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“Volatility Is Back”: Futures Resume Sliding After Historic Rollercoaster Reversal

"Volatility Is Back": Futures Resume Sliding After Historic Rollercoaster Reversal

Following one of the greatest intraday market reversals in history, US index futures resumed their decline led by the Nasdaq, signaling more pain for richly…



"Volatility Is Back": Futures Resume Sliding After Historic Rollercoaster Reversal

Following one of the greatest intraday market reversals in history, US index futures resumed their decline led by the Nasdaq, signaling more pain for richly valued technology shares as investors braced for the highly anticipated Fed meeting and a flurry of earnings as geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine persisted.  Companies including GE, J&J, Verizon and Microsoft report earnings on Tuesday, as the Fed starts a two-day meeting. As of 7:30am ET, emini S&P futures were down 60 points or 1.36% to 4,343, Nasdaq futures were down 1.88% or 272 points and Dow futures were down 236 points or 0.68%. The VIX was at 33, after swinging between 29 and 39 on Monday; 10Y Treasury yields were unchanged at 1.77% and the dollar gained.

US equities swung in a rollercoaster of volatility on Monday as both underlying gauges had erased intraday losses to end the session slightly higher as dip-buyers came in. According to JPM's trading desk, yesterday's 5% reversal in the Nasdaq is an uncommon occurrence: "If you exclude March 2020, yesterday was the 7th 5%+ NDX reversal since GFC. The following day, markets were down 4 of the previous 6 times, with an average return of -1.6%. In 2000 – 2002 and in 2008, there are many more observations of 5% reversals, occurring 194 times during those time periods. Overall, intraday reversals of this magnitude seems to suggest more volatility rather than a directional change." In other words, expect much more volatility. That said, the market has sent the Fed a message: an overly hawkish message tomorrow and stocks get it.

“The recent market turmoil will certainly soften the Fed’s tone, or at least prevent the Fed from sounding too hawkish,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote. “The Fed can’t afford to trigger a financial crisis.”

She is right, but things are not looking too good for Powell right now as the VIX, rose for a sixth session on Tuesday, after briefly jumping intraday to the highest since October 2020 on Monday. Global equities at one point wiped almost $3 trillion on Monday, with the S&P 500 down more than 10% from a record high, before a dramatic reversal saw major U.S. benchmarks end in the green.

“Volatility is back,” Lori Calvasina, head of U.S. equity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said on Bloomberg Television. “We’re having a sea-change in terms of Fed policy. Equity investors frankly have been behind the curve in anticipating what’s coming, so there’s a lot of catch-up to do.”

In premarket trading, General Electric dropped after missing sales expectations, while International Business Machines Corp. and American Express Co. gained after posting revenue that beat forecasts. Big tech and growth stocks declined amid a slide in Nasdaq 100 Index futures, as worries linger over the prospect of Fed rate hikes and rising bond yields. Apple (AAPL US) -1.4%, Microsoft (MSFT US) -0.7%, chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA US) -2.1%, (AMZN US) -1.8%. IBM shares gained 3.2% after the technology company reported revenue for the fourth quarter that beat the average analyst estimate. Other notable premarket movers:

  • General Electric (GE) shares are down 5.9% in premarket trading on Tuesday, after the industrial conglomerate reported revenue for the fourth quarter that missed the average analyst estimate
  • Retail-trader favorites GameStop (GME US) and AMC (AMC US) declined in U.S. premarket trading, suggesting losses for so-called meme stocks may continue in Tuesday’s session.
  • Nvidia Corp. (NVDA US) shares are lower in premarket trading after Bloomberg News reported it is quietly preparing to abandon its purchase of Arm Ltd. from SoftBank Group Corp. after making little to no progress in winning approval for the $40 billion chip deal, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • SmileDirectClub (SDC US) shares rise 8% in premarket trading after it announced plans to cut jobs and suspend operations in some countries.
  • Robinhood (HOOD) shares slump 3.7% in premarket trading after Mizuho analyst Dan Dolev slashed his price target on the stock to $20 from $55 previously.
  • Inter Parfums (IPAR US) gained in postmarket trading Monday after boosting its net sales guidance for 2022, which beat the average analyst estimate.

In Europe, equities recovered from yesterday’s selloff, grinding back to best levels after a choppy start; banks, telecoms and energy are the strongest Stoxx 600 sectors, gaining over 2%. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index up 0.6%, after being up more than 1% earlier; CAC is the marginal outperformer. Logitech jumped 11%, the most since October 2020, after the Swiss-based producer of computer accessories reported better-than-expected earnings and raised its 2022 profit outlook.

