Saturday 31 July 2021

Special Update 31/07/2021 A Delta Global Breakout?

Baltic Dry Index. 3292 +78 Brent Crude 76.33

Spot Gold 1814

Covid-19 cases 02/04/20 World 1,000,000

Deaths 53,100

Covid-19 cases 31/07/21 World 198,031,336

Deaths 4,224,346

My daughter asked me when she came home from school, "What's the financial crisis?" and I said, it's something that happens every five to seven years.

Jamie Dimon.

The big story this weekend is the Delta variant seeming to beat the vaccines. More on that below.

Up first, the stock casinos Friday and what’s to come next week. But if the Delta variant continues its global march, generating more lockdowns and supply chain havoc, it might soon become the really big story of H2 2021.

S&P 500 closes Friday lower as Amazon shares slide, but notches sixth straight positive month

U.S. stocks fell on Friday amid a slide in Amazon shares, but the S&P 500 notched its sixth straight positive month.

The broad equity benchmark fell 0.5% to 4,395.26, dragged down by the consumer discretionary and energy sectors. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.7% to 14,672.68. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 149.06 points, or 0.4%, to 34,935.47.

Amazon sank nearly 7.6% after it reported its first quarterly revenue miss in three years and gave weaker guidance. Pinterest fell even further, down 18.2%, after saying it lost monthly users during the three months ended June 30.

The major averages managed to wrap up a solid month, although volatility has picked up amid concerns about the economic recovery in the face of the spreading delta variant. The Nasdaq and Dow added about 1.2% and 1.3% respectively in July, while the broad S&P 500 gained close to 2.3% over the same period. Utilities, health care, real estate and technology stocks have led the S&P 500 higher for the month, while energy and financials have lagged.

“There has been quite a bit of volatility and price choppiness in the market in recent weeks,” Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO, said in a note. “Increased concerns over the delta variant and its potential implications for reopening momentum seemed to play a key role in the price action, while peak themes related to economic growth, earnings, and policy support also remained an overhang on risk sentiment.”

Investors digested a key inflation indicator that showed better-than-feared price pressures on Friday. The core personal consumption expenditures price index rose 3.5% in June year over year. It marked a sharp acceleration in inflation, but came in slightly below a Dow Jones expectation of a 3.6% jump.


July jobs report could be what gives the market its next big jolt in the week ahead

Friday’s jobs report could be a catalyst that helps determine whether markets are volatile or will trade like it’s the quiet dog days of August.

More than a quarter of the S&P 500 report earnings in the coming week. The calendar includes companies in sectors such as consumer staples, insurance, pharma, travel and media. From Booking Holdings to ViacomCBS, Wayfair and Kellogg, investors will be watching to see what companies say about reopening activity, supply chain disruptions and rising costs.

“I think as much as 85% of the companies which are reporting earnings mentioned inflation on their earnings calls,” Franklin Templeton Fixed Income chief investment officer Sonal Desai said. “Inflation may not be a problem to policymakers and financial markets, which seem not to be concerned at all. It does seem to bother the people who have to buy stuff or people who produce stuff.”

The Federal Reserve has said the sharp jump in inflation is just temporary, and many investors appear to be taking it in stride for now. The market is intensely focused on the central bank’s other mandate: the labor market. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday he would like to see strong jobs reports before winding down the central bank’s $120 billion a month bond-buying program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the July employment report on the morning of Friday, Aug. 6. It’s expected to show 788,000 nonfarm payrolls, down from 850,000 in June, according to Dow Jones. The unemployment rate is expected to dip to 5.7% from 5.9%. Average hourly wages are expected to rise 3.9% year over year.


Now back to this weekend’s big story. Has the Delta variant escaped or compromised the vaccines? What happens next if it has?

What happens next if Delta itself mutates?

What happens if Delta is still surging as the northern hemisphere winter approaches?

Surely it’s time for vitamin D supplements and to make Ivermectin a freely available option.

Nanjing: New virus outbreak worst since Wuhan, say Chinese state media

30 July, 2021

A Covid outbreak first discovered in the Chinese city of Nanjing has spread to five provinces and Beijing, with state media calling it the most extensive contagion after Wuhan.

