Americans Are Still Spending Ahead Of Holiday Season Despite Inflation Surge

Personal spending rose 1.3% last month in a sign that consumers are continuing to spend more despite higher inflation, which continues to rise at its fastest pace in three decades, according to new data from the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

Prices climbed by 5% in the year through October, the fastest gain in over 30 years, according to the latest Personal Consumption Expenditures price index report.

Inflation is surging at its fastest pace in three decades, data shows: October’s annual jump in prices is more than last month’s reading, which showed prices for the year through September climbing 4.4%.

Despite the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, the reduction of stimulus payments and ongoing supply chain issues adding to investor fears about inflation, consumer demand remains steady amid rising private wages and salaries, the Commerce Department’s report said.

Personal consumption expenditures (or PCE)—a key measure of consumer spending—rose 1.3% in October, while personal income rose 0.5%, according to the data.

Both measures of consumer strength were up sharply from recent months: The elevated spending levels ahead of a busy holiday season could help boost the broader economic recovery, experts say.

The increase in personal spending comes as Americans benefit from large pay increases and healthy household balance sheets, especially after several rounds of government stimulus, according to the report.

“Within goods, increases were widespread, led by motor vehicles and parts,” according to the report. Energy prices increased over 30% and food prices nearly 5%. Excluding both of those, the PCE price index for October gained 4.1% from a year ago.

Whether rising inflation starts to cut into consumer demand. While spending on consumer goods is now well above prepandemic levels, Americans with lower incomes could start to defer purchases if price increases continue, economists warn.

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In a more positive sign for the U.S. economic recovery, weekly jobless claims fell substantially to their lowest level in 52 years, according to new data on Wednesday. The latest report from the Labor Department showed that the jobs market has continued to make a comeback in recent weeks. Around 199,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ending November 20, which was down 71,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since November 1969.

Stocks continue to remain near record highs—with the S&P 500 up 26% so far this year, though markets could be more volatile in 2022, experts warn. Rising fears about higher inflation, the Covid-19 delta variant, supply chain issues and Federal Reserve policy are all top of mind for investors going into the end of the year.

Further Reading:

This Wall Street Firm Sees A Negative Year Ahead For The Stock Market (Forbes)

New Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Sink To 52-Year Low Despite 2 Million Americans Still Receiving Unemployment Benefits (Forbes)

Stocks Jump After Biden Reappoints Jerome Powell To Lead Federal Reserve (Forbes)

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I am a New York-based reporter covering billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. Previously, I worked on the breaking news team at Forbes covering

Source: Americans Are Still Spending Ahead Of Holiday Season Despite Inflation Surge

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Covid Surge Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said boosting vaccination rates will not be enough to contain soaring coronavirus infections across the country, Bloomberg reported, calling for tough action as countries across Europe come down hard on the unvaccinated and prepare drastic measures to smother the outbreak.

Key Facts

Merkel reportedly told officials from her conservative party on Monday that many Germans don’t appear to understand how severe the country’s outbreak is, according to Bloomberg, calling on individual German states to implement tougher restrictions this week.

The measures would exceed new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public transport and many areas of public life—which apply in areas where hospitalized Covid-19 patients exceed a certain threshold—and health minister Jens Spahn said he could not rule out another nationwide lockdown.

Some politicians in Germany are debating following neighboring Austria—which went back into full lockdown Monday after a more targeted, unvaccinated-only lockdown—in requiring everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

From February next year, Austrians refusing the jab will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,000), with smaller penalties for those refusing booster shots.

Czechia and Slovakia have also started to make life harder for vaccine holdouts—Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger reportedly called the measures a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”—barring them from using various services, entering restaurants and public events.

Crucial Quote

By spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany… will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Spahn said at a news conference Monday. “With the very contagious delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will over the next few months become infected.”

Key Background

Europe has, again, become the center of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have been rising there even as they mostly fell around the world. The World Health Organization said it is “very worried” about the situation, warning that an additional 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March if sufficient steps aren’t taken.

Many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, are facing dramatic surges and infections are at record-breaking levels. Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands are all at, or have hit, new highs and cases are rapidly rising in other countries.

Violent protests against new lockdowns and other restrictions have erupted across the bloc as governments scramble to contain rising cases. Many of these measures explicitly target the unvaccinated, who experts and officials warn are undoubtedly driving the new wave by refusing provably safe and effective vaccines.