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks slumped to their lowest since November 2020 amid investor concerns over upcoming monetary-policy tightening by the Federal Reserve and rising tension between Russia and Ukraine. The MSCI AsiaPacific Index slid as much as 1.7%, driven by losses in the information-technology and financial sectors. Key benchmarks tumbled more than 2% in Japan, Australia and South Korea. China’s CSI 300 Index falls as much as 2.2%, the most since Aug. 20, driven by losses in energy and telecom shares. The gauge drops to its lowest intraday level in nearly six months. The biggest decliners include Jafron Biomedical, Lepu Medical Technology and Huaneng Power, all down more than 7%. Shanghai Composite -2.4%, Shenzhen Composite -3.2%, ChiNext -2.4%.

Ukraine-related market risk “has become a bit more real now, so investors are confused about what to do,” said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management. “It will be a shock if Russia does make a move, so some are feeling the need to run from stocks for now.” The Asian stock benchmark is down more than 15% from its peak last February. Japan’s Topix and New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 have touched correction levels, down 10% from recent highs, while key measures for in mainland China and South Korea inched closer to the 20% drop that indicates a bear market

India’s key equity gauges snapped their five-day decline to outperform Asian peers, helped by robust earnings performances of local companies ahead of the announcement of the federal budget next week.  The S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.6% to 57,858.15 in Mumbai while the NSE Nifty 50 Index gained 0.8%, the biggest single-day surges of both since Jan. 12. The indexes erased losses of as much as 1.9% and 1.8%, respectively, earlier in the session. All but two of the 19 sector sub-indexes compiled by BSE Ltd. closed high, led by a gauge of telecom companies. The rally in Indian equities were in contrast to most cohorts in the region, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumping to its lowest since November 2020 amid concerns over monetary-policy tightening and rising tension between Russia and Ukraine. “The earnings season has gathered pace with revenue largely in-line with estimates, however higher commodity prices taking toll on margin and profitability to some extent,” Mitul Shah, head of research at Reliance Securities, wrote in a note. 

In rates, Treasury and gilt curves all bear steepen as Monday’s haven bid fades. Treasuries are steady with yields cheaper by at least 1bp across long-end, slightly steepening the curve. 10-year TSY yields hover around 1.77%, with gilts trading almost 4bp cheaper on the sector as dealers prepare for a new 50-year bond syndication next month; spreads slightly wider with long-end marginally underperforming. A $55b 5-year note auction at 1pm ET, second of three this week, follows strong 2-year sale that drew a yield 1.2bp lower than the WI at the bidding deadline; cycle concludes with $53b 7-year notes Thursday. WI 5-year yield at ~1.568% is above auction stops since December 2019 and ~30.5bp cheaper than last month’s result. IG dollar issuance slate remains moribund, though desks expected around $20b this week. Gilts underperforming at the back end after the DMO announces a new 50y syndication due in early February. Peripheral spreads tighten, with 10y Italy narrowing 3.5bps to core as day 2 of presidential voting resumes.

In FX, Bloomberg Dollar Spot drifts back up through Monday’s best levels extending yesterday’s gains as it climbed against most of its Group-of-10 peers. The Australian dollar outperformed and was bought against the kiwi after a strong 4Q inflation report boosted yields across the curve and reinforced RBA tightening bets. Australian three-year yield jumped as much as 9bps to highest since April 2019 and all but one of 17 analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the RBA will end quantitative easing at its Feb. 1 meeting.  The euro extended an overnight loss to trade below $1.13; the currency was sold for the dollar and yen after NATO said it would boost its deployments in eastern Europe to deter a new Russian invasion in Ukraine. The euro’s volatility skew shifts lower compared to a week ago as the options space tracks the spot market, where the common currency is under pressure. The pound advanced versus the euro, rebounding after it reached the weakest level against the common currency this year on Monday. The yen eased from a five-week high and Japanese government bonds traded in narrow ranges after a solid auction. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the Bank of Japan must continue with monetary easing because its 2% inflation target remains distant. RUB outperforms in EMFX, fading part of Monday’s weakness.

In commodities, crude futures tick higher. WTI adds ~$1, regaining a $84-handle, Brent pushes back above $87. Spot gold drops to about $1,838/oz. Most base metals are in the red, with LME tin down over 2.5%.

