Investment Commentary – November 30, 2021

Year to Date Market Indices as of November 30, 2021
• Dow 34,483 (12.67%)
• S&P 4,567 (21.59%)
• NASDAQ 15,537 (20.56%)
• Barclay Bond Aggregate (-2.89%)
• Fed Funds Rate 0-0.25 (0-0.25)
• Annual Inflation Rate 5.4% (As of 10/13/21)

South African doctor who first spotted the Covid omicron variant says symptoms seem ‘mild’ so far

Covid symptoms linked to the new omicron variant have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee told the BBC on Sunday that the patients seen so far have had “extremely mild symptoms.”

The WHO has said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
Covid symptoms linked to the new omicron variant have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC on Sunday that she started to see patients around Nov.18 presenting with “unusual symptoms” that differed slightly from those associated with the delta variant, which is the most virulent strain of the virus to date and globally dominant.

“It actually started with a male patient who’s around the age of 33 … and he said to me that he’s just [been] extremely tired for the past few days and he’s got these body aches and pains with a bit of a headache,” she told the BBC.
The patient didn’t have a sore throat, she said, but more of a “scratchy throat” but no cough or loss of taste or smell — symptoms that have been associated with previous strains of the coronavirus.

Coetzee said she tested the male patient for Covid, and he was positive, as was his family, and then said she saw more patients that day presenting with the same kinds of symptoms that differed from the delta variant.

This prompted her to raise the alarm with South Africa’s vaccine advisory committee, of which she is a member.

Other patients Coetzee had seen so far with the omicron variant had also experienced what she described as “extremely mild” symptoms, and she added that her colleagues had noted similar cases.


Unnecessary panic?

A swath of countries has now temporarily banned travel from several southern African countries where the variant has been found, a move slammed as a “knee-jerk, draconian” reaction by South Africa’s health minister on Friday.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether countries like the U.S., U.K., Israel and EU were “panicking unnecessarily,” Coetzee stressed that the omicron variant had already likely spread to those nations.

“I think you already have it there in your country without even knowing it so I would say at this stage, definitely. Two weeks on, maybe we will say something different,” she added

Thought of the week

As Americans gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table last week and recited what they were thankful for, they likely weren’t talking about the economy.

Rising costs at the grocery store and higher rent and utility bills, while stores remain poorly stocked and restaurants understaffed, have all contributed to worsening consumer sentiment.
Sentiment came in at 67.4 for November, 6% below the pandemic trough in April 2020 despite the economy having improved markedly since then. Nevertheless, American workers do have a lot to celebrate. Jobs are plentiful and after decades of stagnant growth, wages are rising across nearly all sectors of the economy.

As inflation pressures and supply chain issues ease, we expect consumers to feel much better about the economy in 2022. In the meantime, when consumers feel gloomy they often indulge in “retail therapy” and consumer spending has been particularly strong heading into the holiday season. In October, retail sales and personal consumption expenditures bounced +0.9% and +1.3%, respectively. Further, our proprietary Chase credit and debit card data show that consumer spending in November month-to-date is up 13.8% y/y, while discretionary spending (excluding food) is up 20.5% y/y vs. 14.8% in October.

Americans may not be happy about rising prices but so far, it’s not stopping them from spending. Alongside an expected bounce of inventories as companies rush to stock shelves, the U.S. should see a solid holiday spending season.


News Around The web:

Fed chair renominated: President Biden nominated Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to serve a second four-year term as head of the nation’s central bank, lifting expectations of policy stability as the Fed seeks to contain rising inflation. The nomination is widely expected to be approved by the Senate, and Powell’s new term would begin in February 2022.

Pandemic sell-off: The discovery of a new highly transmissible coronavirus variant in South Africa upended what had been a fairly quiet week for financial markets. A steep sell-off on Friday left U.S. large-cap stock indexes with weekly declines ranging from around 2.0% to 3.5%; a small-cap benchmark dropped 4.1%.
Oil slick: Fears stemming from the new coronavirus variant sent U.S. crude oil prices down 12% on Friday. The price fell to around $69 per barrel—the lowest level in more than two and a half months—as several nations banned air travel from countries in Southern Africa in hopes of containing the variant’s spread.

Fed’s rate outlook: At their meeting earlier this month, Federal Reserve officials expressed concern about the persistence of rising inflation and discussed whether they should prepare to raise interest rates in the first half of next year. The release on Wednesday of minutes from the early November meeting showed that some officials wanted to end the Fed’s asset purchase program sooner than June 2022 in case they feel greater urgency to raise rates once the program wraps up.

Healing labor market: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest weekly total since 1969, marking the eighth consecutive weekly decline. The 199,000 filings in the latest weekly count was down from 270,000 the previous week and was far below economists’ expectations. (Market Indices) (This day in Financial History) (Around the Web & Upcoming Events) (YTD Performance Chart)