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I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com

Source: Covid Surge ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’: Germany Mulls Tough Restrictions As Europe Targets Unvaccinated With Lockdown, Compulsory Shots

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Further Reading

Czechs, Slovaks target unvaccinated people in step behind Austria (Reuters)

Not Just Austria—Here Are The Countries Making Covid-19 Vaccination Compulsory For Everyone (Forbes)

Europe’s Carrot vs. Stick Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination (Atlantic)

Austria Sends Unvaccinated Into Lockdown—Here’s How Other Nations Are Limiting People Who Don’t Get Covid-19 Shots (Forbes)

Merkel Says Covid Spike ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’ (Bloomberg)

‘We Have To Face Reality’: Austria Announces Nationwide Vaccine Mandate, Full-Scale Covid-19 Lockdown (Forbes)

Lockdown And Restrictions Resurface In Europe As Continent Battles Another Covid Surge (Forbes)

Impact Of Covid-19 Pandemic Extends To Tuberculosis And Neglected Tropical Diseases

Last month, the World Health Organization reported that for the first time in 15 years the number of people who have died from tuberculosis has increased. Worldwide, in 2020, more than 1.5 million deaths were attributed to tuberculosis; the first year-on-year increase since 2005. Multiple reasons have been cited, one of which is diversion of resources due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And, tuberculosis is not the only diseasethat has been impacted, with disproportionately severe health burdens on the world’s poorest populations.

Since the spring of 2020, there has been acute disruption of activities, such as neglected tropical disease (NTD) control and elimination programs. Across the globe, for example, mass drug administration campaigns targeting NTDs have been postponed. NTDs are a heterogeneous group of infections which are common in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

These diseases – caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasites – include, among others, onchocerciasis (river blindness), African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, cholera, Chagas disease, and Dengue fever. Diseases are said to be neglected if they are (often) overlooked and therefore underfunded by drug developers, owing to a lack of commercial prospects.

And, while tuberculosis has also suffered from neglect, it belongs to the so-called “big three infectious diseases” – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis,and malaria – which have generally received more media attention and research and development funding than the NTDs.

The WHO had developed an NTD roadmap that was meant to officially launch in June 2020. The roadmap included specific disease targets to control and eliminate NTDs by 2030. Not only did the Covid-19 pandemic postpone the launch of the work plan, many NTD activities that had been ongoing were suspended to prevent the risk of additional transmission of the coronavirus.

In fact, interruptions in NTD program work were experienced in at least 44% of low and middle income countries: Specifically, suspension of mass administration campaigns of vaccines and treatments, case detection, and vector control. In addition, there was disruption to supply chains and reduction in the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients. In brief, there was diversion of financial resources, which effectively meant a reassignment of NTD personnel to the Covid-19 response.

It’s not all been bad news, as a month ago the WHO endorsed the first malaria vaccine (a recombinant, protein-based agent) for use among children in at-risk areas. Malaria is a preventable disease that kills around 500,000 people a year; mostly African children.

It should be noted, however, that most of the clinical development of the malaria vaccine occurred prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the vaccine – called Mosquirix – has modest efficacy, as it reduces the number of severe malaria cases by approximately 30%.

To save the most lives, African countries must continue to scale up teams of local health workers to identify and respond to cases, and increase access to mosquito nets and antimalarial drugs, such as the fixed dose combination Coartem (artemether/lumefantrine). Yet, it’s precisely in these areas that the pandemic has been the most disruptive.

Opportunity Cost

One of the core tenets of economics is that resource allocation decisions invariably involve trade-offs. As an illustration, there is an opportunity cost of allocating large amounts of resources towards the Covid-19 response. The dollars spent on combating the coronavirus can’t be used to address other diseases.

Unless the overall amount of healthcare resources is expanded, there will be forgone alternatives left unfunded. And, government budgetary constraints often prevent expansion of healthcare budgets from happening. Alternatively, it is difficult to draw down budgets in other sectors, such as defense, in order to fund healthcare sector expansion, whether domestically or for the purposes of international health aid projects.

Budget impact analyses lay bare the individuals or groups who lose out; in other words, those who bear the opportunity cost of spending resources in one area, say, Covid-19, rather than another.

This doesn’t mean that a substantial amount of resources shouldn’t have been spent (or continue to be expended) on developing and paying for coronavirus vaccines or Covid-19 treatments. It does, however, imply that policymakers be made aware of forgone alternative uses of resources, account for the extent to which society can afford to crowd out non-Covid-19 resources, and fill in the budgetary gaps where necessary.

At multiple levels – local, state, federal, and global – when a healthcare system or international program with a relatively fixed budget “overpays” in one area, it must extract resources from elsewhere in the budget, or enlarge the budget.