Almost 200 people have been infected since the virus was first detected at the city's busy airport on 20 July.

All flights from Nanjing airport will be suspended until 11 August, according to local media.

Officials also began city-wide testing amid criticism for their "failure".

All 9.3 million of the city's residents - including those visiting - will be tested, said state-controlled Xinhua news.

Posts on social media show long lines of people queuing, and authorities have reportedly urged people to wear masks, stand one metre apart and avoid talking while they wait.

Officials said the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus was behind the infections, adding that cases had spread further because of how busy the airport is.

Ding Jie, a health official in Nanjing, told reporters the cases were linked to cleaners who worked on a flight from Russia that arrived in the city on 10 July.

The cleaners did not follow strict hygiene measures, Xinhua News reported.

The airport management has been rebuked, with a senior disciplinary body of the Communist Party saying it had "problems such as lack of supervision and unprofessional management".

Testing has shown that the virus has now spread to at least 13 cities including Chengdu and the capital Beijing.

However, experts quoted by the Global Times said they believed the outbreak was still at an early stage and could be controlled.

Local officials in Nanjing said that seven of those infected were in critical condition.

The new spike in cases has led some on Chinese social media to speculate about whether the Chinese vaccines were working against the Delta variant.


CDC study shows 74% of people infected in Massachusetts Covid outbreak were fully vaccinated

About three-fourths of people infected in a Massachusetts Covid-19 outbreak were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus with four of them ending up in the hospital, according to new data published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new data, published in the U.S. agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also found that fully vaccinated people who get infected carry as much of the virus in their nose as unvaccinated people, and could spread it to other individuals.

“This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones.”

On Tuesday, the CDC reversed course on its prior guidance and recommended fully vaccinated Americans who live in areas with high Covid infection rates resume wearing face masks indoors. The guidelines cover about two-thirds of the U.S. population, according to a CNBC analysis.

While the delta variant continues to hit unvaccinated people the hardest, some vaccinated people could be carrying higher levels of the virus than previously understood and are potentially transmitting it to others, Walensky told reporters on a call Tuesday. She added the variant behaves “uniquely differently from past strains of the virus.”

----Delta, now in at least 132 countries and already the dominant form of the disease in the United States, is more transmissible than the common cold, the 1918 Spanish flu, smallpox, Ebola, MERS and SARS, according to the document. Only measles appears to spread faster than the variant.

The data published Friday was based on 469 cases of Covid associated with multiple summer events and large public gatherings held in July in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which encompasses Cape Cod and is just outside Martha’s Vineyard. The events were held in Provincetown, according to NBC News. Approximately three-quarters, or 74%, of the cases occurred in fully vaccinated people who had completed a two-dose course of the mRNA vaccines or received a single shot of Johnson & Johnson’s.


Japan expands virus emergency after record spikes amid Games

TOKYO (AP) — Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to four more areas in addition to Tokyo on Friday following record spikes in infections as the capital hosts the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, near Tokyo, as well as in the western city of Osaka, effective Monday until Aug. 31. Emergency measures already in place in Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa will be extended until the end of August, after the Olympics and well into the Paralympics which start Aug. 24.

The upsurge in cases in Tokyo despite more than two weeks of emergency measures is raising doubts that they can effectively slow infections.

Five other areas, including Hokkaido, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be placed under less-stringent emergency restrictions.

Tokyo has reported a record increase in cases for three days in a row, including 3,865 on Thursday, before logging another 3,300 on Friday. The cases have doubled since last week, although officials say the surge is unrelated to the Olympics.

“Infections are expanding in the Tokyo and western metropolitan areas at an enormous speed that we have never experienced before,” Suga said as he declared the expansion of the state of emergency. If the spike continues at the current pace with the spread of the more contagious delta variant, Japan’s medical system could collapse, he said.


Covid cases surge in Sydney, police cordon off downtown to prevent rally

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 210 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, as police cordoned off downtown Sydney with multiple checkpoints to prevent a planned anti-lockdown protest.

Sydney and its vicinities have been under a weeks-long strict lockdown that is to last at least until the end of August while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious delta variant. Saturday’s numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases.

