetite, attractive local asset valuations, and a depreciating US dollar. We are neutral between US and developed ex-US equities, as per the change implemented in our last update, given the weaker growth momentum in Europe. However, it is worth noting the meaningful outperformance in European equites over the past month, which we attribute to the “value characteristics” of this market compared to the US, benefiting from the style rotation discussed above. We are capturing this rotation theme within US equities and continue to hold tilts in favor of value and (small) size factors, at the expense of quality, low volatility, and momentum equities (Figure 3). 

In fixed income, we maintain an overweight exposure to US high yield credit and emerging markets sovereign dollar debt at the expense of investment grade corporate credit and government bonds. We remain constructive on risky credit despite the steady compression in spreads since March. As the cycle matures, moving from a recovery to an expansion regime, financial markets volatility tends to decline, turning the investment case for credit from capital appreciation (i.e., spread compression) to income generation. Finally, we favor US Treasuries over other developed government bond markets. Overall, we are overweight credit risk2 and moderately underweight duration versus the benchmark. 

In currency markets, we maintain an overweight exposure to foreign currencies, positioning for long-term US dollar depreciation. Within developed markets we favor the euro, the Canadian dollar, and the Norwegian kroner. In emerging markets, we favor the Indian rupee, the Indonesian rupiah, and the Russian ruble.

Figure 2: Relative tactical asset allocation positioning

Source: Invesco Investment Solutions, Nov. 30, 2020. For illustrative purposes only. DM = developed markets. FX = foreign exchange.

Figure 3: Regime-dependent factor exposures – Dynamic (shaded) versus benchmark (black)

For illustrative purposes only. Invesco, Benchmark (Russell 1000 Index), Dynamic (US Large Cap Dynamic Multifactor Model), Jan. 31, 1989 to June 30, 2020. Most recent data available. Spider plots for the four regime portfolios, reflecting the factor exposures for their excess returns versus the benchmark.
 
1 Source: Global 60/40 benchmark (60% MSCI ACWI / 40% Bloomberg Barclays Global Agg USD Hedged). Holdings are subject to change and are not buy/sell recommendations.
2 Credit risk defined as DTS (duration times spread)

Important information

Blog header image: Gokhun Guneyhan / Unsplash

The yield curve plots interest rates, at a set point in time, of bonds having equal credit quality but differing maturity dates to project future interest rate changes and economic activity.

The Russell 1000® Index, a trademark/service mark of the Frank Russell Co.®, is an unmanaged index considered representative of large-cap stocks.

The MSCI ACWI Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of large- and mid-cap stocks across developed and emerging markets. The index is computed using the net return, which withholds applicable taxes for non-resident investors.

The Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of the global investment-grade, fixed-rate bond market.

A value style of investing is subject to the risk that the valuations never improve or that the returns will trail other styles of investing or the overall stock markets.

The risks of investing in securities of foreign issuers, including emerging market issuers, can include fluctuations in foreign currencies, political and economic instability, and foreign taxation issues.

Stocks of small and mid-sized companies tend to be more vulnerable to adverse developments, may be more volatile, and may be illiquid or restricted as to resale.

Fixed-income investments are subject to credit risk of the issuer and the effects of changing interest rates. Interest rate risk refers to the risk that bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise and vice versa. An issuer may be unable to meet interest and/or principal payments, thereby causing its instruments to decrease in value and lowering the issuer’s credit rating.

Junk bonds involve a greater risk of default or price changes due to changes in the issuer’s credit quality. The values of junk bonds fluctuate more than those of high quality bonds and can decline significantly over short time periods.

In general, stock values fluctuate, sometimes widely, in response to activities specific to the company as well as general market, economic and political conditions.

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Coronavirus may be linked to cases of severe hepatitis in children

A chain of events possibly triggered by unrecognized infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be causing the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis…

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Coronavirus may be linked to cases of severe hepatitis in children

By

(Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

SARS-CoV-2 could be at root of mysterious hepatitis in kids

A chain of events possibly triggered by unrecognized infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be causing the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis reported in hundreds of young children around the world, researchers suggest.

