Fed Will Double Pace of Taper – Expects to End Asset Purchases In March
The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would move more quickly to pare back its pandemic-era easy money policies as Fed officials grow concerned about the persistence of inflationary pressures. The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee said it would double the pace by which it winds down its asset purchase program. The new pacing would bring all asset purchases to a full stop by March 2022, faster than the course set forth in November that originally sought to end purchases by the middle of next year.
The FOMC also signaled a strong likelihood of an interest rate hike next year, which would be the first since the central bank slashed short-term borrowing costs to near-zero in March 2020.
December Empire State Manufacturing Survey – “Sturdy” Growth Continues
Manufacturing activity grew strongly in New York State, according to the December survey. Lead times lengthen prices paid and received rise, employment increases.
- The general business conditions index held steady at 31.9.
- The new orders index and shipments indexes were both little changed at 27.1.p
- The unfilled orders index rose six points to 19.0.
- The delivery times index fell nine points to 23.1, suggesting that delivery times lengthened significantly. Inventories increased modestly.
- The index for number of employees came in at 21.4, indicating a solid increase in employment,
- The average workweek index fell to 12.1, suggesting a modest increase in hours worked.
- The prices paid index edged down three points to 80.2.
- The prices received index fell six points to 44.6, signaling ongoing substantial increases in both input prices and selling prices.
- The index for future business conditions held steady at 36.4. Longer delivery times, higher prices, and increases in employment are all expected in the months ahead.
- The capital expenditures index climbed three points to 38.0, and the technology spending index moved up to 31.4.
Democrats Remain at Odds Over Biden’s $1.75 Trillion Social Spending Bill
Senate Democrats are struggling to find a path forward on President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill, with moderate Joe Manchin objecting to parts of the program, a person familiar with their negotiations said. The source said Biden and Manchin remain “far apart,” with Manchin objecting to an expanded child tax credit that other Democrats want in the program.
Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer faces his biggest challenge since becoming majority leader in January. Some moderate Democratic senators saw no urgency in Schumer’s Christmas deadline but such flexibility infuriates liberals, who already swallowed a raft of compromises. A middle ground could see negotiators “continue to slim down the package under the belief the progressives will take whatever the Senate sends over.”
U.S. Retail Sales Rose Modestly in November
Retail sales rose a modest 0.3% in November from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, suggesting consumers are challenged to keep up with rising prices. Consumer spending has been a primary driver of strong economic growth this year. Retail sales rose nearly 15% in October, from a year earlier, showing low unemployment, rising wages and savings from stimulus payments are giving Americans the capacity to spend more, even when accounting for historically strong inflation.
Retailers across industries are expecting to finish the year strong and post significant improvements compared with 2020 sales figures. But headwinds persist: inflation, continued supply-chain issues, labor shortages and the unknown future impact of the Omicron variant.
Read more at the WSJ
US COVID Update – Study: More Than 40% of People with COVID-19 Never Show Symptoms
New research now shows more than 40% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers looked at 95 studies from January 2020 to February 2021 consisting of nearly 30 million people in Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Africa. More than 60% of confirmed COVID-19 cases among people under 20 were asymptomatic; nearly 50% in people 20 to 39; about 32% in people 40 to 59, and about 33% in those over 60.
It’s likely more COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic today compared to when the study was conducted, health experts say, due to highly transmissible variants like delta and omicron. Vaccines themselves may also contribute to a higher proportion of asymptomatic infections, Wells said, as they’re extremely effective against severe disease and mute the symptoms of a breakthrough infection.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of December 15:
One Vaccine Dose
- 81.2% of all New Yorkers – 15,293,001 (plus 83,224 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,598,047 (plus 2,686).
- 70.5% of all New Yorkers – 13,677,062 (plus 81,895).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,401,544 (plus 2,802).
The Governor updated COVID data through December 14 . There were 71 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,148.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,784.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 4.83% – 56.43 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 4.59% – 49.28 positive cases per 100,00 population
China’s Sinovac Vaccine ‘Inadequate’ Against Omicron Variant, Study Finds
A study has showed that China’s widely used Sinovac vaccine failed to produce sufficient antibodies to neutralize the omicron variant. A team at the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong analyzed serum antibodies from 25 people fully vaccinated with CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac, as well as a separate group of 25 more who had received two doses of the COVID vaccine from Pfizer PFE, +0.62% and its German partner BioNTech BNTX, -0.52%.
None of the 25 vaccinated with two doses of the Sinovac vaccine showed any neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant. Of the Pfizer-BioNTech group, five showed neutralizing ability, though with vaccine efficiency “significantly reduced” to 20% to 24%. Compared with the original COVID strain, neutralizing antibodies against omicron dropped by 36 to 40 times in that group, the study said.
Cornell University Reports 903 COVID-19 Cases This Week. Many Are Omicron Variant in Fully Vaccinated Students
Cornell University reported 903 cases of Covid-19 among students between December 7-13, and a “very high percentage” of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials. As of result, the school has decided to shut down its Ithaca, New York, campus, where it has about 25,600 students. The university will move final exams for the semester online, cancel all activities and athletics and close the libraries.
President Martha Pollack wrote in a letter to the student body posted Tuesday. “While I want to provide reassurance that, to date, we have not seen severe illness in any of our infected students, we do have a role to play in reducing the spread of the disease in the broader community,” Pollack said. The school has a mandatory vaccination policy for students, with exemptions for religious or medical issues. All unvaccinated students and many vaccinated students are required to take part in surveillance testing. Mask wearing indoors is compulsory.
