Monday 31 January 2022

Dress Up Monday. Skid Row.

 Baltic Dry Index. 1381 +79   Brent Crude 91.10

Spot Gold 1789

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

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 31/01/22 World 375,241,633

Deaths 5,681,747

As goes January, so goes the year.

Wall Street saying.

It is the month-end, but not just any month-end in the stock casinos, it’s the January month-end! Time to dress up stocks and the stock indexes lest the greater fool buyers stop being greater fools. 

In Asia, many casinos have closed early for the Chinese/Lunar New Year. Making it easier to dress up the European and American casino indexes later today.

Onward and upward for the central banksters and billionaires. 

Still, if Fed Chairman Powell’s Fed actually does what it says it will do and start raising interest rates, ending 30 plus years of Easy Street, the over-priced stock casinos are about to become Skid Row for the next few years.

Much, if not most of the everything bubble is about to burst, no matter how dress up Monday goes. Though probably not the crude oil and natural gas price surges. Germany finds itself over a Russian barrel of its own making, albeit at the dictate of Washington and London. 

In trivia news, Canada’s Prime Minister has run away and gone into hiding, but will anyone notice?

Major Asia indexes jump more than 1%; mainland China, South Korea markets closed for Lunar New Year eve

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia were higher on Monday — the final trading day of January, with markets in mainland China and South Korea closed for the Lunar New Year eve.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 1.47% in afternoon trade while the Topix index climbed 1.19%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index jumped 1.07% on the day to 23,802.26 while Singapore’s Straits Times index advanced 0.1% to finish the trading day at 3,249.59. Markets in Hong Kong and Singapore closed early on Monday ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

Over in India, the Nifty 50 jumped 1.3% while the BSE Sensex surged 1.29% in morning trade.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia declined fractionally.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.58%.

China factory activity data

Official data released Sunday showed Chinese factory activity growth slowing in January. The country’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for January was at 50.1, just above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction. January’s reading compared against December’s figure of 50.3.

Meanwhile, a private survey released over the weekend showed Chinese manufacturing activity contracting in January. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI came in at 49.1 for the month.

PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.

Global markets have seen volatile trading in recent days after the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday indicated it could soon hike interest rates for the first time in more than three years.


Stock futures edge higher of final January session, S&P heads for worst month since March 2020

Stock futures were higher in overnight trading on Sunday as investors braced for the final trading day in what could be the worst month for the S&P 500 since March 2020.

Dow futures rose 33 points. S&P 500 futures gained 0.14% and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 0.29%.

January has turned out to be a dismal month for stocks. The S&P 500 is headed for its worst month since the pandemic-spurred market turmoil in March 2020 as investors worry about inflation, supply chain issues and the upcoming rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

The 500-stock average is nearing correction territory, down more than 8% from its intraday high earlier this month. The S&P 500 is down 7% in January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is also heading for its worst January since March 2020. The Dow is off by 4.4% this month.

The Nasdaq Composite, which is roughly 15% off its November record close, is headed for its worst month since October 2008 and the worst first month of the year of all time. The technology-focused average is down 12% in January.

Plus, the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000 is in a bear market.

Last week, the Federal Reserve indicated that it is likely to raise interest rates for the first time in more than three years in order to combat historically high inflation. Markets are now pricing in five quarter-percentage-point interest rate hikes in 2022.

The major averages experienced violent swings last week, with the Dow moving a gut-wrenching 1,000 points in both directions. The Dow ended the week 1.3% higher. The S&P 500 gained 0.8% last week and the Nasdaq was about flat for the week.

“This all kind of results in additional market volatility until investors digest this transition period,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. “On the other side of this, the economy should continue to expand, earnings are pretty good. That’s enough to sustain markets, but I think they’re adjusting to the shift in monetary policy, fiscal policy and earnings.”


Top oil producers to meet amid record crude prices

Issued on:

London (AFP) – The world's top oil-producing countries will meet on Wednesday to discuss a further increase in output, while crude prices have reached seven-year highs rattled by geopolitical tensions.

Part of their regular meetings since the Covid-19 pandemic shook markets, the 13 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their 10 allies convene by videoconference to set output.

Many analysts expect the grouping, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, to decide to continue to boost output by 400,000 barrels per day in March.

This will be in line with their strategy to slowly re-open the taps since May last year, after drastic cuts to curb slumping prices when the coronavirus first started spreading.

"With that said, we wouldn't completely rule out a larger increase, given high oil prices and recent OPEC+ underproduction," Capital Economics analysts said.

Brent oil on Wednesday surpassed $90 per barrel, attaining a level last seen in October 2014.

The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude hit its highest level in more than seven years earlier this month, fuelled by easing concerns about the Omicron Covid variant and geopolitical tensions.

Russia sanctions?

The United States and Britain on Sunday flagged new and "devastating" economic sanctions against Russia, as Washington and its NATO allies step up efforts to deter any invasion of Ukraine.

Fears of an imminent invasion have grown in recent days, despite denials from Moscow and pleas from Ukraine's president to avoid stirring "panic" over the massive Russian military build-up on the border.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to "very hard sanctions" against Moscow, according to Bjarne Schieldrop, analyst at SEB.

"It would halt exports of natural gas to Europe even more. Natural gas and power prices in Europe would be much higher than the current extremely high prices we have now," he told AFP.

----Besides the geopolitical uncertainties, analysts have noted that OPEC nations and other key producers are struggling to meet targets to lift output by 400,000 barrels a month, adding to the upward pressure on prices.