Early in the pandemic, it was clear that federal regulators in the U.S. were aware of the issue of opportunity cost. In reallocating resources to address the novel coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that new drug and biologics programs were being impacted by “considerable increases in Covid-19 related work.” As a result, the agency said “it’s possible that we will not be able to sustain our current performance level in meeting goal dates.”

Of course, this wasn’t just an issue at the FDA. Other government regulators, as well as global agencies such as WHO, were faced with similar sets of problems.

With government deficits running at record levels, it’ll be extraordinarily difficult to expand budgets to sustain non-Covid-19 related work at the desired levels. But, moving forward, such expansion will have to occur in order to meet the needs of underserved populations worldwide.

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I’m an independent healthcare analyst with over 22 years of experience analyzing healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Specifically, I analyze the value (costs and benefits) of biologics and pharmaceuticals, patient access to prescription drugs, the regulatory framework for drug development and reimbursement, and ethics with respect to the distribution of healthcare resources. I have over 110 publications in peer-reviewed and trade journals, in addition to newspapers and periodicals. I have also presented my work at numerous trade, industry, and academic conferences. From 1999 to 2017 I was a research associate professor at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Prior to my Tufts appointment, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and I completed my PhD in economics at the University of Amsterdam. Before pursuing my PhD I was a management consultant at Accenture in The Hague, Netherlands. Currently, I work on freelance basis on a variety of research, teaching, and writing projects.

Source: Impact Of Covid-19 Pandemic Extends To Tuberculosis And Neglected Tropical Diseases

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Related Contents:

Njie GJ, Morris SB, Woodruff RY, Moro RN, Vernon AA, Borisov AS (August 2018). “Isoniazid-Rifapentine for Latent Tuberculosis Infection: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 55 (2): 244–252. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2018.04.030. PMC 6097523. PMID 29910114.

Reopening Stocks Lead The Market Higher After Strong Jobs Report, Pfizer Announcement

The stock market rallied to record levels yet again on Friday after a better than expected October jobs report, a big announcement from Pfizer and a slew of strong corporate earnings results all helped boost investor optimism about America’s economic recovery.

Key Facts

All three major averages touched new highs: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6%, over 200 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and the tech heavy Nasdaq Composite increased 0.2%.

The United States added back 531,000 jobs in October—better than the 450,000 expected by economists, according to data released by the Labor Department on Friday.

The long-struggling labor market is showing signs of improvement, notching its best monthly showing since July, while the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.6%—its lowest level in more than a year.

A major announcement on Friday from vaccine maker Pfizer also helped boost stocks tied to the reopening of the economy: The company said it will seek FDA approval for its antiviral pill, which reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 by 89%.

Although the Pfizer announcement caused shares of other vaccine makers such as Moderna, BioNTech and Merck to plunge, travel and leisure stocks widely rallied on the news and led the market’s gains on Friday.

Solid earnings also helped drive optimism, including from the likes of Uber, which reported its first-ever adjusted quarterly profit as demand for ride-sharing recovered, and Airbnb, which had its “strongest quarter ever” as travel continued to rebound.

What To Watch For:

While reopening stocks have performed well recently, several pandemic favorites have struggled. Shares of at-home fitness equipment maker Peloton plunged over 30% on Friday after reporting dismal quarterly earnings—making CEO John Foley no longer a billionaire. Other companies have also seen their businesses take a hit from the reopening of the economy: Smart TV company Roku and online education company Chegg both reported lackluster earnings this week.

Tangent:

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that despite labor shortages, supply chain constraints and inflation fears, the U.S. economy was recovering well. The central bank announced that it would begin reducing the historic level of stimulus it has been providing markets since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Fed chairman Jerome Powell also clarified his stance on high inflation, saying it was “expected to be transitory.” Markets have since rallied on the news.

Key Background:

The stock market has continued to hit fresh highs in recent weeks: The S&P 500 rose over 5% in October for its best month so far in 2021 and is up nearly 2% so far in November. Optimism around the reopening of the U.S. economy has grown, in large part thanks to third-quarter corporate earnings that have proved resilient despite higher costs and inflation fears. Of the 445 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results so far, nearly 81% have beaten expectations, according to Refinitiv.

Further Reading:

Peloton Shares Plunge Over 30%—And CEO John Foley Is No Longer A Billionaire (Forbes)

Stocks Hit Fresh Records After Fed Says It Will Taper Pandemic Stimulus (Forbes)

U.S. Economy Added 531,000 Jobs Last Month—But 7.4 Million Americans Are Still Unemployed (Forbes)

Billions Wiped From Covid Pharma Heavyweights—Including Moderna, Regeneron, Merck—As Pfizer’s Antiviral Pill Triggers Selloff (Forbes)

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a New York-based reporter covering billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. Previously, I worked on the breaking news team at Forbes covering money and markets.

