S&P 500 hits record close as Omicron fears ebb

Major indexes climb for 3rd straight session

Wall Street’s main indexes posted solid gains for a third straight session on Thursday, with the S&P 500 marking a record-high close, as encouraging developments gave investors more ease about the economic impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Stocks ended the holiday-shortened week on a positive note, lifting sentiment heading into Christmas. Gains were broad among S&P 500 sectors, led by consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) and industrials (.SPLRCI), which both rose about 1.2%.

Vaccine makers AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) and Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said their shots protected against Omicron as UK data suggested it may cause proportionally fewer hospital cases than the Delta variant, though public health experts warned the battle against COVID-19 was far from over.

The arrival of Omicron has helped ratchet up market volatility for much of the last month of 2021, which has been a strong year for equities.

https://www.reuters.com/

British data suggests lower hospitalisation rate for Omicron Covid-19 variant

Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation 

The preliminary studies — one paper from Scotland and the other from England — were cautiously welcomed by experts, who nonetheless stressed that any advantage in milder outcomes could still be negated by the new strain’s heightened infectiousness, which may still lead to more overall severe cases.

“We’re saying that this is qualified good news — qualified because these are early observations, they are statistically significant, and we are showing a reduced risk of hospitalisations,” Jim McMenamin, a co-author of the Scottish research, told reporters on a call.

The Scottish paper examined Covid cases recorded in November and December, and grouped them by cases caused by Delta against those caused by Omicron.

It found that “Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta,” while also showing that a booster vaccine offered substantial additional protection against symptomatic infection.

https://www.france24.com/

Omicron: two doses of Pfizer offer 70% protection against hospitalisation

Study assesses vaccine efficacy since new variant

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been less effective in South Africa at keeping people infected with the virus out of hospital since the Omicron variant emerged last month, a real-world study published on Tuesday showed.

Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 7, people who had received two doses of the shot had a 70% chance of avoiding hospitalisation, down from 93% during the previous wave of Delta infections, the study showed. When it came to avoiding infection altogether, the study by South Africa’s largest private health insurance administrator, Discovery Health, showed that protection against catching COVID-19 had slumped to 33% from 80% previously.

The findings from the real-world analysis are some of the first about the protection vaccines offer against Omicron outside of laboratory studies, which have so far shown a reduced ability to neutralise the virus.

https://www.reuters.com/

The Great Resignation

Ahead of the busy holiday shopping season

As the Great Resignation roils the retail industry, some employees are strategically looking to call it quits ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

Retail workers who have recently left their jobs, or are otherwise seriously considering it, told Insider they are opting to quit for a variety of reasons, including what they describe as low pay, poor working conditions, lack of scheduling flexibility, and coronavirus pandemic-driven burnout. The departures come after a record number of more than 685,000 retail employees quit in September, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Adding to the inherent stressors for employees navigating a flood of shoppers during the hectic holiday season, many Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and eschewing mask mandates, leaving frontline retail workers exposed to the contagious Delta variant.

https://www.businessinsider.com/

US hiring slows

The U.S. economy looks healthy

America’s employers added just 235,000 jobs in August, a surprisingly weak gain after two months of robust hiring and the clearest sign to date that the delta variant’s spread has discouraged some people from flying, shopping and eating out.

The August job growth the government reported Friday fell far short of the sizable gains of roughly 1 million in each of the previous two months. The hiring jumps in June and July had followed widespread vaccinations that allowed the economy to fully reopen from pandemic restrictions. Now, with Americans buying fewer plane tickets, reducing hotel stays and filling fewer entertainment venues, some employers in those areas have slowed their hiring.

Still, the number of job openings remains at record levels, with many businesses eager for workers, and hiring is likely to rebound in the coming months. Even last month’s modest job growth was sufficient to lower the unemployment rate to 5.2% from 5.4% in July. With consumers willing to spend and companies trying to hire, the U.S. economy looks healthy.

https://apnews.com/

Stock Market Risks Pile Up

The gap between ordering a chip and delivery is still growing

Delta cases. Inflation. Fed tapering. China’s crackdown. These are among the reasons why investors could soon get more nervous about this stock market.

The S&P 500 hit another record on Friday after Jerome Powell’s dovish taper speech reassured investors. However, the mood seems more cautious compared with a few weeks ago, when companies were in the middle of a record-setting earnings season.

All the concerns boil down to one big debate: Has the recovery from the pandemic already peaked? That’s a question that will only be answered in the months ahead. For now, investors say they’re scouring through management commentary and economic data for any hint about what’s to come.

https://finance.yahoo.com/

Fundamentals Justify $65 Oil More Than $75

The Delta variant set to slow global oil demand

The oil market is not as tight as the Wall Street consensus view, and with the current slowdown in demand growth, the fundamentals justify more like $65 a barrel Brent rather than $75, Standard Chartered said in a research note dated Tuesday.

At present, the oil market is in a mild surplus. The bank’s commodity analysts said that it will continue to be in surplus in September.

Standard Chartered’s view echoes last week’s warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that new mobility restrictions in Asia to fight the Delta variant are set to slow global oil demand growth in the second half of 2021.

https://oilprice.com/

COVID Delta variant: US warns Americans not to travel to the UK as it raises risk level to “very high”

CDC guidance

The US has risen the risk of traveling to the UK to its highest level, “very high”, and warned Americans not to travel there due to the pervasiveness of Delta.

In an update made today, as the UK lifted most Covid restrictions despite soaring infection rates, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the following guidance to US travellers to the UK:

Avoid travel to the United Kingdom.
If you must travel to the United Kingdom, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants.
Travellers should follow recommendations or requirements in the United Kingdom, including wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart from others.

https://www.theguardian.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.

https://www.ft.com/

Is Pfizer vaccine less effective against delta variant?

 Some health experts expressed skepticism about the Israel study

A study conducted in Israel found that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is somewhat less effective against the more infectious delta variant, though it was still found to be effective at preventing severe illness.The Pfizer vaccine protected 64 percent of immunized people during an outbreak of the delta variant, a sharp drop when compared to the 94 percent of people it had previously been shown to protect. However, the shot was still 94 percent effective at preventing severe illness, a slight decrease from the 97 percent that were kept from experiencing severe illness previously.

The data for the study was collected from June 6 through early July, according to officials from Israel’s Health Ministry. The data and the methodology of the study was not released, according to the Journal. Some health experts expressed skepticism about the Israel study, saying mRNA vaccines like Pfizer have been shown to offer strong protection against COVID-19 infection.

https://thehill.com/

Israel says the Delta variant is infecting vaccinated people

 50% of cases. But they are less severe

As Israel is facing a surge in cases driven by the Delta variant, its health officials said as many as half of those are among people who were vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people who were in contact with the Delta variant will now have to quarantine, according to Chezy Levy, the leader of Israel’s Health Ministry’s director-general.

“Even though the numbers are low, the fact that this is reaching vaccinated people means…that we are still checking how many vaccinated people have also been infected,” Levy said, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

Talking with state broadcaster Kan Bet public radio, Levy said that approximately 40 to 50% of new cases were people who had been vaccinated. The figure is likely to be an estimate, as the ministry is still analyzing data about the cases. On Monday, Levy’s estimate was lower: he said only a third of the new daily cases were people who had been vaccinated.

https://www.businessinsider.fr/