About 1,000 police officers have been deployed around Sydney to prevent an unauthorized demonstration against the lockdown and the police have been issuing prohibition notices to taxi and rideshare services banning them from taking passengers to demonstrations, the NSW police said.

Protests last weekend resulted in a series of arrests and clashes with police.

A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed, however, that only 7% of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia’s success in managing the pandemic.

In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14.

Parts of the neighboring state Queensland will enter into a three-day snap lockdown on Saturday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.


WHO officials try to figure out why delta is so much more dangerous than earlier Covid strains

World Health Organization officials said they are still trying to understand why the delta variant is more transmissible and potentially makes people sicker than the original coronavirus strain.

“We’re really trying to get a better handle on why the delta variant is more transmissible,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’S technical lead on Covid-19, said at a press briefing Friday. “There are certain mutations in the delta variant that, for example, allow the virus to adhere to a cell more easily. There is some laboratory studies that suggest that there’s increased replication in some of the modeled human airway systems.”

New data is emerging around the world on the highly transmissible strain in recent weeks as scientists try to better understand the new threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned lawmakers Thursday that new research indicates the delta strain is more contagious than swine flu, the common cold and polio. It is as contagious as chickenpox. It also appears to have a longer transmission window than the original Covid-19 strain and may make older people sicker, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.

The warning on Thursday was made in a confidential document that was reviewed by CNBC and authenticated by the federal health agency.

“The virus itself, as it starts, is a dangerous virus. It’s a highly transmissible virus. The Delta variant is even more so,” Van Kerkhove said. “It’s doubly more transmissible than the ancestral strains.”

WHO officials expect other dangerous variants to also emerge as countries struggle to distribute the life-saving vaccines to their populations.


Government provided free tuition tends more and more to produce a uniform conformist education, with college faculties ultimately dependent for their jobs on the government, and so developing an economic interest in profession and teaching a statist, pro-government, and socialist ideology.

Henry Hazlitt.

Global Inflation Watch.  

Given our Magic Money Tree central banksters and our spendthrift politicians, inflation now needs an entire section of its own.

Key inflation indicator up 3.5% year over year in June for fastest gain since 1991

Published Fri, Jul 30 2021 8:32 AM

An inflation indicator that the Federal reserve uses as its key guide rose 3.5% in June, a sharp acceleration that was nonetheless right around Wall Street expectations, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy was expected to increase 3.6% at a time when the U.S. economy has seen higher inflation pressures than it has seen in more than a decade.

That gain was slightly ahead of the 3.4% May increase and represents the biggest move since July 1991.

Procter & Gamble Warns of Higher Costs and Slower Sales

Covid-19 pandemic, which has fueled demand for household staples, is also driving freight and commodity costs

July 30, 2021 6:59 am ET

Procter & Gamble Co. gave a somber outlook for the year ahead, predicting slower sales and historically high costs for raw materials and transportation as inflation picks up and the global health crisis continues.

The maker of Pampers diapers and Tide detergent posted sales gains in almost every business unit in the most recent quarter, though growth slowed and profit margins tightened as the company spent more to make and deliver its products.

The results come a day after P&G PG 0.52% announced that David Taylor would step down in November as chief executive after a six-year run. He will be replaced by top deputy Jon Moeller, who has been P&G’s chief operating officer for the past two years and was previously its finance chief.

“Commodities and cost pressure have escalated significantly,” Mr. Taylor said in an interview. “You have a tough external environment and a pandemic that’s raging; many parts of the world are at the worst they’ve ever been.”

P&G expects to take a $1.9 billion after-tax hit on higher freight and commodity costs and predicts sales growth to slow by half for the fiscal year that began July 1. Rival Unilever PLC said last week it was grappling with higher costs for ingredients, packaging and transportation, which would likely lower its full-year profitability.

P&G said earlier this year that it planned price increases starting in September to help offset rising costs. Other makers of household staples and consumer goods have also unveiled plans to raise prices on everything from bottled water to paper towels.


A Not So Grand Infrastructure Deal

The GOP gets roads and bridges. Democrats a green bonanza and more.