Trudeau Proposes Joint EV Rebates with US to Avoid Trade Dispute
Though the northern country has objected to the rebate as written, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a compromise at a news conference Monday, December 14: Canada will pass its own, equivalent tax credit for EVs built in the U.S. and Canada, if the U.S. extends the rebate to include Canadian cars, too.
Canada has previously objected that the U.S.-exclusive rebate would amount to a de facto tariff on Canadian-built electric vehicles and said it would harm auto production in both countries. The latest proposal is one of “a number of solutions” put forward to Washington, Trudeau told reporters, who noted that the countries’ automotive businesses are intertwined.
Why No One Wants to Work for You, and What You Can Do About It
Employees are quitting in droves. One out of four workers has resigned in the past year. Employers everywhere are wringing their hands and fretting what went wrong. Why are employees leaving? We’ve never had trouble recruiting before. Maybe they’re just soft, entitled, spoiled. Surely, they’ll be back.
Or maybe this isn’t a “them” problem—maybe it’s a “you” problem. This isn’t the Great Resignation so much as it is the Great Reset.
Scarcity and Growing Demand Boost Lithium Prices
Driven by rising sales of lithium-reliant electric vehicles, environmental opposition and Chinese competition, the demand for lithium is poised to overtake global supply, prompting a surge in prices. Lithium supply has been stopped up by supply-chain bottlenecks as well as a recent bear market. The price surge is also driven by bets on continued scarcity and consistently high demand for electric vehicles. The mad scramble for lithium is particularly worrisome for battery manufacturers and automakers, which need adequate manufacturing material
Rechargeable batteries are starting to power everything from smartphones and power tools to electric vehicles—but while the world has plenty of lithium, establishing reliable and consistent conversion of lithium into battery-grade chemicals requires extensive investments in time and capital. Currently, most lithium comes from countries such as Argentina and Chile, where it is derived from a salty brine pumped out of the ground and spodumene, a mineral found in hard rocks.
UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High
The Consumer Price Index rose by 5.1% in the 12 months to November, up from 4.2% in October, which was itself the steepest incline for a decade and more than double the central bank’s target. On a monthly basis, U.K. inflation rose 0.7% in November from October, above a Reuters poll for a 0.4% increase. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy, food, alcohol and tobacco prices, rose by 4% year-on-year against a Reuters forecast of 3.7%, and 0.5% month-on-month versus a 0.3% projection.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee meets Thursday to decide whether to tighten monetary policy, with inflation surging and the labor market remaining robust, but the rapid spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant has cast fresh uncertainty over the economic recovery in the short term.
Bank of England Raises Interest Rates to Battle Inflation
The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate to 0.25%, making it the first major central bank to lift borrowing costs since the pandemic began. Officials on the U.K. central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted eight to one to lift the BOE’s policy rate to 0.25% from a record low of 0.1%, saying the strength of the labor market meant higher borrowing costs were appropriate to keep a lid on price growth.
The pound rose 0.75% against the dollar to $1.336. Yields on one-year U.K. gilts jumped 0.13 percentage points to 0.36%, their biggest jump since October, according to FactSet.
China’s Economic Activity Slowed in November on Property Slump, Weak Consumption
China’s economy took a knock last month from an ongoing property market slump and sporadic Covid outbreaks, prompting economists to warn that recent easing measures may not be enough to stabilize growth.
Residential property sales and the area of new housing started by developers both dropped about 20% from a year earlier. Retail sales growth weakened to 3.9% in November. Industrial output rose 3.8% from a year earlier, a slight uptick from October due to strong production of electronic products and pharmaceuticals. But the property market is weighing on the industry too, with production of property-linked commodities such as steel and cement falling about 20% year-on-year in November.
JCOPE Orders Former Governor Cuomo to pay $5.1 Million in Book Earnings
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12-1 ethics on Tuesday to order former Governor Andrew Cuomo to return $5.1 million he received for his memoir after finding he failed to follow state ethics regulations, a spokesperson with the commission said. Cuomo has 30 days to surrender the money he made for writing the book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” to the state. The state attorney general’s office will have the authority to decide how the funds are dispersed, the New York Times reported.
The commission said Cuomo violated a requirement not to use state resources to complete the book and misrepresented how long it would take to complete. In a statement, Cuomo lawyer Jim McGuire vowed to fight the order. “JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law.”
Missouri Science Center Wins STOP Education Innovation Award
Forbes and the Center for Education Reform (CER) announced Tuesday the The Discovery Center of Springfield is the winner of the inaugural STOP Award. The STOP Award is a $1 million prize open to education innovators, providers and entrepreneurs who continued to support underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and who seek to expand their work in the coming year. The Discovery Center of Springfield wins for providing an education experience that is the essence of the awards: Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless.
The team at The Discovery Center voted to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic to fill the gap in childcare services that immediately presented itself within the wider Springfield, Missouri area. Within 48 hours, The Discovery Center transitioned its 60,000-square-foot building into a massive community response center dedicated to supporting the children of essential workers, delivering over 200,000 hours of childcare and 50,000 free meals. The Discovery Center quickly converted its offerings into a project-based, experiential, and hands-on learning environment that has since received tremendous enthusiasm from students and parents alike.