Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Omicron Confusion. The 50:50 Bet.

Baltic Dry Index. 2881 +114 Brent Crude 73.27

Spot Gold 1793

Coronavirus Cases 02/04/20 World 1,000,000

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 30/11/21 World 262,429,694

Deaths 5,224,820

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

With relatively known about how mild or serious omicron, the new variant of concern Covid-19 actually is, or how effective the existing vaccines are in stopping it, it’s impossible at present to predict its likely effect on the global economy and inflation. 

But that doesn’t stop action in the global stock casinos. There, most gamblers seem to be optimists, at least as of yesterday.  Today, well that remains to be seen.

With so little omicron facts to go on, either the optimists or the pessimists might turn out to be right. But are fifty-fifty odds really a smart way to bet? 

To this old dinosaur market follower, betting now is a game for the young and foolish, a bet for the desperate about to go broke and go under, a roll of the dice for the increasingly out of the loop central banks.

Below, well do you feel lucky punter, do you? Now where have I almost heard that before?

Asia-Pacific stocks mixed as omicron Covid variant uncertainty lingers

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Tuesday trade as investors in the region continued to track developments surrounding the omicron variant.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led losses among the region’s major markets, falling 1.09% by the afternoon.

Shares of Suncity Group in Hong Kong plummeted nearly 40% to 0.154 Hong Kong dollars ($0.02) per share after the firm’s chairman was recently arrested by Macao police for alleged links to illegal cross-border gambling activities.

Other Hong Kong-listed casino stocks also fell, with Wynn Macau down 4.31% while Sands China dropped more than 2% and SJM Holdings slipped 3.58%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed, with the Shanghai composite up 0.23% while the Shenzhen component sat below the flatline.

Data released Tuesday showed Chinese factory activity unexpectedly growing in November, with China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for November coming in at 50.1. That was above expectations by analysts in a Reuters poll for a reading of 49.6.

PMI readings below 50 represent contraction while those above that level signify expansion. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.51% while the Topix index climbed 1.02%.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.07% while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia jumped 1.05%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.1%.

Overnight stateside, the major indexes on Wall Street rose after U.S. President Joe Biden said there’s no need for Covid omicron lockdowns for now. The World Health Organization had said the variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk.

The S&P 500 gained 1.32% to 4,655.27 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.88% to 15,782.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 236.60 points to 35,135.94.


European stocks set for positive open, optimistic that omicron variant won’t derail recovery

LONDON — European stocks are expected to open higher on Tuesday amid cautious optimism that the omicron Covid variant might not derail the global economic recovery, as initially feared.

The U.K.’s FTSE index is seen opening 31 points higher at 7,148, Germany’s DAX 71 points higher at 15,348, France’s CAC 40 up 23 points at 6,799 and Italy’s FTSE MIB 87 points higher at 26,108, according to data from IG.

The positive start for European markets continues positive momentum seen on Monday when European and U.S. stocks rose following last Friday’s sell-off as concerns over the newly discovered omicron Covid variant appeared to ease.

In the U.S. stocks got a big boost after President Joe Biden said economic lockdowns in response to the omicron variant are currently off the table and there will be no new travel restrictions.

Covid symptoms linked to the omicron variant have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first spotted the new strain. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization warned Monday that the omicron variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk.

----Stateside, investors are looking ahead to key economic data set to be released this week, including the November jobs report on Friday which is expected to show solid jobs growth. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect 581,000 jobs to have been added in November.

Earnings come from Easyjet, Greencore, SAS and Volvo Cars on Tuesday while data releases include flash inflation data for the euro zone in November, France’s final third-quarter gross domestic product data as well as German unemployment figures for November.


But, on the other hand…

Dow futures reverse sharply, down more than 300 points on omicron Covid uncertainty

Stock futures tumbled in early Tuesday trading, reversing from a rebound on Wall Street as investors reassessed risks associated with the new omicron Covid variant.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dived 380 points. S&P 500 futures was down 0.68%, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 0.38%.

The reversal came after Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times that he expects existing vaccines to be less effective against the new variant. Bancel told CNBC on Monday that it could take months to develop and ship an omicron specific vaccine.

----The new Covid variant, first detected in South Africa, has now been found in more than a dozen countries, causing many to restrict travel. The World Health Organization labeled the omicron strain a “variant of concern” on Friday when the Dow slid 900 points to suffer its worst day since October 2020.