Looking at the day ahead, data releases include the Ifo’s business climate indicator from Germany for January, along with the US Conference Board’s consumer confidence indicator for January. Earnings releases include Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications, NextEra Energy, Texas Instruments, American Express, General Electric and Moderna. And on top of that, the IMF will be releasing their World Economic Outlook Update.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.9% to 4,363.50
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 1.0% to 460.80
  • MXAP down 1.5% to 187.12
  • MXAPJ down 1.4% to 612.92
  • Nikkei down 1.7% to 27,131.34
  • Topix down 1.7% to 1,896.62
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.7% to 24,243.61
  • Shanghai Composite down 2.6% to 3,433.06
  • Sensex up 0.6% to 57,862.85
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 2.5% to 6,961.63
  • Kospi down 2.6% to 2,720.39
  • Brent Futures up 1.3% to $87.36/bbl
  • German 10Y yield little changed at -0.07%
  • Euro down 0.3% to $1.1297
  • Gold spot down 0.3% to $1,838.19
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.14% to 96.05

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Global traders already on tenterhooks over this week’s key Federal Reserve meeting were jolted further Tuesday by Australian inflation data that smashed expectations, a surprise monetary tightening in Singapore and further swings in U.S. equity futures
  • Western allies are pushing ahead with diplomatic efforts to avert war between Russia and Ukraine, after U.S. President Joe Biden held what he described as a “great” call with European leaders on Monday
  • German Ifo Institute’s business expectations gauge rose to 95.2 in January, more than economists predicted. Manufacturers saw supply bottlenecks easing at the start of the year, and even services providers were optimistic about the future -- despite current curbs on activity
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has confirmed that staff gathered to celebrate his birthday during the 2020 lockdown, adding to existing allegations of rule-breaking parties
  • While positive turnarounds are often viewed as a good sign, that might not be the case this time. According to calculations by Bespoke Investment Group, Monday was the sixth time since 1988 that the Nasdaq erased a 4%-plus intraday decline to close higher on the day. On previous occasions the tech-heavy gauge saw a median decline of 5.5% one month later and a drop of 7.9% three months down the line
  • Deutsche Bank AG turned the blame on its ex-client Palladium Group for crippling losses it suffered investing in risky foreign exchange derivatives the German lender sold

A more detailed breakdown of global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

In Asia, markets were heavily pressured after yesterday's whirlwind session in the US. ASX 200 (-2.5%) slumped with losses exacerbated as firm CPI supports RBA tightening calls. Nikkei 225 (-1.7%) briefly fell beneath 27,000 for the first time since August last year. KOSPI (-2.6%) ignored strong GDP as South Korea reported record daily COVID-19 cases and North Korea fired cruise missiles.
Hang Seng (-1.7%) and Shanghai Comp. (-2.5%) conformed to the downbeat mood with Hong Kong dragged by notable losses in its tech sector and with Chinese property names also subdued amid ongoing Evergrande woes

Top Asian News

  • Asian Stocks Slump to 14-Month Low on Concerns Over Fed, Ukraine
  • Bear Markets, Corrections Loom for Many Asian Stock Gauges
  • Shimao Dollar Bonds Jump on Asset Sale Report: Evergrande Update
  • Korea Considering Fully Resuming Short-Selling in 1H: Yonhap

European bourses are firmer taking the lead from the resurgence in Wall St. trade that they failed to benefit from yesterday, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.7. Sectors are all in the green in Europe though defensives are the relative laggards. Stateside, US futures are pressured with the NQ (-1.4%) the current underperformer after yesterday's turnaround and as yields climb Volkswagen (VOW3 GY) is to collaborate with Bosch on automated driving software, could be sold to other autos in the future. Level 2 'hands free' technology to be deployed in the Volkswagen fleet in 2023. Nvidia (NVDA) is said to be preparing to ditch its takeover of Arm, according to reports; subsequently, a spokesperson states that they continue to hold views expressed in detail in the latest regulatory filing.

Top European News

  • Deutsche Bank Blames Client in $565 Million FX Mis-Selling Suit
  • Oil Buyers Snap Up Diesel-Rich Crude as Omicron Fears Abate
  • Swedish Sex-Toy Retailer Purefun Seeks SEK250m Valuation in IPO
  • Kuwait Refers Army Officers for Prosecution in Eurofighter Deal

In FX, the DXY nudges further over 96.000 as hawkish FOMC expectations overshadow less supportive risk dynamics, but the Franc loses safe haven appeal across the board in what appears to be an orchestrated effort to curb demand. Euro fails to benefit from a better than expected German Ifo survey on balance, as technical impulses and yield differentials weigh. Pound relatively resilient as policy probe PM Johnson and Tory party for potential lockdown breaching events. Loonie holds off lows awaiting BoC amidst forecasts for an early hike. Aussie also underpinned by further predictions for the RBA to bring forward tightening after stronger than anticipated Q4 inflation data. CBRT opens a gold swap auction via the traditional method for 20/T of gold, three-month maturity.

