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The Inflation Emotion(s)

Inflation is more than just any old touchy subject in an age overflowing with crude, visceral debates up and down the spectrum reaching into every corner of life. It is about life itself, and not just quality. When the prices of the goods (or services)…

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Inflation is more than just any old touchy subject in an age overflowing with crude, visceral debates up and down the spectrum reaching into every corner of life. It is about life itself, and not just quality. When the prices of the goods (or services) you absolutely depend upon go up, your entire world becomes that much more difficult. For those at the “bottom”, that much more unbearable (hello Communism!)

The real issue in that situation isn’t that narrow slice of rising prices, it’s the lack of economic growth which once made it better than palatable we had long ago taken for granted long since disappeared without official acknowledgement.

This isn’t the only emotional plea attached to the topic. Another detours into politics and history, known suspects for irrationality anyway. The world and its leaders aren’t playing with fire anymore, many righteously believe, they’ve offended every god of fiscal and monetary sanity. They must, therefore, pay before the whole thing just blows up for good.

Even the venerable, decent and honest scholar/historian Victor Davis Hanson exemplified this outburst not quite a month ago, in the aftermath of the April CPI:

Human nature stays the same across time and space. That is why there used to be predictable political, economic and social behavior that all countries understood.

The supply of money governs inflation. Print it without either greater productivity or more goods and services, and the currency cheapens. Yet America apparently rejects that primordial truism.

In this sense, inflation isn’t the goal it’s rather the proof; we told you, we repeatedly warned those idiot politicians would go too far and now with consumer prices skyrocketing the whole world can see we were right all along. You should’ve listened!

Inflation is, in this sense, first vindication before a call to arms, with everyone shoved onto the one side whether they previously liked it or not. 

I actually agree with Hanson in much of what he says, yet I’m accused of all the sins in the fiscal calendar for refusing to agree it must end up in this way. It’s alleged a I’m a closet Keynesian or even a central bank shill, covering up for these reckless money printers by denying the currency and consumer price devastation in front of our very eyes, shamefully misleading the public as it happens.

Those aren’t it at all, there will be Hell to pay for all the debt and fiscal deficits…at some point.

That point isn’t now or indeed anytime in the foreseeable future. What I don’t agree with is the money printing part of it. Like or not, academic and official research is moving in this direction, too, including among a growing swath of the “money printers.”

Because of this very different monetary reality, regardless of each worthless theory and worthy tradition, honest analysis demands setting aside all that legitimate distaste and genuine horror. So long as the situation remains this way, no money printing, quite the opposite (much thanks to QE doing real monetary harm), no matter how anyone feels about rising food prices or the out-of-control Congress and its Executive partners (of both parties) the chances of real inflation will only ever be extremely slim.

To put these people in their place, to choke reason down their throats, it will require other means. We have bigger fish to fry in the meantime. 



As I keep pointing out, while inflation is a foregone conclusion in the mainstream media that’s the only place on Planet Earth this is true. Everywhere else, it continues to be quite the opposite. Start with the bond market (and all its most lucid segments) and then go outward into other markets and then the whole of the real economy. The rest of the planet is in no shape for all this nonsense.

Like it or not, even as the world tries to pull itself apart in reverse globalization it remains wedded together for better and for worse (more exclusively the latter since, oh, August 2007). If the US “feels” a bit inflation-y but nowhere else, that’s truly the end of the matter. The US non-inflation inflation will ultimately (and quickly enough) prove, to borrow the Fed’s overworn phrase, transitory.

And in any cases where prices are un-leveled by other factors such as supply problems, all the quicker.



China is perhaps the best current example of nearly all these things simultaneously. In 2019 and early 2020, food prices had truly skyrocketed – even as the rest of the economy went backward taking with it the rest of consumer prices. Food hurts the most, yet it isn’t by itself any signal for real inflation.

In 2021, the Chinese are up against the same pressures as the rest of the world; beginning with commodities being then compounded – in analysis – by base effects skewing perceptions. According to the latest numbers from the Chinese government, producer prices rose 9.0% year-over-year in May, factory gate prices 12.5%, each the highest in more than a decade.