Children with COVID-19 are at significantly increased risk for liver dysfunction afterward, according to a report posted on Saturday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. But most of the children with acute hepatitis – which is generally rare in that age group – do not report a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Instead, the majority have been found to be infected with an adenovirus called 41F, which is not known to attack the liver. It is possible that the affected children, many of whom are too young to be vaccinated, may have had mild or asymptomatic COVID infections that went unnoticed, a separate team of researchers suggest in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology. If that were true, they theorize, then lingering particles of the coronavirus in the gastrointestinal tract in these children could be priming the immune system to over-react to adenovirus-41F with high amounts of inflammatory proteins that ultimately damage the liver.

A firefighter from the Marins-Pompiers of Marseille (Marseille Naval Fire Battalion) administers a nasal swab to a child at a testing site for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Marseille, France, September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

“We suggest that children with acute hepatitis be investigated for SARS-CoV-2 persistence in stool” and for other signals that the liver damage is happening because the spike protein of the coronavirus is a “superantigen” that over-sensitizes the immune system, they said.

Face-down position unhelpful for awake patients

For hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are breathing on their own but with supplemental oxygen, lying face down might not help prevent them from eventually needing mechanical ventilation, according to a new study.

In the study, 400 patients were randomly assigned to usual care or to standard care plus intermittently lying on their stomach, a position known to improve the course of illness in sedated patients on mechanical ventilators. Over the next 30 days, 34.1% in the prone-positioning group and 40.5% in the usual-care group needed to be intubated and put on a ventilator, a difference that was not statistically significant. There might have been a reduction in the risk for intubation with prone positioning among some of the patients, researchers said on Monday in JAMA, but they could not confirm it statistically from their data. The average duration of prone positioning per day was roughly five hours, less than the target of eight to 10 hours per day.

“Long hours of awake prone positioning are challenging and highly influenced by patient comfort and preference,” the researchers said. “The most common reason for interruption of prone positioning was patient request, which might have been related to overall subjective improvement or related to discomfort from prone positioning.”

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Megan Brooks; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/coronavirus-may-be-linked-cases-severe-hepatitis-children-2022-05-16

 

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The Battle For Control Of Your Mind

The Battle For Control Of Your Mind

Authored by Aaron Kheriaty via The Brownstone Institute

In his classic dystopian novel 1984, George…

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The Battle For Control Of Your Mind

Authored by Aaron Kheriaty via The Brownstone Institute

In his classic dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell famously wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” This striking image served as a potent symbol for totalitarianism in the 20th Century. But as Caylan Ford recently observed, with the advent of digital health passports in the emerging biomedical security state, the new symbol of totalitarian repression is “not a boot, but an algorithm in the cloud: emotionless, impervious to appeal, silently shaping the biomass.”

These new digital surveillance and control mechanisms will be no less oppressive for being virtual rather than physical. Contact tracing apps, for example, have proliferated with at least 120 different apps in used in 71 different states, and 60 other digital contact-tracing measures have been used across 38 countries. There is currently no evidence that contact tracing apps or other methods of digital surveillance have helped to slow the spread of covid; but as with so many of our pandemic policies, this does not seem to have deterred their use.

Other advanced technologies were deployed in what one writer has called, with a nod to Orwell, “the stomp reflex,” to describe governments’ propensity to abuse emergency powers. Twenty-two countries used surveillance drones to monitor their populations for covid rule-breakers, others deployed facial recognition technologies, twenty-eight countries used internet censorship and thirteen countries resorted to internet shutdowns to manage populations during covid. A total of thirty-two countries have used militaries or military ordnances to enforce rules, which has included casualties. In Angola, for example, police shot and killed several citizens while imposing a lockdown.

Orwell explored the power of language to shape our thinking, including the power of sloppy or degraded language to distort thought. He articulated these concerns not only in his novels Animal Farm and 1984 but in his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” where he argues that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

The totalitarian regime depicted in 1984 requires citizens to communicate in Newspeak, a carefully controlled language of simplified grammar and restricted vocabulary designed to limit the individual’s ability to think or articulate subversive concepts such as personal identity, self-expression, and free will. With this bastardization of language, complete thoughts are reduced to simple terms conveying only simplistic meaning.  