"OPEC+ underperformance and inaction support elevated oil prices as the group has underdelivered against its stated production targets by hundreds of thousands of barrels," Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson said.

The grouping "has committed to a passive role in the conversation despite external pressure primarily from the US, to increase production and ease fuel prices," she added.

Schieldrop also noted that top producer Saudi Arabia in the last meeting "made it clear that they will not step up production beyond their cap to cover losses by other members. No rescue there."

Ukraine tensions jumble up Germany's energy puzzle

Issued on:

Berlin (AFP) – Rising tensions with Moscow over Ukraine have exposed Germany's problematic dependence on Russian gas, inflaming an already heated debate over soaring energy prices.

As Germany pursues its target to transition to cleaner energy sources over the next decade, Europe's biggest economy has counted on gas temporarily filling the gap while it builds up its sun and wind energy capacity to replace nuclear and coal plants.

But with Russia now providing 55 percent of Germany's gas imports -- up from 40 percent in 2012 -- Berlin's best-laid plans may well go awry if Moscow were to march on Ukraine.

With gas making up 26.7 percent of Germany's total energy consumption and heating one in every two households, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government has admitted that if sanctions had to be imposed on Russia, they will also hit the German economy.

More precisely, the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was set to double supplies of cheap natural gas from Russia to Germany, now hangs in the balance.

In a warning hailed by the United States as "very, very strong", German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said the pipeline will be part of a sanctions package if Russia made a move on Ukraine.

Energy security

Long viewed as a problem by Western allies and Ukraine, the 10-billion-euro ($12 billion) pipeline had been seen by former chancellor Angela Merkel's government as a key stop-gap option while Germany shifts to renewables.

But critics have repeatedly warned that it would only serve to increase German dependence on Russian energy, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has branded it a "dangerous geopolitical weapon of the Kremlin".

Yet weaning Germany off Russian energy will be painful.

"If we give up Russian gas and Nord Stream 2, it won't be lights out immediately, but it will be expensive, it will exacerbate unanswered gas supply questions for the future, and we'll have a problem," warned chairman of the mining, chemistry sector union IG BCE, Michael Vassiliadis.

With time pressing, the German government is launching a massive programme to build wind turbines covering two percent of the country's land surface, and require the installation of solar panels on roofs.

"Phasing out the burning of fossil fuels also strengthens Europe in geopolitical terms and protects the climate," Economy Minister Robert Habeck said earlier this month.

But with the nuclear energy phase-out due to be complete by year's end and coal power also to be halted by 2030, Germany will have to make up the difference by raising its gas capacity by a third over the next eight years, according to the Fraunhofer economic institute.


Finally, did Covid supply disruption change the global economy permanently?

Just-in-time gives way to "buy everything you can" as U.S. supply disruptions persist

Fri, January 28, 2022, 5:45 PM

By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) - Stephen Bullock eight months ago gave up on the idea of buying raw materials and parts only shortly before they were needed on his assembly line.

Instead, he told his purchasing manager to "just buy everything you can," and they could store the excess, said Bullock, chief executive of Power Curbers Companies, a maker of heavy equipment used to build concrete sidewalks and other infrastructure projects.

Roughly two years into a pandemic that has snarled supply chains across the globe, U.S. companies are scrambling not just to produce enough to feed current demand - but to also refill inventory shelves. That buildup was key to the fourth quarter’s hefty 6.9% annualized growth in gross domestic product, with inventory investment contributing 4.9 percentage points, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Spending shifted during the pandemic from services to goods, a boom that has strained supply chains and emptied warehouses. Excluding inventories, GDP grew at a more modest 1.9% rate in the latest period.

This boom in demand, coupled with shortages, has fueled a wave of inflation that increased at a pace last year not seen in nearly 40 years. This set the stage for the Federal Reserve to now look towards raising interest rates in March.

Bullock, whose company is based in Salisbury, North Carolina, said supply chain problems have continued to grow worse in recent months - not better.

Ditching the "just-in-time" inventory model in favor of building up supply to buffer stocks only made sense, he said, referring to a system that aims to buy parts and materials shortly before they're needed - to minimize the cost of holding supplies. Just-in-time has evolved into a standard worldwide in the era of globalized trade, one embraced across corporate America - until COVID-19's emergence upended it. Since the pandemic struck, many businesses found the system left them stranded when orders that normally took weeks suddenly took months to arrive.

Bullock's goal now is to snap up materials like steel whenever he can. "We've had to get creative in where to put all of it," he added. "We're using all the nooks and crannies to house those incoming items."


Global Inflation/Stagflation Watch.

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

Shipping companies are giving maritime workers bonuses worth as much as triple their annual salary

Fri, January 28, 2022, 4:24 PM

Major shipping companies are offering workers bonuses worth as much as three years' salary in an effort to keep talent in an industry that is known for labor code violations, long months away from family, and high suicide rates.

COSCO Shipping, a Chinese state-owned company, gave workers year-end bonuses of about 30 times their monthly salary, Chinese Media group Caixin Global reported. Similarly, the Taiwanese shipping companies Evergreen Marine handed out bonuses as high as 40 times its workers' monthly pay, while Wan Hai paid out bonuses worth a full year's salary or about $36,093.

In 2021, global cargo carriers are estimated to have generated a record $150 billion in profits. The boom in online shopping and resultant supply-chain crisis during the pandemic have made the shipping industry an increasingly lucrative sector. Shipping backlogs have allowed maritime companies to boost their rates from $2,000 to as high as $20,000 for 40-foot shipping containers in the past two years.

