U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent last year

The nation’s gross domestic product has bounced back from the 2020 coronavirus recession

The U.S. economy grew last year at its fastest pace since 1984, rebounding from a sharp but brief coronavirus-induced recession in March 2020.

The nation’s gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced, expanded by 5.7 percent in 2021, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Growth accelerated even faster during the period from October to December, rising to 6.9 percent on annualized basis.

With inflation running hot and Covid-19 cases from the highly contagious omicron variant filling overworked hospitals and keeping workers at home, the economy is expected to grow at a slower rate in 2022. Economists have already slashed their forecasts for the first quarter, due to the impact of omicron.


U.S. economy slows sharply during omicron wave

Record spread of new coronavirus strain exacerbates labor and supply shortages

The U.S. economy dropped down to a slower gear in January amid a record outbreak of coronavirus cases that intensified labor and supply shortages, according to pair of IHS Markit surveys of senior business executives. A “flash” index of service-oriented companies tumbled to an 18-month low of 50.9 from 57.6 in the final month of 2021, IHS Markit said. A similar gauge of manufacturers dropped to 55 from 57.7 in December — a 15-month low. The flash IHS surveys give the first clear indication of the damage done to the U.S. economy in the first month of the new year.

Any reading above 50 means businesses are growing and numbers above 55% are quite healthy. Yet conditions aren’t as good as they were last fall, no thanks to the latest strain of the coronavirus. “Labor shortages, employee absences and the omicron wave reportedly weighed on growth,” IHS Markit said.


Davos meeting postponed again as Omicron variant surges

Virtual event with global leaders to take place instead

The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday postponed its annual meeting in Davos due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, putting off the event scheduled for January until mid-2022.

A month before world business and political leader were due to gather in the Swiss ski resort, its organisers said they had decided to postpone in light of continued uncertainty over Omicron, adding the event was now planned for “early summer”. Davos, which in the past has attracted around 3,000 business chiefs, political thinkers and state leaders, was deserted last year after the event was cancelled due to COVID-19.


Germany locks unvaccinated out of public life

Mandate looms

Unvaccinated people across Germany will soon be excluded from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections.

Merkel announced the measures after a meeting with federal and state leaders, as the nation again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period. She said the steps were necessary to address concerns that hospitals could become overloaded with patients suffering from COVID-19 infections, which are much more likely to be serious in people who have not been vaccinated.


79 cases of new Covid variant Mu detected in France

The ‘variant of interest’  is also present in Belgium and the UK

A total of 79 cases of new Covid variant ‘Mu’ have been detected in France. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies it as a ‘variant of interest’ over signs it could be more vaccine-resistant. The ‘Mu’ variant – scientific name B.1.621 – was originally identified in Colombia, South America, in January. It has since been identified in around 30 other countries in South America and Europe, including the UK and Belgium, as well as France.

So far, 79 cases have been confirmed in France, said a report by health body Santé publique France. These include 27 cases in Ile-de-France and 17 in Occitanie. Belgium has been particularly affected, with seven elderly care home residents dying after contracting the variant, local media site rtbf reported.


Covid-19 in UK: New cases fall for sixth day in a row

UK is “not out of the woods yet”

The number of new Covid infections has fallen for six consecutive days, according to the government’s daily coronavirus data, with 24,950 new cases recorded on Monday. It is the first time since mid-November, when England’s second national lockdown was introduced, that the UK has seen cases fall six days running. But Boris Johnson believes the UK is “not out of the woods yet”, the prime minister’s deputy official spokesman said earlier, despite the “encouraging” decline in new cases of the virus.


3 Existing Drugs Fight Coronavirus with ‘almost 100%’ Success

The drugs are robust against changing variants

Israeli scientists say they have identified three existing drugs that have good prospects as COVID-19 treatments, reporting that they illustrated high ability to fight the virus in lab tests.

They placed the substances with live SARS‑CoV‑2 and human cells in vitro. The results “showed that the drugs can protect cells from onslaught by the virus with close to 100 percent effectiveness, meaning that almost 100% of the cells lived despite being infected by the virus,” Prof. Isaiah Arkin, the Hebrew University biochemist behind the research, told The Times of Israel.

By contrast, in normal circumstances, around half the cells would have died after two days following contact with the virus.” He added there are strong indications that the drugs will be robust against changing variants.

Arkin, part of a Hebrew University center that specializes in repurposing existing drugs, said that he screened more than 3000 medicines for suitability, in what he describes as a needle-in-a-haystack search. This approach can provide a fast track to find treatments as the drugs have already been tried and tested, and he hopes to work with a pharmaceutical company to quickly get the medicines he identified clinically tested for COVID-19.

We have the vaccine, but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels, and I would like to see these drugs become part of the arsenal that we use to fight the coronavirus,” he said. When confronting SARS‑CoV‑2, the drugs in question — darapladib, which currently treats atherosclerosis; the cancer drug Flumatinib; and an HIV medicine — don’t target the spike protein. Rather, they target one of two other proteins: the envelope protein and the 3a protein. These proteins — especially the envelope protein — hardly change between variants, and even between diseases from the coronavirus family. As such, drugs that target them are likely to remain effective in spite of mutations, Arkin said.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/

Global markets shaken by fears over Delta variant

European equities endure worst session of the year and US S&P 500 falls 1.6 per cent

The threat of the Delta coronavirus variant hit global equity markets on Monday, handing European bourses their worst session of the year and sending US stocks down 1.6 per cent. Commodity prices also fell and investors headed for the safe haven of government bonds. It helped to push the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to its lowest level in six months, extending a shift in investor sentiment as fears over runaway inflation have given way to creeping concerns over the durability of US growth, compounded by the spread of the Delta variant. Europe’s region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 lost 2.3 per cent in its biggest one day price fall of 2021, with London’s FTSE 100 dropping by the same amount.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the S&P 500 index lost more than 2 per cent before moderating in afternoon trading to close 1.6 per cent lower. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite fell 1.1 per cent. In commodities, Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, declined 7.1 per cent to $68.38 a barrel.