These comparisons have littered the internet under the guise of the same I-told-you-so Victor Davis Hanson was describing in that same month. But – and here’s the thing – nowhere does this biased discourse deal with the fact that the highest since September 2008 might actually mean something drastically different.

After all, the pace of Chinese price changes (as well as those around the rest of the world) back then was even more compelling – and yet, there was no doom at least not of the inflationary variety. While producer and consumer prices accelerated, underneath the global economic situation deteriorated, hardly conducive for the real inflation (sustained).

Though big numbers, transitory. Deflation was the future.



And there were no base effects back then, unlike now. If you distill the PPI and China’s Factory Gate estimates into 2-year changes, what you find is substantially lower rates than advertised in the yearly headlines.

But the real comparison, or anti-comparison, is in the CPI. While producers are being hit by supply-driven price factors, China’s weak – yes, very weak – economy will not support those costs being passed along to consumers. China’s consumer prices remain less than tepid for this reason (these reasons); in May, with the fullest measure of base effects within them, the CPI increased all of 1.3% year-over-year; the core rate just 0.9%.



Like Europe, Chinese consumer prices fully demonstrate these divergences: the first between the rest of the world and what’s going on in the US goods economy alone; the second between supply-driven factors and this underlying, broad-based economic weakness across the majority global economy (US, too, factoring out Uncle Sam’s helicopter) which only means, like 2017 heading into 2018, more of the same trouble ahead.

A supply/price shock showing up inside a truly weak economic climate will not result in actual inflation. That’s what happened to those big inflation numbers in 2008 even though they had closer to real inflation in them (more than just a few months, prices had been building for several years; see: 2-year changes) than the current set.



Not only is this the base case, it is absolutely recognized as such everywhere it truly matters – which, obviously, leaves the entire financial media out of it along with much of the internet. Furthermore, since at least mid-March if not late February, what little change in inflation chances is slowly being drained back down toward zero again as new questions emerge about exactly what’s going on right now.



As I put it earlier today:

With COVID and the pandemic fading further into history, what’s being exposed is today an economy that may have been more damaged and susceptible than has been believed up to this point… But as 2021 emerges into the light of a more likely COVID-free world, we take these first steps looking around at an all-too-familiar landscape. The economy gets knocked down and doesn’t ever want to, or is not able to, get back up again.

The hard truth here is that governments all over the world have taken advantage of these persistent deflationary circumstances to obliterate all those prior boundaries of sanity and decency. In one sense, you can’t really blame the politicians because without any real answers they’re just doing what politicians always do, blindly following the Japanese because when it comes down to it they don’t know what else to do. 

But to count on inflation to grab the rest of the apathetic public by the collar and slap everyone across the face if only to awaken them to this fact, that’s not happening nor is it going to anytime soon. We have other, actually bigger problems to get through first. Nearing a decade and a half later, nothing has changed in this regard; no end to the deflation is in sight (it’s actually worse now post-COVID) nor is it for the whole world’s public sector riding those deflationary coattails.

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AstraZeneca antibody cocktail fails to prevent Covid-19 symptoms in large trial

AstraZeneca said a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that the company’s Covid-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

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Astra antibody cocktail fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms in large trial

(Reuters; )

June 15 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that its COVID-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

The study assessed whether the therapy, a cocktail of two types of antibodies, could prevent adults who had been exposed to the virus in the past eight days from developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The therapy, AZD7442, was 33% effective in reducing the risk of people developing symptoms compared with a placebo, but that result was not statistically significant — meaning it might have been due to chance and not the therapy.

The Phase III study, which has not been peer reviewed, included 1,121 participants in the United Kingdom and the United States. The vast majority, though not all, were free of the virus at the start of the trial.

Results for a subset of participants who were not infected to begin with was more encouraging but the primary analysis rested on results from all participants.

FILE PHOTO: A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

The company is banking on further studies to revive the product’s fortunes. Five more trials are ongoing, testing the antibody cocktail as treatment or in prevention.

The next one will likely be from a larger trial testing the product in people with a weakened immune system due to cancer or an organ transplant, who may not benefit from a vaccine.