In commodities, WTI and Brent March contracts have continued to nurse yesterday’s losses, with the benchmarks picking up further with geopolitics around Ukraine, China and North Korea dominating newsflow. WTI March is back on a USD 84/bbl handle (vs USD 83.43 intraday low) while its Brent counterpart reclaims USD 87/bbl from a USD 86.50/bbl daily low. Spot gold and silver are subdued amid USD upside, and as such remain comfortable above a number of DMAs that have drawn recent focus; while LME Copper is modestly softer in familiar ranges

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

At one point yesterday it felt like we were in a full blown crisis let alone a recession. At Europe closed their laptops down the S&P was as much as -3.98% lower, which would have been the worst daily return since June 2020. The NASDAQ was -4.90% lower, the worst potential close since September 2020. However at that point Manic Monday turned and remarkably the S&P 500 (+0.28%) and NASDAQ (+0.63%) closed higher. The volatility continues this morning though with S&P 500 futures down -1.1% and Nasdaq futures -1.4%. Note that earning season starts to get going with some momentum today. The highlights of those reporting are in the day ahead at the end but Microsoft is probably the biggest and most important.

This morning Asian markets are trying to come to terms with the sharp down, sharp up and then down move and are trading lower. The Kospi (-2.86%), Nikkei (-2.14%), Hang Seng (-1.59%), Shanghai Composite (-1.12%) and CSI (-0.80%) are all around the lows for the session as we type. It could be all change by the time you read this though.

Reviewing the US session in more detail now and cyclical sectors staged an impressive rebound, led by discretionary (+1.21%), energy (+0.55%), and industrials (+0.53%) stocks while defensives lagged, with the three worst performing sectors being utilities (-1.03%), health care (-0.37%), and consumer staples (-0.35%). Itwas interesting that the reversal was so broad-based. With a market this concentrated among mega-cap stocks, it’s usually safe to assume a few big names drove the changes in the headline index, but the FANG+ index was actually lower by -0.91%. Amazon was emblematic of the broader move, however, declining more than -5% intraday before finishing +1.33% in the green, but it looks like its fortunes were tied with the broader recovery in discretionary stocks than its status as a mega-cap. At the end of the day, 320 stock prices advanced. Much like the turns-for-the-worse last week, the reversal in fortunes came absent a clear catalyst, which is much more common when volatility is this high. Speaking of this the Vix index of volatility also took an intraday round trip, increasing +10.08pts before ending the day just +1.27pts higher at a still-elevated 30.12pts, right around levels seen during the initial Omicron outbreak.

This late rally left European bourses behind, with the STOXX 600’s decline (-3.81%) marking it the worst daily performance since June 2020, with indices slumping across the continent including the DAX (-3.80%), the CAC 40 (-3.97%) and the FTSE MIB (-4.02%). After the US rebound but the Asian falls Stoxx futures are only +0.7%.

The current high volatility in markets comes as the FOMC are set to begin their two-day policy deliberations today.

The year-to-date selloff in risk assets was sparked by the release of the December FOMC minutes in the first week of January, when investors took fright at the possibility of a more hawkish Fed over the coming months. So will Powell change the mood tomorrow night? With inflation at 7% that's tough but we might get an idea of how much financial conditions tightening will frighten the Fed and how much they are actually comfortable with.

While markets are certainly concerned about the Fed and other central banks right now, the market also has to contend with the backdrop of an increasingly hostile geopolitical environment, with tensions ratcheting up continuously between Russia and the West. Reports note both sides are increasing their troop presence and putting current troops on higher alert within the region, while western leaders including Presidents Biden and Macron, Chancellor Scholz, and Prime Minister Johnson reportedly had a productive call on western cooperation on Ukraine issues. Separately, there was a meeting of EU foreign ministers that was joined by US Secretary of State Blinken, and the EU reiterated its warning that “any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe costs”. The latest developments saw Russian assets lose further ground yesterday, with the Ruble down -1.68% against the US Dollar, whilst Russian equities underperformed globally, with the MOEX Russia index down -5.93% by the close but before the US bounce. Meanwhile European natural gas futures surged again given the higher perceived risk of conflict, with the benchmark future up by +17.75%. For those wanting further info, our colleagues in CEEMEA research put out a note on this last week (link here).