July 29, 2021 6:47 pm ET

Senate Republicans, or at least some of them, are taking a victory lap for striking a $1 trillion infrastructure deal with the White House. Hurrah! They can now retreat to the sidelines and let Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders negotiate a partisan multi-trillion dollar entitlement expansion that they have made easier to pass.

At least by the narrow terms of the infrastructure deal, the GOP negotiators can take credit for what isn’t in the bill. There’s no tax increase, and the $40 billion subsidy for the IRS in an earlier draft is out. There’s no new infrastructure bank, which would be an unending source of political corruption. The deal repurposes some $205 billion in Covid relief, which is better than new spending. That’s most of the good policy news.

The U.S. could use more investment in roads, bridges, cyber-security and ports, as well as for drought, wildfire and flood mitigation. But the test of any dollar taxed and spent by government should be whether its benefit will exceed its return if left in the private economy. Only a fraction of the spending in this deal meets that standard.

To get money for these traditional public works, Senate Republicans had to sign up for an epic binge of green subsidies and more handouts for states and localities. Consider mass transit, which received $70 billion in pandemic relief. Only about $20 billion of that has been spent. Yet Congress now will dole out another $90 billion over five years.

This is the “largest Federal investment in public transit in history,” a White House fact sheet boasts. Taxpayers in Little Rock are again subsidizing New York City’s subway and its fat union contracts. The deal includes an additional $66 billion for rail, $30 billion of which is earmarked for Amtrak's northeast corridor—a subsidy for political commuters.


Below, why a “green energy” economy may not be possible anyway, and if it is, it won’t be quick and it will be very inflationary, setting off a new long-term commodity Supercycle. Probably the largest seen so far.

The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking

Mines, Minerals, and "Green" Energy: A Reality Check

The crying need today is not for more laws, but for fewer. The world must be saved from its saviours. If the friends of liberty and law could have only one slogan it should be: Stop the remedies!

Henry Hazlitt.

Covid-19 Corner             

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Coronavirus in Israel: Over 2,000 test positive for fourth day in a row


There were 2,140 new coronavirus cases in Israel over the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced on Friday morning.  

They announced that 91,202 tests were conducted and that 2.34% of cases returned a positive result. 

As of Friday morning, 167 patients are in serious condition with 26 intubated.

Unraveling the Mysterious Mutations That Make Delta the Most Transmissible Covid Virus Yet

By Liz Szabo July 28, 2021

Upon first inspection, the mutations in the highly contagious delta covid variant don’t look that worrisome.

For starters, delta has fewer genetic changes than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

“When people saw that the epidemic in India was driven by delta, they did not suspect it would be so bad or overtake other variants,” said Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

But those expectations were wrong.

Delta has kept some of the most successful mutations found in earlier variants, but also contains new genetic changes that enable it to spread twice as fast.

Delta is more dangerous in many ways. It has an incubation period of four days, rather than six, making people contagious sooner. When the pandemic began, people spread the original coronavirus to an average of two or three people. Today, people infected with delta infect six people, on average.

As of this week, the delta variant had caused at least 92% of the new infections in the United States, according to, a research firm in Bern, Switzerland.

Although delta isn’t necessarily any more lethal than other variants, it can kill huge numbers of people simply because it infects so many more, said Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

Scientists have sequenced delta’s mutations but are still trying to understand their significance, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization. “When we see the same mutations appearing repeatedly and independently, that suggests they’re important,” Rasmussen said.

Scientists have the best understanding of mutations on the so-called spike protein — which sticks out from the surface of the virus like a club — and which have been studied the most intensely because of its serious ramifications, Rasmussen said. The coronavirus uses the spike protein to enter human cells, and changes in the spike can help the virus evade antibodies.

Scientists believe one of the most important areas of the spike is the receptor-binding domain, the specific part of the protein that allows the virus to latch onto a receptor on the surface of our cells, said Vaughn Cooper, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh. Receptors are like sockets or docking stations that allow proteins to interact with the cell. Once the virus gains entry to the cell, it can cause havoc, hijacking the cell’s genetic machinery and turning it into a virus-making factory.

Delta’s Worrisome Mix

Delta’s rapid spread is particularly surprising given it lacks two mutations that made earlier variants so scary.