Despite record profits, global carriers face difficulties keeping workers. On Wednesday, the annual Seafarers Happiness Index found that seamen's levels of unhappiness reached all-time lows in 2021 and that many seafarers over the age of 35 were not intending to return to sea.

"We are sleepwalking to a manning crisis," Yves Vandenborn, director of loss prevention at Standard Club, said in the press release. "Resentment is brewing amongst this critical workforce due to the lack of shore leave, uncertainty of trip duration, draconian COVID testing and general lack of recognition."

In November, Hong-Long-based company Wah Kwong Maritime Transport warned they were facing difficulty staffing ships due to flagging retention and application rates.


Miami's lure during Covid sends housing prices through the roof

Issued on: 30/01/2022 - 02:16

Miami (AFP) – Miami resident Maria Ruby learned last month that her rent will shoot up 65 percent in February. She cannot afford it and does not know where to go.

Her plight illustrates an unexpected effect of the coronavirus pandemic: Miami is seeing some of the highest housing cost increases anywhere in the United States.

Metropolitan Miami was already a lure even before Covid, with its warm weather, white sand beaches and absence of state -- though not federal -- income tax.

It is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city that is attractive to European and Latin American investors.

But the pandemic made Miami even more of a mecca. Strict lockdown rules in other parts of the United States and the rise of working from home for a company that could be far away caused many people to up and move to the south of Florida.

They flocked from northeastern cities such as New York and Boston, as well as from California, and found cheaper rent and Republican politicians eager to get the state economy running again after the ravages of Covid lockdowns.

"They started coming to South Florida in droves," said Jennifer Wollmann, board chair of the Miami Association of Realtors.

"Our weather, business-friendly state and open spaces are very attractive for people coming from states that were cold and shut down," she said.

The effect quickly became apparent. People with better paying jobs than the going rate in south Florida caused housing prices to shoot up.

A study released in December by said metropolitan Miami saw the steepest rent hikes last year in America.

Median rent in November -- it did not specify what kind of dwelling -- was $2,800, up a whopping 44 percent from the same month of 2020.


Auto industry could see billions in losses if interest rates spike

Thu, January 27, 2022, 8:21 PM

The prospect of rising interest rates has the automotive industry on edge.

If the Federal Reserve decides to increase interest rates, as it suggested it would soon this week, automotive experts say the industry could lose $22 billion in sales.

Consumers could also purchase 150,000 fewer new vehicles and 500,000 fewer used ones, experts said.

Those expected rate hikes are likely to happen at the end of the central bank's next policymaking meeting — and almost exactly two years after it slashed rates to zero in response to the emergence of a fast-spreading coronavirus that threatened to destabilize the entire financial system.

Hiking rates would likely affect several U.S. sectors along with the automotive industry, with some analysts contending the increase will trigger more uncertainty in the auto world.

Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at the consumer intelligence company J.D. Power, said usually there is an automotive roadmap for when interest rates spike and decrease, but little precedent exists for a global pandemic and an auto supply-chain shortage.

“We don’t have a lot of experience with increasing rates with nothing to sell,” Jominy said.

The global chip shortage seems to be coming under control, but there are still widespread worries about other supply chain disruptions affecting rubber, plastics and steel, which has made it difficult to manufacture vehicles, NBC News reported. Wall Street has underscored concerns about rising interest rates and inflation.


Column: Zinc squeeze worsens as a second European smelter closes

LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The year has not got off to a good start for European zinc buyers.

Premiums for physical zinc are at record highs as the market scrambles for metal after the closure of a second zinc smelter due to high power costs.

Nyrstar is placing its Auby smelter in France on care and maintenance, citing "historically high" European electricity prices which show no signs of abating.

Glencore has already closed its Portovesme zinc plant for the same reason.

The unexpected curtailment of the two plants has blown a 260,000-tonne hole in the European zinc supply chain.

----Premiums for physical zinc in Antwerp and Rotterdam have doubled since last October to $320-380 per tonne over the LME cash price.

The cost of getting hold of spot zinc in Northern Europe has now surpassed the previous peak dating back to 2005, according to Fastmarkets which assesses the premiums.

Southern European buyers are paying yet more, although the Italian premium has stopped rising and is now holding steady at $380-420 per tonne.

Europe's power crisis and the resulting hit on regional zinc smelters has happened so fast it has completely wrong-footed the market.

----Low stocks have left European buyers particularly exposed.

LME warehouses across Europe hold just 1,350 tonnes of zinc, split between 1,325 tonnes at the Spanish port of Bilbao and 25 tonnes at the Dutch port of Vlissingen. Only 50 tonnes is actually available, the rest awaiting physical load-out.

LME registered stocks in the United States are higher at over 33,000 tonnes but that hasn't stopped local premiums rising in sympathy with Europe. Fastmarkets has just lifted its assessment of the Midwest premium for 18-23 cents per lb to 20-24 cents.

It's a rational price reaction, given both regions will now be competing for imports.


Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

New MERS-related virus NeoCoV may be more lethal, transmissible - study

The World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against making such conclusions before further study can be done.

JERUSALEM POST STAFF Published: JANUARY 28, 2022 13:37 Updated: JANUARY 28, 2022 14:30

A new lethal virus known as NeoCoV has been discovered, and it may be more transmissible - with one mutation - according to a new study by Chinese scientists from Wuhan, though some experts are cautioning that further study is needed. It has not yet made the leap to humans. 