Source: Reopening Stocks Lead The Market Higher After Strong Jobs Report, Pfizer Announcement

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Related Contents:
Murphy, Richard McGill (1 July 2014). “Is Asia the next financial center of the world?B
EATTIE, ANDREW (13 December 2017). “What Was the First Company to Issue Stock?”. Investopedia.

“History of the NY Stock Exchange”. Library of Congress. May 2004.

COVID-19 Vaccines Not Linked To Pregnancy Loss; Mixing Vaccines May Confer Greater Protection

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 have yet to be certified by peer review.

COVID-19 vaccines not linked with pregnancy loss

Two studies in major medical journals add to evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe before and during pregnancy. One study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, tracked nearly 18,500 pregnant women in Norway, including about 4,500 who had miscarriages.

Researchers found no link between COVID-19 vaccines and risk of first-trimester miscarriage, regardless of whether the vaccines were from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, or AstraZeneca. Overall, the women with miscarriages were 9% less likely to have been vaccinated, according to the researchers’ calculations.

In a separate study published on Thursday in The Lancet, researchers tracked 107 women who became pregnant while participating in trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Seventy-two of the women had received the vaccine while the others got a placebo. AstraZeneca’s vaccine had no effect on the odds of safely carrying the pregnancy to term, the researchers reported.

“It is important that pregnant women are vaccinated since they have a higher risk of hospitalizations and COVID-19-complications, and their infants are at higher risk of being born too early,” the authors of the Norwegian study wrote. “Also, vaccination during pregnancy is likely to provide protection to the newborn infant against COVID-19 infection in the first months after birth.”

Vaccine combinations with different technologies may be best

Healthcare workers in France who got a first shot of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and then the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for their second shot showed stronger immune responses than those who had received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, in a recent study. Combining different technologies is known to boost immune responses to other viruses, and the current study suggests it may be true for the coronavirus as well.

Both vaccines in the study deliver instructions that teach cells in the body to make a piece of protein that resembles the spike on the coronavirus and that triggers an immune response. But they do it in very different ways. Both protocols provided “safe and efficient” protection, said Vincent Legros of Universite de Lyon in France, coauthor of a report published on Thursday in Nature.

But combining the AstraZeneca shot with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine “conferred even better protection” than two doses of Pfizer’s shot, including against the Delta variant, Legros said. The two technologies combined induced an antibody response of better quality, with more neutralizing antibodies that could block the virus, and more cells that have been “trained” by the vaccine to have increased defense potential, he said.  Combination vaccination “is safe and may provide interesting options… for clinicians to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Legros concluded.

Cognitive problems seen in middle-aged COVID-19 survivors

A “substantial proportion” of middle-aged COVID-19 survivors with no previous dementia had cognitive problems more than half a year after diagnosis, researchers have found. They looked at 740 people who ranged in age from 38 to 59. About half were white, and 63% were female. On tests of thinking skills, 20% had trouble converting short-term memories to long-term memories, 18% had trouble processing information rapidly, and 16% had trouble with skills needed for planning, focusing attention, remembering instructions, and juggling multiple tasks.

The average time from diagnosis was 7.6 months. About one-in-four patients had been hospitalized, but most of them were not critically ill. “We can’t exactly say that the cognitive issues were lasting because we can’t determine when they began,” said Dr. Jacqueline Becker of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who co-led the study published on Friday in JAMA Network Open. “But we can say that our cohort had higher than anticipated frequency of cognitive impairment” given that they were relatively young and healthy, Becker said.

Data support use of Pfizer vaccine in children and teens

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a trial of children ages 5 to 11, the U.S. drugmaker said on Friday in briefing documents submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but not formally published. The children were given two shots of a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine – a third of the strength given to people 12 and older.

The study was not primarily designed to measure efficacy against the virus. Instead, it compared the amount of neutralizing antibodies induced by the vaccine in the children to the response of recipients in their adult trial. Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine induced a robust immune response in the children. Outside advisers to the FDA are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to vote on whether to recommend authorization of the vaccine for that age group.

A separate study from Israel conducted while the Delta variant was prevalent and published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, compared nearly 95,000 12- to -18-year-olds who had received Pfizer’s vaccine with an equal number of adolescents who had not been vaccinated. The results show the vaccine “was highly effective in the first few weeks after vaccination against both documented infection and symptomatic COVID-19 with the Delta variant” in this age group, the research team reported.

By

Source: COVID-19 vaccines not linked to pregnancy loss; mixing vaccines may confer greater protection | Reuters

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