Delta doesn’t have the N501Y spike mutation found in the alpha, beta and gamma variants, which enabled them to invade cells more successfully than the original virus. That mutation changed one amino acid — a building block of proteins — in the receptor-binding domain.

Delta also lacks the E484K mutation, which has made the gamma variant so worrisome. This genetic change, sometimes called “Eek,” allows the virus to spread even among vaccinated people.

(Scientists use the Greek alphabet to name variants of concern.)

---- Delta does share mutations with other successful variants. Like all the identified variants in circulation, delta contains a spike mutation called D614G, sometimes known as “Doug,” which became ubiquitous last year.

Scientists think Doug increases the density of spike protein on the surface of viral particles and makes it easier for the virus to enter cells.

Delta also has a spike mutation called P681R, which closely resembles a mutation in the alpha variant that appears to produce higher viral loads in patients, Cooper said. People infected with delta have 1,000 times more virus in their respiratory tract, making them more likely to spread the virus when they sneeze, cough or talk.

The P681R mutation, also found in the kappa variant, is located at the beginning of a part of the genome called the furin cleavage site, Cooper said.

More, much more.

Next, some very useful vaccine links kindly sent along from a LIR reader in Canada. The links come from a most informative update from Stanford Hospital in California.

World Health Organization - Landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

Stanford Website

FDA information

Regulatory Focus COVID-19 vaccine tracker

Some more useful Covid links.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource centre

Rt Covid-19

The Spectator Covid-19 data tracker (UK)


Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards.

Liquid-filled optical fiber designed for more robust data transmission

Ben Coxworth  July 29, 2021

Although optical fibers are highly effective at data transmission, they're also relatively brittle. An experimental new type of optical fiber addresses that limitation, by incorporating a core made of liquid glycerol.

Ordinarily, optical fibers are made of either solid glass or a solid transparent plastic. The former is able to carry light pulses over a longer distance, but will break fairly easily if bent or stretched. The latter – which is useful over shorter distances, such as within buildings – stands up better to bending, but stretching it will still cause it to break.

Seeking an alternative, researchers at Switzerland's Empa institute have developed an optical fiber consisting of a continuous liquid glycerol core contained within a transparent fluoropolymer sheath.

"The two components of the fiber must pass through our spinneret together under high pressure and at 200 to 300 degrees Celsius [392 to 572 ºF]," says the lead scientist, Dr. Rudolf Hufenus. "So we need a liquid with a suitable refractive index for functionality and with the lowest possible vapor pressure to produce the fiber."

The resulting fiber's ability to transmit data in the form of light pulses is approximately equal to that of solid plastic optical fibers, but it has much higher tensile strength – in other words, it's significantly better at withstanding stretching.

As an added bonus, if the fiber is being stretched, its color will change. This is due to the fact that the same amount of glycerol will still be present within the fiber, but because the liquid is being spread out over a longer distance, red dye particles within it will be farther apart from one another. As a result, the color of the light that's emitted through the sheath will subtly change. That color-change could be measured using an optical sensor, letting users know that the fiber – and thus a device incorporating it – is lengthening or being subjected to a tensile load.

All of that being said, won't the glycerol just leak out when the fiber is cut to the desired length? "Under normal conditions, the liquid core is kept inside the fiber due to capillary forces; however, when a pressure is applied on the fiber, the liquid can be pressed out of the fiber tip," Hufenus tells us. "This can be prevented by sealing the fiber end with a hot blade."

Ultimately, it is hoped that the fiber will find use not only in less fragile data transmission, but also for force transmission in micromotors or microhydraulic systems.

Source: Empa

This weekend’s musical diversion.  Vivaldi again. Approx 13 minutes.

Concerto con 2 Violini obligati Del Vivaldi / RV 511 in D major (Autograph score)

This weekend’s chess update. Approx. 12 minutes.

Vidit's Bishop Pair is... Truly, Truly, Fully Operational

This weekend’s maths trick.  A little light relief. Approx. 7 minutes

Three Dice Trick – Numberphile

 Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are currently being administered in the United States under emergency use authorization (EUA), meaning that vaccine manufacturers aren’t held liable for any injury, including death, that their COVID-19 vaccine may cause.