According to the study, which is in preprint and is therefore not yet peer-reviewed, the NeoCoV variant is a type of coronavirus originally discovered in South Africa. However, it isn't entirely new. According to the researchers, the NeoCoV variant is linked to the MERS-CoV virus, also known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which had outbreaks in several countries in the Middle East before.

Like other coronaviruses, which refers to a type of virus and not specifically to COVID-19, it is not unprecedented for it to exist in animals as well as humans. Right now, NeoCoV is only known to spread among bats, but can it transmit to humans? 

According to the Wuhan researchers, the answer is yes, and it is only one mutation away from becoming dangerous for human life. 

Further, according to the study, antibodies targeting both SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and MERS-CoV were not able to stop NeoCoV.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against making such conclusions before further study can be done.

"Whether the virus detected in the study will pose a risk for humans will require further study," the organization told Russian news agency TASS, adding that it "works closely" with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in order to "monitor and respond to the threat of emerging zoonotic viruses."

Explainer-Scientists on alert over rising cases caused by Omicron cousin BA.2

Sun, January 30, 2022, 1:06 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The highly transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus - the most common form of which is known as BA.1 - now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus infections globally, although dramatic surges in COVID cases have already peaked in some countries. 

  Scientists are now tracking a rise in cases caused by a close cousin known as BA.2, which is starting to outcompete BA.1 in parts of Europe and Asia. The following is what we know so far about the new subvariant: 


  Globally, BA.1 accounted for 98.8% of sequenced cases submitted to the public virus tracking database GISAID as of Jan. 25. But several countries are reporting recent increases in the subvariant known as BA.2, according to the World Health Organization. 

  In addition to BA.1 and BA.2, the WHO lists two other subvariants under the Omicron umbrella: BA.1.1.529 and BA.3. All are closely related genetically, but each features mutations that could alter how they behave. 

  Trevor Bedford, a computational virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who has been tracking the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, wrote on Twitter on Friday that BA.2 represents roughly 82% of cases in Denmark, 9% in the UK and 8% in the United States, based on his analysis of sequencing data from the GISAID database and case counts from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. 

  The BA.1 version of Omicron has been somewhat easier to track than prior variants. That is because BA.1 is missing one of three target genes used in a common PCR test. Cases showing this pattern were assumed by default to be caused by BA.1. 

  BA.2, sometimes known as a "stealth" subvariant, does not have the same missing target gene. Instead, scientists are monitoring it the same way they have prior variants, including Delta, by tracking the number of virus genomes submitted to public databases such as GISAID. 


  Some early reports indicate that BA.2 may be even more infectious than the already extremely contagious BA.1, but there is no evidence so far that it is more likely to evade vaccine protection. 

  Danish health officials estimate that BA.2 may be 1.5 times more transmissible than BA.1, based on preliminary data, though it likely does not cause more severe disease. 

  In England, a preliminary analysis of contact tracing from Dec. 27, 2021, through Jan. 11, 2022, by the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) suggests that household transmission is higher among contacts of people infected with BA.2 (13.4%) compared with other Omicron cases (10.3%). 

  The HSA found no evidence of a difference in vaccine effectiveness, according to the Jan. 28 report. 


Easier to produce COVID vaccine shows promise in trials; nasal spray vaccine booster works in mice

Jan 28 (Reuters) - The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

New COVID-19 vaccine could be manufactured like flu shots

A COVID-19 vaccine that can be produced locally in low- and middle-income countries is yielding promising results in early clinical trials, researchers say.

The NDV-HXP-S vaccine, developed at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, uses an engineered version of the harmless Newcastle disease virus studded with coronavirus spike proteins to teach the immune system to recognize and attack the virus that causes COVID. Using blood samples from trial participants, researchers found that NDV-HXP-S induces proportionally more antibodies that can neutralize the virus and fewer non-neutralizing antibodies than the current mRNA vaccines from Moderna (MRNA.O) or Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech , they reported on Friday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

"The NDV-HXP-S vaccine induced neutralizing antibody responses against wild type (the original) SARS-CoV-2 that matched what we see after mRNA vaccination, but the proportion of neutralizing antibodies in the response was higher for NDV-HXP-S," said Mount Sinai's Florian Krammer. The vaccine can be manufactured like flu vaccines at low cost in chicken eggs at influenza vaccine manufacturing plants around the world, his team said. Early clinical trials with a live version are underway in Mexico and the United States, while an inactivated version is being tested in Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil, a spokesperson said. Mid-stage trials of the inactivated vaccine have also been completed and pivotal randomized trials are being planned.


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.

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

Regulatory Focus 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.

Eco-friendly micro-supercapacitors using fallen leaves?

Femtosecond micro-supercapacitors on a single leaf could easily be applied to wearable electronics, smart houses, and IoTs

Date:  January 27, 2022

Source:  The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Summary:  A research team has developed a graphene-inorganic-hybrid micro-supercapacitor made of leaves using femtosecond direct laser writing lithography. The advancement of wearable electronic devices is synonymous with innovations in flexible energy storage devices. Of the various energy storage devices, micro-supercapacitors have drawn a great deal of interest for their high electrical power density, long lifetimes, and short charging times.

A KAIST research team has developed a graphene-inorganic-hybrid micro-supercapacitor made of leaves using femtosecond direct laser writing lithography. The advancement of wearable electronic devices is synonymous with innovations in flexible energy storage devices. Of the various energy storage devices, micro-supercapacitors have drawn a great deal of interest for their high electrical power density, long lifetimes, and short charging times.