Back to yesterday, and there were few places in markets immune to yesterday’s volatility, with oil prices giving up a decent chunk of their recent gains from the European afternoon. By the close, Brent Crude was down -1.84% and WTI had shed -2.15%, marking the worst day of 2022 so far for both of them. Indeed, commodities more broadly lost ground, with copper down -2.14%, which is often taken to be a key industrial bellwether. Oil is back up around +0.5% this morning.

Amidst the woes for markets more broadly, sovereign bonds were fairly subdued, with the long-end of the Treasury curve selling off from intraday lows in line with the turn in risk. Yields on 10yr Treasuries increased +1.3bps to 1.77% (1.755% in Asian), with real yields declining -3.8bps but breakevens cancelled out the decline by rebounding alongside equities late in the afternoon, ending the day +4.9bps higher. Breakevens moved with risk assets on the day, so the price action seemed to reflect the broader growth outlook rather than incremental updates to the Fed’s inflation-fighting bona fides, having already declined -22.9bps from the start of the year’s hawkish pivot.

In line with the turn in risk, the 2s10s US yield curve bounced from intraday lows of 70.3 bps to increase +4.5bps to 79.5bps at the close. However it's back down to 74.5bps in Asia but 2-3bps of this is a 2yr benchmark change. The rally in the front end of the curve left the market pricing 3.83 Fed hikes this year, the lowest level in more than a week. Faith in the Fed put is alive and well. The probability of March liftoff dipped as well, with the market pricing 98.5% chance of a rate hike. As I wrote in my latest chartbook, the 2s10s is one of the best recessionary indicators and a classic late-cycle signal, and it’s lost around half its steepness in less than a year, having peaked at 157.6bps at the end of Q1 2021. However don’t let’s get too ahead of ourselves. It hasn’t inverted yet so recession is likely someway off yet even if we're moving in that direction. Over in Europe, sovereign bond yields wound up the day a little lower, having missed the late selloff, with those on 10yr bunds (-4.2bps to -0.11%), OATs (-2.8bps) and gilts (-4.5bps) seeing declines, thus coming off their recent highs last week that saw 10yr bund yields back in positive territory at one point in trading.

Staying on Europe, our economists updated their ECB call yesterday (link here), and are now expecting liftoff to begin in December 2022 with a 25bp hike. Given the latest upgrading of their inflation forecasts, this means that the ECB’s “triple lock” criteria for liftoff will be met earlier, potentially as soon as the end of this year, with the ECB set to act at the start of this window. And as well as bringing forward the timing of liftoff, they’ve also accelerated the pace of tightening, and now see 25bp hikes in the deposit rate each quarter until rates hit +0.5% in September 2023, followed by less frequent hikes.

Earlier this morning, South Korea’s Q4 GDP expanded +1.1% q/q, in line with market expectations, up from a +0.3% rise in the third quarter. For the full year, the economy grew +4.0%, recording the fastest pace of growth since 2010 buoyed by a jump in exports and corporate investments and rebounded from the previous year’s -0.9%.

Given the array of other events yesterday, the flash PMIs for January took a bit of a backseat relative to normal. They showed a fairly divergent picture across the global economy, with surprises to the upside and downside depending on the country. For the Euro Area as a whole, the composite PMI fell to an 11-month low of 52.4 (vs. 52.6 expected). However, that came as the manufacturing PMI rose unexpectedly to 59.0 (vs. 57.5 expected), whereas the services PMI fell to 51.2 (vs. 53.1 expected). In Germany, there was a significant upside surprise as the composite PMI rose to 54.3 (vs. 49.4 expected), but France’s fell back to 52.7 (vs. 54.7 expected), as did the UK’s to 53.4 (vs. 54.0 expected). Over in the US, there were downside surprises there too, with the services PMI down to an 18-month low of 50.9 (vs. 55.4 expected).

To the day ahead now, and data releases include the Ifo’s business climate indicator from Germany for January, along with the US Conference Board’s consumer confidence indicator for January. Earnings releases include Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications, NextEra Energy, Texas Instruments, American Express, General Electric and Moderna. And on top of that, the IMF will be releasing their World Economic Outlook Update.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/25/2022 - 08:01

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How Crowded Are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Ships Right Now?

Both cruise lines have raised capacities slowly. When will Royal Caribbean and Carnival hit normal?



Both cruise lines have raised capacities slowly. When will Royal Caribbean and Carnival hit normal?