TARGETED ALTERNATIVES

AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections.

Similar therapies developed by rivals Regeneron (REGN.O) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) have been approved by U.S. regulators for treating unhospitalised COVID patients.

European regulators have also authorised Regeneron’s therapy and are reviewing those developed by partners GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O) as well as by Lilly and Celltrion (068270.KS).

Regeneron is also seeking U.S. authorisation for its therapy as a preventative treatment.

But the AstraZeneca results are a small blow for the drug industry as it tries to find more targeted alternatives to COVID-19 inoculations, particularly for people who may not be able to get vaccinated or those who may have an inadequate response to inoculations.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, which has faced a rollercoaster of challenges with the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine, is also developing new treatments and repurposing existing drugs to fight the virus.

AstraZeneca also said on Tuesday it was in talks with the U.S. government on “next steps” regarding a $205 million deal to supply up to 500,000 doses of AZD7442. Swiss manufacturer Lonza (LONN.S) was contracted to produce AZD7442.

Shares in the company were largely unchanged on the London Stock Exchange.

The full results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the company said.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/astrazeneca-says-its-antibody-treatment-failed-in-preventing-covid-19-exposed-2021-06-15

 

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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under former President Donald Trump, took on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm…

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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

 

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under former President Donald Trump, has taken on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm that incubates and curates biopharma companies.

First announced Monday, Flagship’s Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative aimed at developing products that can help people before they get sick. This division will focus on infectious disease threats and pursue bold treatments for existing diseases, including cancer, obesity, and neurodegeneration. 

In a brief statement, Hahn, who served as commissioner from December 2019 until January 2021, said the importance of investing in innovation and preemptive medications has never been more apparent. 

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation, particularly in its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative. The more we can embrace a “what if …” approach the better we can support and protect the health and well-being of people here in the U.S. and around the world,” Hahn said in a statement. 

During his time at the FDA, Hahn was at the forefront of the government’s effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. His office oversaw the regulatory authorization of antivirals, antibody therapeutics and vaccines, as well as diagnostics and other tools to battle the novel coronavirus. 

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Hahn bore the brunt of verbal barbs aimed at the FDA by the former president for not rushing to authorize a vaccine for COVID-19 ahead of the November 2020 election. The second vaccine authorized by the FDA for COVID-19 was developed by Moderna, a Flagship company. 

Prior to his confirmation as FDA Commissioner, Hahn, a well-respected oncologist, served as chief medical executive of the vaunted The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hahn was named deputy president and chief operating officer in 2017. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the cancer center, which includes managing more than 21,000 employees and a $5.2 billion operating budget. He was promoted to that position two years after joining MD Anderson as division head, department chair and professor of Radiation Oncology. Prior to MD Anderson, Hahn served as head of the radiation oncology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Flagship Founder and Chief Executive Officer Noubar Afeyan said the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down economies and caused the deaths of more than 3.8 million people across the world was an important reminder that health security is a top global priority. In addition, the ongoing pandemic brings into “stark focus” the importance of preemptive medications. 

Hahn, who helmed the FDA for three years and before that served as chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has extensive experience overseeing clinical and administrative programs. Afeyan said the new division would benefit from Hahn’s experience as FDA Commissioner and help steer the Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative as it explores Flagship’s “growing number of explorations and companies in this emerging field.”

It is not unusual for former FDA heads to take prominent roles with companies. For example, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s first FDA Commissioner, took a position on the Pfizer Board of Directors weeks after departing his government role. He has also taken positions on other boards since then, including Aetion, FasterCures and Illumina.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/former-fda-head-stephen-hahn-takes-cmo-role-at-flagship-pioneering-preemptive-health-initiative-

 

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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

(Reuters) – At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The latest results build on findings from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the United States last December, well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

A protective face mask lays, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, beside leaves at the lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 6, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon/File Photo

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8, suggesting that the virus was present in those states as early as late December.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the study authors.

The findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/five-us-states-had-coronavirus-infections-even-before-first-reported-cases-study-2021-06-15

 

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