However, there has been an increase in waste battery generation with the increases in the consumption and use of electronic equipment as well as the short replacement period that follows advancements in mobile devices. The safety and environmental issues involved in the collection, recycling, and processing of such waste batteries are creating a number of challenges.

Forests cover about 30 percent of the Earth's surface, producing a huge amount of fallen leaves. This naturally occurring biomass comes in large quantities and is both biodegradable and reusable, which makes it an attractive, eco-friendly material. However, if the leaves are left neglected instead of being used efficiently, they can contribute to fires or water pollution.

To solve both problems at once, a research team led by Professor Young-Jin Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Hana Yoon from the Korea Institute of Energy Research developed a one-step technology that can create porous 3D graphene micro-electrodes with high electrical conductivity without additional treatment in atmospheric conditions by irradiating femtosecond laser pulses on the surface of the leaves without additional materials. Taking this strategy further, the team also suggested a method for producing flexible micro-supercapacitors.

They showed that this technique could quickly and easily produce porous graphene-inorganic-hybrid electrodes at a low price, and validated their performance by using the graphene micro-supercapacitors to power an LED and an electronic watch that could function as a thermometer, hygrometer, and timer. These results open up the possibility of the mass production of flexible and green graphene-based electronic devices.

Professor Young-Jin Kim said, "Leaves create forest biomass that comes in unmanageable quantities, so using them for next-generation energy storage devices makes it possible for us to reuse waste resources, thereby establishing a virtuous cycle."

This research was published in Advanced Functional Materials last month and was sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, the Korea Forest Service, and the Korea Institute of Energy Research.

I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for ten years.

Warren Buffett.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Special Update – 29/1/22 Dressing Up The Month-end. War Delayed.

Baltic Dry Index. 1381 +79  Brent Crude 90.03

Spot Gold 1792

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

Deaths 53,100

Covid-19 cases 29/01/22 World 370,535,625

Deaths 5,668,435

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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens ~ A Tale of Two Cities.

On Friday in the global stock casinos, it was the worst of times it was the best of times, depending on your news source, your book, and your need to dress up the market for Monday’s coming month-end.

In reality, European war still looms, with the Washington-London War Parties still pressing on with trying to provoke Moscow into making the first move. Interestingly, Kiev seems to be back peddling frantically unwilling to be Washington and London’s killing ground.

In reality, US and global interest rate hikes are coming, as is a scaling back of all the free fiat money and public welfare support that fuelled the stock casinos, inflation and kept the official figures out of a covid induced recession. If the central banksters are to be believed, Easy Street is about to become Skid Row.

In the USA, if it happens, crushing the Democrats in the coming mid-term elections, turning aging President Biden into a one term, lame duck president and probably setting off the Great Stagflation.

But for now, only rallying the stock casinos ahead of Monday’s month-end counts.  Anyway, Russia seems willing to wait out China’s New Year and Winter Olympics before starting Washington and London’s next European war.

European stocks post fourth straight week of losses amid Fed jitters; Signify up 11%

LONDON — European stocks fell sharply on Friday, wrapping up another volatile week for markets amid fears over the direction for central bank policies.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down by 1%, with mining stocks shedding 2.8% to lead losses as almost all sectors bar retail and travel slipped into the red.

It marks the fourth consecutive week of losses for equity markets in Europe — and the first time this has happened since March 2020.

Earnings were a key driver of individual share price movement on Friday. Dutch lighting company Signify jumped nearly 11% after a strong set of results, while Swedish clothing giant H&M gained 5% after beating profit expectations.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, German chemicals company Henkel dropped more than 11% after its earnings report.

Markets have whipsawed throughout the week as investors reacted to the Fed’s indication on Wednesday that it could soon raise interest rates for the first time in more than three years, and to rising geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

After a sharply negative open on Thursday, European stocks clawed back losses and closed 0.7% higher after U.S. GDP figures came in stronger than expected. They’re still down over 1.5% in the past five days.

Shares in Asia-Pacific closed mostly higher on Friday, while on Wall Street, U.S. stocks were mostly higher, boosted by gains for Apple after the company reported its largest ever single quarter in terms of revenue.

----Economic data releases included flash German, French and Spanish fourth-quarter GDP numbers, Italian inflation prints and a euro zone business climate survey.

France’s economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, Friday’s preliminary figures showed, bringing the full-year growth rate to a five-decade high of 7% in 2021 following an 8% contraction in 2020.

Spanish GDP grew 2% quarter on quarter, also exceeding consensus expectations and bringing annual growth to 5%.

The German economy contracted by more than expected in the fourth quarter as renewed Covid-19 measures weighed on activity. GDP shrank 0.7% quarter-on-quarter. Europe’s largest economy grew 2.8% in 2021, Friday’s figures showed.

The European Commission’s monthly economic sentiment index fell to 112.7 in January from a revised 113.8 in December, as industrial and services morale waned.

Strong U.S. earnings lift global equities amid inflation, geopolitical concerns

By Katanga Johnson 

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - World stocks rallied on Friday as investors turned their eyes toward corporate earnings and ignored geopolitical turmoil and Federal Reserve tightening concerns.

Strong earnings from tech firms including Apple (AAPL.O), which rose nearly 7% after reporting record sales over the holiday quarter, buoyed U.S. markets during the session. read more

All three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher. However, the pan-European STOXX 600 (.STOXX) index closed down 0.99% on the day for a fourth week of losses, weighed down by worries over the situation in Russia and Ukraine. EU

Economic data helped eased inflation fears, with U.S. data showing consumer spending and labor cost rises were weaker than expected in December. read more

"The widely-watched employment cost index came in a touch softer than expected suggesting wages may start to cool some from here," said Stephanie Roth, a senior markets economist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

Mounting inflation pressures could force the Fed to rapidly hike interest rates, stifling growth, economists have warned.