Covid symptoms linked to the omicron variant have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain. Still, the WHO said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believes that the omicron variant poses a threat to the central bank’s mandate to achieve stable prices and maximum employment, he said in remarks he plans to deliver to Senate lawmakers on Tuesday.

The CBOE volatility index, also known as the VIX or Wall Street’s fear gauge, declined during Monday’s rally but still remained above 22. The gauge spiked 10 points above 28 at one point on Friday.

“This week will be instructive to see if the buy-the-dip approach by investors is still in play, or if markets are vulnerable to a more significant pullback,” said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide.


Omicron COVID-19 variant poses risks to global growth, inflation -rating agencies

Nov 29 (Reuters) - The Omicron COVID-19 variant could hurt global growth prospects while also pushing prices higher, rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service said on Monday, after the World Health Organization said the variant carried a very high risk of infection surges.

"The Omicron variant poses risks to global growth and inflation, especially as it comes during a period of already stretched supply chains, elevated inflation and labor market shortages," Elena Duggar, Associate Managing Director at Moody's, told Reuters in emailed comments.

The variant is also likely to hit demand during the upcoming holiday travel and spending season, according to Duggar.

"If the new variant affects global market risk appetite, it would cause further financial stress for debt issuers with large financing needs. For example, emerging market countries that rely on international market borrowing may face heightened refinancing risks", she said.

Fitch Ratings said separately that it was too soon to incorporate the effects of the Omicron coronavirus variant into its economic growth forecasts until more is known about its transmissibility and severity.

"We currently believe that another large, synchronized global downturn, such as that seen in the first half of 2020, is highly unlikely but the rise in inflation will complicate macroeconomic responses if the new variant takes hold," Fitch said.



Finally, so you really, really, really want to switch away from hydrocarbons and do it all in 30 years? Good luck.


Why the Energy Transition Will Be So Complicated

The degree to which the world depends on oil and gas is not well understood.

By Daniel Yergin  November 27, 2021

----The term energy transition somehow sounds like it is a well-lubricated slide from one reality to another. In fact, it will be far more complex: Throughout history, energy transitions have been difficult, and this one is even more challenging than any previous shift. In my book The New Map, I peg the beginning of the first energy transition to January 1709, when an English metalworker named Abraham Darby figured out that he could make better iron by using coal rather than wood for heat. But that first transition was hardly swift. The 19th century is known as the “century of coal,” but, as the technology scholar Vaclav Smil has noted, not until the beginning of the 20th century did coal actually overtake wood as the world’s No. 1 energy source. Moreover, past energy transitions have also been “energy additions”—one source atop another. Oil, discovered in 1859, did not surpass coal as the world’s primary energy source until the 1960s, yet today the world uses almost three times as much coal as it did in the ’60s.

The coming energy transition is meant to be totally different. Rather than an energy addition, it is supposed to be an almost complete switch from the energy basis of today’s $86 trillion world economy, which gets 80 percent of its energy from hydrocarbons. In its place is intended to be a net-carbon-free energy system, albeit one with carbon capture, for what could be a $185 trillion economy in 2050. To do that in less than 30 years—and accomplish much of the change in the next nine—is a very tall order.

Here is where the complexities become clear. Beyond outerwear, the degree to which the world depends on oil and gas is often not understood. It’s not just a matter of shifting from gasoline-powered cars to electric ones, which themselves, by the way, are about 20 percent plastic. It’s about shifting away from all the other ways we use plastics and other oil and gas derivatives. Plastics are used in wind towers and solar panels, and oil is necessary to lubricate wind turbines. The casing of your cellphone is plastic, and the frames of your glasses likely are too, as well as many of the tools in a hospital operating room. The air frames of the Boeing 787, Airbus A350, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet are all made out of high-strength, petroleum-derived carbon fiber. The number of passenger planes is expected to double in the next two decades. They are also unlikely to fly on batteries.

Oil products have been crucial for dealing with the pandemic too, from protective gear for emergency staff to the lipids that are part of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Have a headache? Acetaminophen—including such brands as Tylenol and Panadol—is a petroleum-derived product. In other words, oil and natural-gas products are deeply embedded throughout modern life.




Global Inflation/Stagflation Watch.