When Freedom of the Seas sailed from Miami on July 2, 2021, it marked Royal Caribbean International's (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report return to North American sailing after being shut down since March 2020. 

That sailing has less than 1,000 people on it, mostly loyal cruisers eager to get back to sea no matter what the rules were (as well as a fair amount of company executives.

That ship can hold 4,375 passengers at full capacity, according to Ship Technology and on that July sailing, it felt empty and crew seemed to outnumber passengers. 

At night, in the British Pub, the crowd was essentially me, two other journalists, and the occasional person who wandered by. 

That made it, perhaps, too easy to get a drink, and while it was a wonderful experience, that sailing only felt normal when everyone onboard took to the upper decks to cheer sail away and celebrate the Fourth of July,

I sailed on Freedom on that July sailing, then again in September, October, November, December, and then again in May.

I sailed Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas in between January and May. 

The crowds got progressively bigger through the fall, but even the December sailing (a three-day weekend, which in pre-pandemic times would be at or near capacity) still had a limited capacity.

Royal Caribbean steadily increased the number of people on its ships, with some slight pauses in that as new covid variants popped up and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report has followed roughly the same model.   

Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Cruise Lines Capacity Is Coming Back

How crowded will my cruise be? 

This has been a question seemingly every experienced cruiser has asked. In the summer and fall, that answer was "not at all," and later "not as much as usual," but the numbers of passengers onboard has slowly moved back to normal, even reaching it on some sailings.

Cruise lines generally don't offer a lot of comment on why they might be limiting capacity when technically they no longer have. 

Crew concerns, including not being able to onboard new crew members to allow for full sailings due to slow visa processing times and keeping rooms open fr potential covid quarantines have kept some ships below their full complement of passengers.

Demand, of course, factors in as well. Royal Caribbean CFO Naftali Holtz commented on where his company stands now during its first-quarter earnings call.

"I'd like to comment on capacity and load factor expectations over the upcoming period. We plan to restart operations on all remaining ships by the end of June. 

"We plan to operate about 10.3 million APCDs [available passenger cruise days] during the second quarter, and we expect load factors of approximately 75% to 80%," he said. 

"Our load factor expectations reflect the higher occupancy we are seeing in the Caribbean and lower expectations for repositioning voyages and early season Europe sailings."

It's clear that demand is a factor when it comes to why certain sailings are sailing with fewer passengers than others. 

Carnival has had to limit the cabins it has been selling on its United Kingdom-based Cunard line due to staffing issues.

“As you may have seen in the news, the wider impact of Covid-19 is affecting hospitality and is disrupting airlines and as such this is impacting the number of crew members we are able to get to our ships,” said the company in a statement.

“We naturally want to ensure that all guests across the fleet experience the high standards of service on board that they would expect from Cunard and which we are committed to delivering,” the company added. 

“We are therefore limiting the number of guests sailing as we build crew numbers back up."

Normal Cruise Crowds Are Coming

Once staffing issues return to normal — something that is slowly happening — the biggest concern may be whether the economy slows demand. 

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said he expects his company to get close to normal over the summer during the cruise line's first-quarter earnings call.

"We're well on our way back to full cruise operations, with three-quarters of our capacity having resumed guest operations and a plan to return the balance of the fleet for the summer season. And while the conversation around covid-19 is greatly reduced, we still have to and are successfully actively managing," he said.

And while neither Carnival's nor Royal Caribbean's CEO said it directly, passengers sailing this summer will likely experience passenger counts in line with tradition. 

That does not mean some sailings won't have limited capacities, or sell poorly, but many will not as long as demand remains within historical norms.


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Spread & Containment

Lab, crab and robotic rehab

I was in Berkeley a couple of months back, helping TechCrunch get its proverbial ducks in a row before our first big climate event (coming in a few weeks,…



I got previews of a number of projects I hope to share with you in the newsletter soon, but one that really caught my eye was FogROS, which was just announced as part of the latest ROS (robot operating system) rollout. Beyond a punny name that is simultaneously a reference to the cloud element (fog/cloud — not to mention the fact that the new department has killer views of San Francisco and frequent visitor, Karl) and problematic French cuisine, there’s some really compelling potential here.

I’ve been thinking about the potential impact of cloud-based processing quite a bit the last several years, independent of my writing about robots. Specifically, a number of companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) have been betting big on cloud gaming. What do you do when you’ve seemingly pushed a piece of hardware to its limit? If you’ve got low enough latency, you can harness remote servers to do the heavy lifting. It’s something that’s been tried for at least a decade, to varying effect.