"Hot wage growth has been a key factor behind the Fed's pivot, so if this trend continues that would relieve some pressure," said Roth.

MSCI's 50-country main world index (.MIWD00000PUS) rose 1.49% but remained on the brink of its worst January since the 2008 global financial crisis after shedding roughly $7 trillion in value.

The dollar, meanwhile, consolidated gains and posted its biggest weekly rise in seven months as markets priced in a year ahead of aggressive hikes in U.S. interest rates /FRX.


Biden's Ukrainian Albatross

By Daniel McAdams  Ron Paul Institute January 24, 2022

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell is given credit for popularizing the “Pottery Barn” rule of foreign policy. Though he denies using that exact phrase, in arguing against what became the disastrous 2003 US attack on Iraq Powell made the point that, as in Pottery Barn, “if you break it, you own it.”

Bush and his neocons – ironically with the help of Colin Powell himself – did indeed break Iraq and the American people as a result “owned” Iraq for the subsequent 22 years (and counting). It was an idiotic war and, as the late former NSA chief Gen. Bill Odom predicted, turned out to be “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.”

Attacking and destroying Iraq – and executing its leader – not only had no value in any conceivable manner to the United States, it had negative value. In taking responsibility for Iraq’s future, the US government obligated the American people to pick up the tab for a million ransacked Pottery Barns.

There was no way out. Only constant maneuvering and manipulation to desperately demonstrate the impossible –  that the move had any value or even made any sense.

So it is with Ukraine. In 2014 the Obama/Biden Administration managed to finish what Bush’s neocons started a decade before. With the US-backed overthrow of the Ukrainian government that year, the US came to “own” what no one in their right mind would ever seek: an economic basket case of a country with a political/business class whose corruption is the stuff of legend.

Rather than admit what a colossal blunder the whole thing had been, the US foreign policy establishment doubled down.

“Oh, this might be a neat tool to overthrow our own election: let’s pretend Trump is Putin’s agent!”

In fact Trump was impeached because a certain Col. Alexander Vindman – himself of Ukrainian origin and doing the bidding of a Ukrainian government installed by Washington – solemnly testified to Adam Schiff and his Democrat colleagues in charge of the House that Trump was clearly Putin’s puppet because his lack of enthusiasm for continuing to “own” Ukraine went against “the Inter-Agency Consensus.”

We “own” Ukraine and there is no way back – at least if the US foreign policy establishment has its way.

That is why our hapless State Department today continues to peddle the fiction that Russia is about to invade – and thus “own” – Ukraine. US foreign policy is one of projection: accuse your rivals of doing what you yourself are doing. No sane country would want to “own” Ukraine. Except the Beltway Think Tank class, thoroughly infused with military-industrial complex money.

That is why the US government, though its Embassy in Kiev, is bragging about the arrival of $200 million in lethal aid, all pointed directly at Russia.


Finally, in other news, H.M.G. looks to shake up UK financial services.

The City of London Corporation, gives itself top billing, naturally.

Exclusive: Brexit financial services regulation bonfire set to be in next Queen’s Speech

Friday 28 January 2022 11:28 am

An overhaul of the UK’s financial services regulation is set to be included in the next Queen’s Speech as the government speeds up its push to make the City more competitive post-Brexit.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave an update to the cabinet on Tuesday about the UK’s plans to shed EU rules for financial services, with Treasury sources telling City A.M. that the package of measures is set to be put to parliament later this year.

Many Tory Brexiteers have called for an overhaul of the City’s rulebook, now that the UK no longer needs to follow the EU’s regulatory regime, in a bid to boost global competitiveness.

This includes former Cabinet Office minister Lord David Frost.

Frost sent a “gushing note” about the work Sunak was doing on shedding regulations just before he quit the cabinet last month, according to an ally of the chancellor.

A Treasury source said Sunak’s push for a regulatory overhaul shows he is “capturing the mood and that he’s on top of these things … at a time when there needs to be potential Brexit dividends”.

---- The long expected regulatory changes, which Sunak last year said would help herald a “Big Bang 2.0” in the City, are now in the final stages of being finalised as the Treasury wraps up its Future Regulatory Framework (FRF) Review consultation on 9 February.

The package of measures will include an easing of capital requirements for the insurance industry, which are a part of the EU’s Solvency II directive, in order to free up money for firms to invest with.

Another proposal being considered is a change to share-listing rules to make London a more attractive destination for tech start-ups to go public.


Post-Brexit boost for the City as London takes top spot in global financial powerhouse rankings

Thursday 27 January 2022 11:06 am

London continues to hold the top spot for financial and professional services in terms of overall offer when compared to other global destinations, including New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris and Frankfurt, according to new figures published this morning.

London received an overall competitiveness score of 61, followed by New York (58) and Singapore (53). The rankings were rounded out with Frankfurt (45), Hong Kong (39) and Tokyo (36). 

For the first time, the research included Paris as a second European comparator centre, with a competitiveness score of 41.


To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.

President George W. Bush.


Global Inflation/Stagflation Watch.

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

Key Fed inflation gauge rises 4.9% from a year ago, fastest gain since 1983

Published Fri, Jan 28 2022 8:32 AM EST

A gauge the Federal Reserve prefers to measure inflation rose 4.9% from a year ago, the biggest gain going back to September 1983, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The core personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy was slightly more than the 4.8% Dow Jones estimate and ahead of the 4.7% pace in November. The monthly gain of 0.5% was in line with expectations.