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

Copper climbs as inventories outweigh easing Omicron fears

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Copper prices rose on Monday as fears about further damage to growth and demand from the Omicron coronavirus variant eased on reports that the symptoms have been mild so far, shifting market attention back to low inventories.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 1.5% at $9,600 a tonne by 1115 GMT, having lost 3.5% on Friday.

"The bullish argument rests on historically low warehouse inventories," said Neil Welsh, a broker at Britannia Global Markets. "On the bearish side, we have inflation fears, dollar strength and COVID concerns."

OMICRON: The new coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally, bringing "severe consequences" in some areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised its 194 member nations. read more

INVENTORIES: Copper stocks in LME-registered warehouse, at 80,075 tonnes, are about a third of level registered in late August.

Cancelled warrants - metal earmarked for delivery - at 19% suggest that another 15,350 tonnes is heading out.

Worries about copper supplies on the LME market and a scramble for metal has often created a large premium for cash copper over the three-month contract .

----ZINC: Falling zinc stocks on the LME , down 20% to 161,450 tonnes since April, cancelled warrants at 22% and large warrant holdings have also fuelled a jump in the premium for cash zinc over the three-month contract.

The premium was last at $128 a tonne while three-month zinc rose 0.1% to $3,197.



Pandemic to cost global tourism $2.0 trillion in 2021: UN

Issued on: 29/11/2021 - 02:24

Madrid (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN's tourism body said Monday, calling the sector's recovery "fragile" and "slow".

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe.

International tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 percent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020, according to the body.

The global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion (1.78 trillion euros) in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.

While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.

"Despite the recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains" such as the Delta variant and Omicron "could impact the already slow and fragile recovery," it said in a statement.

The introduction of fresh virus restrictions and lockdowns in several nations in recent weeks shows how "it's a very unpredictable situation," UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP.

"It's a historical crisis in the tourism industry but again tourism has the power to recover quite fast," he added ahead of the start of the WTO's annual general assembly in Madrid on Tuesday.

"I really hope that 2022 will be much better than 2021."


While international tourism has taken a hit from the outbreak of disease in the past, the coronavirus is unprecedented in its geographical spread.

In addition to virus-related travel restrictions, the sector is also grappling with the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the spike in oils prices and the disruption of supply chains, the UNWTO said.

Pololikashvili urged nations to harmonise their virus protocols and restrictions because tourists "are confused and they don't know how to travel".

International tourist arrivals "rebounded" during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said.

"Despite the improvement in the third quarter, the pace of recovery remains uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence," it added.



Powell to tell Senate omicron variant poses downside risk to economy, complicates inflation picture

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believes that the omicron variant of Covid-19 and a recent uptick in coronavirus cases pose a threat to the U.S. economy and muddle an already-uncertain inflation outlook.

“The recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation,” Powell said in remarks he plans to deliver to Senate lawmakers on Tuesday. “Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will join Powell on Tuesday in testifying before the Senate Banking Committee. The Fed chief and Treasury secretary are required to report to Congress each calendar quarter as part of the March 2020 economic-relief legislation that magnified the central bank’s emergency lending programs.

Powell’s remarkets were released by the central bank on Monday evening.

The Fed chief also offered more direct comments on inflation, saying that it’s challenging to forecast the persistence and impact of supply constraints, but that it now appears that “factors pushing inflation upward will linger well into next year.”

He noted that many forecasters, including some at the Fed, predict that inflation will move down “significantly” over the next year as bulked-up supply chains overtake cooling demand for goods.



Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Biden told it will take two weeks to have definitive data on Omicron variant

WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The top U.S. infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday it will take about two weeks to have definitive information on the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has sparked new travel restrictions and shaken financial markets.

Biden, returning to Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was briefed in person by his coronavirus response team on Sunday afternoon as officials expect the new variant to reach the United States despite an impending ban on travelers from Southern Africa, where it was first detected.

Fauci said he believes existing vaccines are likely to provide "a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID", and officials reiterated their recommendation for vaccinated Americans to get booster shots, according to a readout of the briefing.

Biden was due to update the public on the new variant and the U.S. response on Monday, the White House said.

Omicron, which was first detected in Southern Africa, has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, and the United States' neighbor to the north, Canada. read more

Earlier on Sunday, Fauci told ABC News' "This Week" that the new variant would "inevitably" reach the United States.

----U.S. officials were seeking more information from South Africa about the new variant. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke to South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Sunday, praising the country's transparency, according to a readout of the meeting.