Image Credits: ROS

Latency is, of course, a major factor in gaming, where being off by a millisecond can dramatically impact the experience. I’m not fully convinced that experience is where it ought to be quite yet, but it does seem the tech has graduated to a point where off-board processing makes practical sense for robotics. You can currently play a console game on a smartphone with one of those services, so surely we can produce smaller, lighter-weight and lower-cost robots that rely on a remote server to complete resource-intensive tasks like SLAM processing.

The initial application will focus on AWS, with plans to reach additional services like Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. Watch this space. There are many reasons to be excited. Honestly, there’s a lot to be excited about in robotics generally right now. This was one of the more fun weeks in recent memory.

V Bionic's exoskeleton glove shown without its covering.

Image Credits: V Bionic

Let’s start with the ExoHeal robotic rehabilitation gloves. The device, created by Saudi Arabian V Bionic, nabbed this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup. The early-stage team is part of a proud tradition of healthcare exoskeletons. In this case, it’s an attempt to rehab the hand following muscle and tendon injuries. Team leader Zain Samdani told TechCrunch:

Flexor linkage-driven movement gives us the flexibility to individually actuate different parts of each finger (phalanges) whilst keeping the device portable. We’re currently developing our production-ready prototype that utilizes a modular design to fit the hand sizes of different patients.

Image Credits: Walmart

This is the third week in a row Walmart gets a mention here. First it was funding for GreyOrange, which it partnered with in Canada. Last week we noted a big expansion of the retail giant’s deal with warehouse automation firm, Symbotic. Now it’s another big expansion of an existing deal — this time dealing with the company’s delivery ambitions.

Like Walmart’s work with robotics, drone delivery success has been…spotty, at best. Still, it’s apparently ready to put its money where its mouth is on this one, with a deal that brings DroneUp delivery to 34 sites across six U.S. states. Quoting myself here:

The retailer announced an investment in the 6-year-old startup late last year, following trial deliveries of COVID-19 testing kits. Early trials were conducted in Bentonville, Arkansas. This year, Arizona, Florida, Texas and DroneUp’s native Virginia are being added to the list. Once online, customers will be able to choose from tens of thousands of products, from Tylenol to hot dog buns, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Freigegeben für die Berichterstattung über das Unternehemn Wingcopter bis zum 25.01.2026. Mit Bitte um Urhebervermerk v.l.: Jonathan Hesselbarth, Tom Plümmer und Ansgar Kadura von Wingcopter GmbH. Image Credits: © Jonas Wresch / KfW

There are still more question marks around this stuff than anything, and I’ve long contended that drone delivery makes the most sense in remote and otherwise hard to reach areas. That’s why something like this Wingcopter deal is interesting. Over the next five years, the company plans to bring 12,000 of its fixed-wing UAVs to 49 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. It will cover spots that have traditionally struggled with infrastructural issues that have made it difficult to deliver food and medical supplies through more traditional means.

“With the looming food crisis on the African continent triggered by the war in Ukraine, we see great potential and strong social impact that drone-delivery networks can bring to people in all the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by getting food to where it is needed most,” CEO Tom Plümmer told TechCrunch. “Especially in remote areas with weak infrastructure and those areas that are additionally affected by droughts and other plagues, Wingcopter’s delivery drones will build an air bridge and provide food from the sky on a winch to exactly where it is needed.”

Legitimately exciting stuff, that.

Image Credits: Dyson

In more cautiously optimistic news, Dyson dropped some interesting news this week, announcing that it has been (and will continue) pumping a lot of money into robotic research. Part of the rollout includes refitting an aircraft hangar at Hullavington Airfield, a former RAF station in Chippenham, Wiltshire, England that the company purchased back in 2016.

Some numbers from the company:

Dyson is halfway through the largest engineering recruitment drive in its history. Two thousand people have joined the tech company this year, of which 50% are engineers, scientists, and coders. Dyson is supercharging its robotics ambitions, recruiting 250 robotics engineers across disciplines including computer vision, machine learning, sensors and mechatronics, and expects to hire 700 more in the robotics field over the next five years. The master plan: to create the UK’s largest, most advanced, robotics center at Hullavington Airfield and to bring the technology into our homes by the end of the decade.

The primary project highlighted is a robot arm with a number of attachments, including a vacuum and a human-like robot hand, which are designed to perform various household tasks. Dyson has some experience building robots, primarily through its vacuums, which rely on things like computer vision to autonomously navigate. Still, I say “cautiously optimistic,” because I’ve seen plenty of non-robotics companies showcase the technology as more of a vanity project. But I’m more than happy to have Dyson change my mind.