Along with the inflation numbers, personal income rose 0.3% for the month, a touch lower than the 0.4% estimate. Consumer spending declined 0.6%, less than the 0.7% estimate.

A separate Labor Department data point that Fed officials also watch closely showed that total compensation costs for civilian workers increased 4% over the past 12 months. That is the fastest pace in history for the employment cost index, a data set that goes back to the beginning of 2002.

However, the seasonally adjusted quarterly increase of 1% was less than the 1.2% forecast, putting some balm on fears of a wage-price inflationary spiral.

The numbers come as rampant inflation is pushing the Fed into an aggressive pace of policy tightening.


An invasion of Ukraine could drive up global food prices and spark unrest far from the front lines

January 28, 2022

More than 100,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to defuse the prospect of conflict. Should peace not prevail, western-gazing Ukrainians would pay the highest price. But in a worst-case scenario, the cost of a major Russian invasion of Ukraine — one of the world’s largest grain exporters — could ripple across the globe, driving up already surging food prices and increasing the risk of social unrest well beyond Eastern Europe.

As tensions mount, one focus of economic concern is the global impact of extreme Western sanctions on Russia — a major exporter of agricultural goods, metals and fuel, particularly to Western Europe and China. Should the crisis escalate to the point of triggering staggering sanctions, the blow could spike prices and worsen global supply chain woes by tightening markets for commodities including natural gas and metals such as nickel, copper and platinum used in the manufacturing of everything from cars to spacecrafts.

Yet perhaps just as crucially, a major Russian incursion would also affect the flow of goods from Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest supplier of wheat and corn. A major disruption of Ukrainian exports — especially in conjunction with any interruption in even larger Russian grain exports — could pile onto a global inflationary cycle that in many countries is already the worst in decades.

Concern is especially focused on fuel and food. Last year, global food prices surged 28.1 percent to their highest level in a decade, according to the United Nation’s food agency. Worries of war have already driven U.S. corn futures to their highest levels since June and sent wheat futures to two-month highs before a recent easing.

Over the past 20 years, bountiful Ukrainian harvests boosted the country’s role as a global breadbasket. Some of its biggest clients are economically battered, war-torn or otherwise fragile states in the Middle East and Africa, including Yemen, Lebanon and Libya, where grain shortages or cost surges could not only deepen misery but churn up unpredictable social consequences.


Below, why a “green energy” economy may not be possible, 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

"An Environmental Disaster": An EV Battery Metals Crunch Is On The Horizon As The Industry Races To Recycle

by Tyler Durden Monday, Aug 02, 2021 - 08:40 PM

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.

W. C. Fields.

Covid-19 Corner                   

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

The latest Covid variant is 1.5 times more contagious than omicron and already circulating in almost half of U.S. states

There are already dozens of cases across almost half of the U.S. of a new Covid subvariant that’s even more contagious than the already highly transmissible omicron variant.

Nearly half of U.S. states have confirmed the presence of BA.2 with at least 127 known cases nationwide as of Friday, according to a global data base that tracks Covid variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement Friday, said although BA.2 has increased in proportion to the original omicron strain in some countries, it is currently circulating at a low level in the U.S.

The subvariant is 1.5 times more transmissible than the original omicron strain, referred to by scientists as BA.1, according to Statens Serum Institut, which conducts infectious disease surveillance for Denmark.

The new sublineage doesn’t appear to further reduce the effectiveness of vaccines against symptomatic infection, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency.

“Currently there is no evidence that the BA.2 lineage is more severe than the BA.1 lineage,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said.

BA.2 overtook the original omicron as the dominant variant in Denmark over the course of a few weeks, said Troels Lillebaek, the chairman of the Scandinavian nation’s committee that conducts surveillance of Covid variants.

BA.1 and BA.2 have many differences in their mutations in the most important areas. In fact, the difference between BA.1 and BA.2 is greater than the difference between the original “wild strain” and the Alpha variant, which was the first major mutation to take root across the world.


US scientists who downplayed COVID-19 lab leak origins theory sang a different tune in private, emails show

Scientist said of COVID-19: 'I just can't figure out how this gets accomplished in nature'

January 28, 2022.

U.S. scientists who publicly attributed the COVID-19 pandemic to natural origins rather than human engineering were far less confident in private, transcripts and notes from previous meetings show.

However, conversations between public officials seem to indicate that some experts may have consciously chosen to suppress evidence that could fuel "conspiracists."

"I really can't think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus ... to nCoV where you insert exactly four amino acids 12 nucleotide that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function," Dr. Robert Garry from Tulane's School of Medicine said, according to notes from a February 2020 meeting released by House Republicans. 


"I just can't figure out how this gets accomplished in nature," Garry added in his group comments at the time. "Don't mention a lab origin, as that will just add fuel to the conspiracists."

Now, fresh questions are being raised about what American scientists and federal health officials knew about the origins of the coronavirus and whether conflicting evidence was suppressed and hidden from the public.

White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci was warned as early as Jan. 27, 2020, that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) he oversaw was indirectly linked to the infamous Wuhan lab through EcoHealth, a U.S.-based scientific nonprofit that had been working with novel coronaviruses.

NIAID Principal Deputy Director Hugh Auchinloss floated the idea to Fauci that the research partially tied to the U.S. government may not have gone through the appropriate biosafety evaluations, saying that he will "try to determine if we have any distant ties" to the facility.