Its appearance in the United States, where 30% of the population has not received a single dose of vaccine, could threaten to undermine the nation's recovery nearly two years after COVID-19's emergence and further pressure local healthcare systems already taxed by the recent Delta variant.

Rising cases as colder weather forces more people indoors has also caused some hospital systems and U.S. states, including New York, to declare emergencies.



Shanghai canceled over 500 flights, closed schools, and suspended hospital services because of 3 COVID-19 infections

Mon, November 29, 2021, 4:16 AM

·         Shanghai, China, canceled over 500 flights and locked down several residential areas over three COVID-19 cases.

·         Twenty hospitals also suspended outpatient and emergency medical services for three days.

·         The sweeping response is part of China's strict COVID zero tolerance policy.

Chinese financial hub Shanghai canceled hundreds of flights, closed schools, and suspended tourism programs on Friday after three locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases emerged in the city.

According to a municipal government statement, the three positive cases were friends from the nearby city of Suzhou who attended a lecture about ancient architecture last week. They were in close contact with almost 200 people, prompting 20 hospitals to suspend outpatient and emergency medical services for three days out of caution, per the statement.

All three of the travelers were fully vaccinated, authorities also said.

The restrictions are part of Beijing's COVID-zero policy: China's attempt to completely stamp out any trace of the coronavirus within its borders through swift lockdowns and curbs.

Around 30% of the flights from two of Shanghai's major airports were canceled following the discovery of the infections on Thursday, per local media outlet Jiemian News.

The Guardian estimated more than 500 flights were canceled, citing data from the flight tracking site VariFlight.

Shanghai authorities also told travel agencies to suspend all city tours or travel programs to other provinces, local outlet Yicai Global reported.

The city, which has a population of 24.9 million residents, also locked down several residential compounds believed to have a higher infection risk, Reuters reported.



What is Omicron, where did it come from, and how dangerous is it?

Rich Haridy  November 28, 2021


Next, some 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 vaccineshttps://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Trackerhttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html

Regulatory Focus COVID-19 vaccine trackerhttps://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2020/3/covid-19-vaccine-tracker

Some other useful Covid links.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource centre


Rt Covid-19


Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus


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.

BP announces plans to turn Teeside into UK’s green hydrogen hub

Monday 29 November 2021 11:01 am

BP is boosting renewable energy production in North East England with plans to build a new large-scale green hydrogen facility in Teeside by the end of the decade.

HyGreen Teeside will deliver up to 500Mwe (megawatt electrical input) of hydrogen production ‎by 2030.

The energy giant is working with industry and local government such as Tees Valley Combined Authority to increase the pace of decarbonisation in transport.

It hopes the plant could fuel the development of Teesside into the UK’s first major hydrogen ‎transport hub, leading the way for large-scale decarbonisation of heavy transport, airports, ports and ‎rail in the UK.

BP is aiming to start production by 2025, with an initial ‎phase 60MWe of installed hydrogen production capacity.

The plant will be developed in multiple stages, with production matched with demand ‎to drive down costs.

A final investment decision on the ‎project is expected in 2023.‎

Hygreen Teesside is the latest addition to BP’s integrated UK business portfolio, which includes 3GW ‎gross of offshore wind in the Irish Sea and delivering 16,000 UK charging points by 2030.

It also has a partnership deal with the city of ‎Aberdeen.

The announced project could enhance economic development and regeneration in Teesside, creating production jobs in the region.

Louise Jacobsen Plutt, BP’s senior vice president for hydrogen and CCUS, said: “Low carbon ‎hydrogen will be essential in decarbonizing hard-to-abate industrial sectors including heavy transport. ‎Together, HyGreen and H2Teesside can help transform Teesside into the UK’s green heart, ‎strengthening its people, communities and businesses. This is exactly the type of energy we want to ‎create and more importantly deliver.”

 Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: ‎“This exciting project builds on our ongoing development of ‎hydrogen in the area through the Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub. It’ll help pave the way for its ‎use across all transport modes, creating high-quality, green jobs in the process.‎

The announcement follows the COP26 summit in Glasgow last month, and the unveiling of the UK’s ten-point for tackling climate change, which included strong commitments to investing further in green hydrogen and reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Heard on Wall Street:

I finally have quit gambling in stocks.

I buy cryptocurrencies now.