Newspeak eliminates the possibility of nuance, rendering impossible consideration and communication of shades of meaning. The Party also intends with Newspeak’s short words to make speech physically automatic and thereby make speech largely unconscious, which further diminishes the possibility of genuinely critical thought.

In the novel, character Syme discusses his editorial work on the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary:

By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak [standard English] will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like Freedom is Slavery when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

Several terms of disparagement were repeatedly deployed during the pandemic, phrases whose only function was to halt the possibility of critical thought. These included, among others, ‘covid denier,’ ‘anti-vax,’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’. Some commentators will doubtless mischaracterize this book, and particularly this chapter, using these and similar terms—ready-made shortcuts that save critics the trouble of reading the book or critically engaging my evidence or arguments.

A brief comment on each of these may be helpful in illustrating how they function.

The first term, ‘covid denier,’ requires little attention. Those who sling this charge at any critic of our pandemic response recklessly equate covid with the Holocaust, which suggests that antisemitism continues to infect discourse on both the right and the left. We need not detain ourselves with more commentary on this phrase.

The epithet ‘anti-vax,’ deployed to characterize anyone who raises questions about the mass vaccination campaign or the safety and efficacy of covid vaccines, functions similarly as a conversation stopper rather than an accurately descriptive label. When people ask me whether I am anti-vax for challenging vaccine mandates I can only respond that the question makes about as much sense to me as the question, “Dr. Kheriaty, are you ‘pro-medication’ or ‘anti-medication’?” The answer is obviously contingent and nuanced: which medication, for which patient or patient population, under what circumstances, and for what indications? There is clearly no such thing as a medication, or a vaccine for that matter, that’s always good for everyone in every circumstance and all the time.

Regarding the term “conspiracy theorist,” Agamben notes that its indiscriminate deployment “demonstrates a surprising historical ignorance.” For anyone familiar with history knows that the stories historians recount retrace and reconstruct the actions of individuals, groups, and factions working in common purpose to achieve their goals using all available means. He mentions three examples from among thousands in the historical record.

In 415 B.C. Alcibiades deployed his influence and money to convince the Athenians to embark on an expedition to Sicily, a venture that turned out disastrously and marked the end of Athenian supremacy. In retaliation, Alcibiades enemies hired false witnesses and conspired against him to condemn him to death. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte violated his oath of fidelity to the Republic’s Constitution, overthrowing the directory in a coup, assumed full powers, and ending the Revolution. Days prior, he had met with co-conspirators to fine-tune their strategy against the anticipated opposition of the Council of Five Hundred.

Closer to our own day, he mentions the March on Rome by 25,000 Italian fascists in October 1922. Leading up to this even, Mussolini prepared the march with three collaborators, initiated contacts with the Prime Minister and powerful figures from the business world (some even maintain that Mussolini secretly met with the King to explore possible allegiances). The fascists rehearsed their occupation of Rome by a military occupation of Ancona two months prior.

Countless other examples, from the murder of Julius Caesar to the Bolshevik revolution, will occur to any student of history. In all these cases, individuals gathering in groups or parties to strategize goals and tactics, anticipate obstacles, then act resolutely to achieve their aims. Agamben acknowledges that this does not mean it is always necessary to aver to ‘conspiracies’ to explain historical events. “But anyone who labelled a historical who tried to reconstruct in detail the plots that triggered such events as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ would most definitely be demonstrating their own ignorance, if not idiocy.”

Anyone who mentioned “The Great Reset” in 2019 was accused of buying into a conspiracy theory—that is, until World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab published a book in 2020 laying out the WEF agenda with the helpful title,Covid-19: The Great Reset. Following new revelations about the lab leak hypothesis, U.S. funding of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, vaccine safety issues willfully suppressed, and coordinated media censorship and government smear campaigns against dissident voices, it seems the only difference between a conspiracy theory and credible news was about six months.