Dr. Kristian Anderson, a prominent virologist at the Scripps lab, told Fauci Jan. 31 2020, that "the genome is inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory," an observation that points to synthetic manufacturing.

After Fauci was made aware of Anderson's observations, a conference call with dozens of expert virologists around the world was organized. 


EU watchdog approves Pfizer COVID pill

January 27, 2022

The EU's drug watchdog approved Pfizer's coronavirus pill on Thursday, making it the first oral antiviral treatment for the disease to be authorised in Europe.

Studies showed the drug called Paxlovid reduces hospitalisation and death in patients at risk of severe COVID, and may also be effective against the Omicron variant.

Pills are seen as a potentially huge step in ending the pandemic as they can be taken at home, rather than in hospital.

"Paxlovid is the first antiviral medicine to be given by mouth that is recommended in the EU for treating COVID-19," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement.

The United States, Canada and Israel are among a handful of countries to have already given the green light to the Pfizer treatment.

The European Commission must now formally authorise the drug but that is a rubber-stamp procedure that usually takes hours or days.

"Paxlovid is the first oral antiviral for home use in our portfolio, and has the potential to make a real difference for persons at high risk of progression to severe COVID," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

"We have also seen the promising evidence regarding Paxlovid's effectiveness against Omicron and other variants."

The Pfizer treatment is a combination of a new molecule, PF-07321332, and HIV antiviral ritonavir, that are taken as separate tablets.

The EMA said it "recommended authorising Paxlovid for treating COVID-19 in adults who do not require supplemental oxygen and who are at increased risk of the disease becoming severe".


Published: 15 February 2017

Ivermectin: enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug continues to surprise and exceed expectations

---Antiviral (e.g. HIV, dengue, encephalitis)

Recent research has confounded the belief, held for most of the past 40 years, that ivermectin was devoid of any antiviral characteristics. Ivermectin has been found to potently inhibit replication of the yellow fever virus, with EC50 values in the sub-nanomolar range. It also inhibits replication in several other flaviviruses, including dengue, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis, probably by targeting non-structural 3 helicase activity.97 Ivermectin inhibits dengue viruses and interrupts virus replication, bestowing protection against infection with all distinct virus serotypes, and has unexplored potential as a dengue antiviral.98

Ivermectin has also been demonstrated to be a potent broad-spectrum specific inhibitor of importin α/β-mediated nuclear transport and demonstrates antiviral activity against several RNA viruses by blocking the nuclear trafficking of viral proteins. It has been shown to have potent antiviral action against HIV-1 and dengue viruses, both of which are dependent on the importin protein superfamily for several key cellular processes. Ivermectin may be of import in disrupting HIV-1 integrase in HIV-1 as well as NS-5 (non-structural protein 5) polymerase in dengue viruses.99, 100


World Health Organization - Landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

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.

Nuclear fusion milestone creates "burning plasma" for the first time

Nick Lavars  January 26, 2022

For the prospect of limitless, clean energy produced through nuclear fusion to become a reality, scientists need the reactions at the heart of the technology to become self-sustaining, and newly published research has edged them closer to that goal. Scientists using a high-powered laser at the National Ignition Facility in the US have achieved "burning plasma" for the first time, demonstrating for a fleeting moment how the fuel can provide much of the heat needed to keep the reactions going.

Scientists have been pursuing nuclear fusion technology at the National Ignition Facility since it came online in 2009, using 192 lasers housed inside a 10-story building to deliver 1.9 megajoules of ultraviolet energy onto a fuel capsule roughly the size of a ball bearing. This creates tremendous pressure and temperature that causes separate atoms to fuse into helium, a reaction that releases vast amount of energy.

This mimics the reactions that take place inside the Sun, but the trouble is creating them here on Earth requires huge amounts of energy to initiate the process. The overarching objective in this field is to have the fusion reactions become the primary source of heat instead, creating a self-sustaining form of nuclear fusion and ongoing energy production.

The results of experiments undertaken at the National Ignition Facility in November 2020 and February 2021 confirm small but critical steps toward this aim. The scientists made a few tweaks to the setup that included scaling up the amount of laser energy focused on the fuel, while changing the geometry of the target and the way energy is transferred between the laser beams. The result of this was a novel way to control the implosion process that compresses and heats the fuel, enabling the creation of self-heating plasma.

“In these experiments we achieved, for the first time in any fusion research facility, a burning plasma state where more fusion energy is emitted from the fuel than was required to initiate the fusion reactions, or the amount of work done on the fuel,” said lead author Annie Kritcher.

Though the lifetime of the plasma was measured in just nanoseconds, the achievement of burning plasma is a step toward nuclear ignition, where the process continues to fuel itself to produce energy. That reality is likely still decades away, but the scientists see these short-lived snippets of self-heating plasma as an important proof-of-concept.

“Fusion experiments over decades have produced fusion reactions using large amounts of ‘external’ heating to get the plasma hot," said lead author Alex Zylstra. "Now, for the first time, we have a system where the fusion itself is providing most of the heating. This is a key milestone on the way to even higher levels of fusion performance.”

The research was published in the journal Nature

Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

This weekend’s anonymous musical diversion.  Approx. 13 minutes.

Anonymus (18th Century) - Trumpet Concerto Es-Dur

This weekend’s chess update. Approx. 9 minutes.

Spectacular Checkmates Still Happpen! 

This weekend’s maths update. Approx. 18 minutes.

Fermat’s HUGE little theorem, pseudoprimes and Futurama

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Abraham Lincoln.