Image Credits: Hyundai

Hyundai, of course, has been quite aggressive in its own robotics dreams, including its 2020 acquisition of Boston Dynamics. The carmaker this week announced that part of its massive new $10 billion investment plans will include robotics, with a focus of actually bringing some of its far-out concepts to market.

Another week, another big round for logistics/fulfillment robotics, as Polish firm Nomagic raised $22 million to expand its offerings. The company’s primary offering is a pick and place arm that can move and sort small goods. Khosla Ventures and Almaz Capital led the round, which also featured European Investment Bank, Hoxton Ventures, Capnamic Ventures, DN Capital and Manta Ray.

Amazon Astro with periscope camera

The periscope camera pops out and extends telescopically, enabling Astro to look over obstacles and on counter tops. A very elegant design choice. Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch

We finally got around to reviewing Amazon’s limited-edition home robot, Astro, and Haje’s feelings were…mixed:

It’s been fun to have Astro wandering about my apartment for a few days, and most of the time I seemed to use it as a roving boom box that also has Alexa capabilities. That’s cute, and all, but $1,000 would buy Alexa devices for every thinkable surface in my room and leave me with enough cash left over to cover the house in cameras. I simply continue to struggle with why Astro makes sense. But then, that’s true for any product that is trying to carve out a brand new product category.

A tiny robot crab scuttles across the frame. Image Credits: Northwestern University

And finally, a tiny robot crab from Northwestern University. The little guy can be controlled remotely using lasers and is small enough to sit on the side of a penny. “Our technology enables a variety of controlled motion modalities and can walk with an average speed of half its body length per second,” says lead researcher, Yonggang Huang. “This is very challenging to achieve at such small scales for terrestrial robots.”

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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Spread & Containment

Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections responsible for spreading of COVID-19 less than symptomatic infections

Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious…



Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious than symptomatic infections. These are the conclusions of an update of a systematic review and meta-analysis publishing May 26th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Diana Buitrago-Garcia of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

Credit: Monstera, Pexels (CC0,

Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious than symptomatic infections. These are the conclusions of an update of a systematic review and meta-analysis publishing May 26th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Diana Buitrago-Garcia of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

Debate about the level and risks of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections continues, with much ongoing research. Studies that assess people at just one time point can overestimate the proportion of true asymptomatic infections because those who go on to later develop symptoms are incorrectly classified as asymptomatic rather than presymptomatic. However, other studies can underestimate asymptomatic infections with research designs that are more likely to include symptomatic participants.

The new paper was an update of a living (as in, regularly updated) systematic review first published in April 2020, which includes additional, more recent studies through July 2021. 130 studies were included, with data on 28,426 people with SARS-CoV-2 across 42 countries, including 11,923 people defined as having asymptomatic infection. Because of extreme variability between included studies, the meta-analysis did not calculate a single estimate for asymptomatic infection rate, but it did estimate the inter-quartile range to be that 14–50% of infections were asymptomatic. Additionally, the researchers found that the secondary attack rate—a measure of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — was about two-thirds lower from people without symptoms than from those with symptoms (risk ratio 0.32, 95%CI 0.16–0.64).

“If both the proportion and transmissibility of asymptomatic infection are relatively low, people with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection should account for a smaller proportion of overall transmission than presymptomatic individuals,” the authors say, while also pointing out that “when SARS-CoV-2 community transmission levels are high, physical distancing measures and mask-wearing need to be sustained to prevent transmission from close contact with people with asymptomatic and presymptomatic infection.”

Coauthor Nicola Low adds, “The true proportion of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection is still not known, and it would be misleading to rely on a single number because the 130 studies that we reviewed were so different. People with truly asymptomatic infection are, however, less infectious than those with symptomatic infection.”


In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:  

Citation: Buitrago-Garcia D, Ipekci AM, Heron L, Imeri H, Araujo-Chaveron L, Arevalo-Rodriguez I, et al. (2022) Occurrence and transmission potential of asymptomatic and presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections: Update of a living systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003987.

Author Countries: Switzerland, France, Spain, Argentina, United Kingdom, Sweden, United States, Colombia

Funding: This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NL: 320030_176233); the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (NL: 101003688); the Swiss government excellence scholarship (DBG: 2019.0774) and the Swiss School of Public Health Global P3HS stipend (DBG). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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