*  *  *

Originally posted at 'Human Flourishing' Substack.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 23:45

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World-first study reveals why people with COPD are more susceptible to COVID-19

Researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney have published the first study showing why people with chronic obstructive…

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Researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney have published the first study showing why people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Credit: Centenary Institute

Researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney have published the first study showing why people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, could lead to the development of new therapeutic interventions that reduce COVID-19 infection in COPD patients.

An inflammatory lung condition, COPD causes airway blockage and makes it difficult to breathe. It affects around 400 million people globally. The increased susceptibility to COVID-19 of COPD patients is still to be fully understood.

In the study, the researchers infected differentiated airway cells from COPD patients and healthy people with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

The researchers found that the COPD airway cells had 24-fold greater infection with SARS-CoV-2 than the healthy cells.

“We examined the genetic information of infected cells through advanced single cell RNA-sequencing analysis,” said lead author of the study, Dr Matt Johansen, from the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation.

“Seven days after SARS-CoV-2 infection, there was a 24-fold increase of viral load in the COPD patient airway cells compared to the cells taken from healthy individuals.”

Significantly, the team found that the infected COPD cells had increased levels of transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) and cathepsin B (CTSB). Both are enzymes that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter into the host cell.

“These two enzymes are increased in COPD patients and favour greater SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to healthy people. Simply put, easier and increased cell infection makes it far more likely that individuals with COPD will have more severe disease outcomes,” said Dr Johansen.

Other results from the study showed additional reasons for COPD patient susceptibility to severe COVID-19.

Key anti-viral proteins (interferons) that protect against infection were largely blunted in the COPD patient airway cells. This was a likely trigger in causing increased viral production in COPD patients.

Dr Johansen said that infected COPD patient airway cells also had higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are linked to more severe COVID-19 and COPD outcomes.

“COPD is an inflammatory disease with patients having increased inflammation at baseline compared to healthy people. It’s highly likely that SARS-CoV-2 exacerbates this existing high inflammation level which leads to even poorer outcomes,” he said.

Initial laboratory drug testing by the researchers, to inhibit the enzymes TMPRSS2 and CTSB, and to target the high inflammation levels, successfully and substantially reduced SARS-CoV-2 viral levels in COPD patient cells, ultimately confirming the study’s results.

“Collectively, these findings have allowed us to understand the mechanisms of increased COVID-19 susceptibility in COPD patients,” said Professor Phil Hansbro, the study’s senior author and Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation.

“We believe that new drug treatments targeting relevant enzymes and pro-inflammatory responses in SARS-CoV-2 infection could have excellent therapeutic potential in reducing the severity of COVID-19 in patients with COPD.”

Professor Hansbro said the research was critical with hundreds of millions of people affected by COPD globally and with COVID-19 likely to be around for many years to come.

[ENDS]

Publication:

Increased SARS-CoV-2 Infection, Protease and Inflammatory Responses in COPD Primary Bronchial Epithelial Cells Defined with Single Cell RNA-Sequencing.

https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/10.1164/rccm.202108-1901OC

Images:

Dr Matt Johansen: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Wc5WxHcS1fSWE68Q7xu8jT53Dki2ZBo4/

 

Professor Phil Hansbro:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GaHOyCjXfSb3hsE_bS-g2Cxs81dEhL4G/

 

For all media and interview enquiries, please contact

Tony Crawshaw, Media and Communications Manager, Centenary Institute on 0402 770 403 or email: t.crawshaw@centenary.org.au

 

About the Centenary Institute

The Centenary Institute is a world-leading independent medical research institute, closely affiliated to the University of Sydney and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Our research focuses on three key areas: cancer, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Our strength lies in uncovering disease mechanisms and applying this knowledge to improve diagnostics and treatments for patients.

For more information about the Centenary Institute, visit centenary.org.au

 

About the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS), located in central Sydney, is one of

Australia’s leading universities of technology. It is known for fusing innovation, creativity

and technology in its teaching and research and for being an industry-focused university.

For more information go to uts.edu.au


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