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Daily Archives: January 6, 2022

Charts: U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rose Slightly Last Week

Source : Trading Economics

Charts: Canada’s Trade Surplus Surged in November 2021

The largest surplus since 2008

Source : Trading Economics

Charts: U.S. Dollar Denominated Exchange Reserve Declined in Q3, 2021

Source : Wolf Street

Music Video: I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You

COVID Variant B.1.640.2: What We Know So Far About the New Strain Found in France

David Walsh & Maxime Biosse Duplan wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new year, and a new COVID-19 variant nobody needs right now? Just as we were getting to grips with Omicron which first surfaced in November last year, another strain discovered in France is grabbing the headlines.

News of the variant burst onto social media channels on Tuesday, but cases of what is now known as variant B.1.640.2 were actually first detected nearly two months ago.

As with Omicron, evidence is still being compiled but online misinformation about the latest coronavirus variant is already widespread. So, what is the truth about B.1.640.2?

Where was the new COVID variant discovered?

Cases of the newly-identified variant were first detected by a team of experts at the IHU Méditerranée Infection centre in Marseille. In all, 12 patients from Forcalquier, in the southern French region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, tested positive for COVID-19 but showed “an atypical combination”.

B.1.640.2 was actually discovered before Omicron with the first cases found in early November, weeks before the alarm was raised about the variant in South Africa on November 24.

The first case is believed to be a vaccinated man who returned to the south of France from Cameroon. He then developed COVID-19 in the subsequent days of his arrival home, with a test showing he had contracted the B.1.640.2 variant.

How is it different from variants like Omicron?

The strain, which the team have dubbed the “IHU variant,” is believed to have around 46 mutations. Omicron, in comparison, is thought to have around 50 mutations; some 36 of these were amino acid-altering mutations in the virus’ spike protein, 23 of which have also been observed in other variants.

Why is this important? It’s the virus’ spike protein that is of concern to epidemiologists and virologists around the world as it plays a significant role in how your body detects and reacts to the virus.

Your immune system works to produce, recognise and defend against spike proteins. If the amino acids in the protein are altered or deleted, it makes it much harder for your body – and the vaccines you have had jabbed into your system – to defend against the virus and fight it off.

Should we be concerned?

Unlike Delta and Omicron, which were quickly designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “variants of concern,” what we know about B.1.640.2 is not enough to raise serious concerns amongst the scientific community.

To be listed as a variant of concern, the WHO must be satisfied that the statistical evidence shows the variant is somehow more transmissible than previous mutations, that it is likely to cause a more severe reaction in infected people or is able to evade current protections, such as the existing mRNA vaccines being administered in arms around the world.

Virus variants are a common occurrence and there will likely be many more strains of COVID-19 in the future. That doesn’t mean B.1.640.2 will not be closely monitored to make sure that it is not dangerous.

Why do experts doubt B.1.640.2 is anything to worry about?

So far, the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have not issued any guidance about the new variant but misinformation about it has been rife online.

Some Twitter users, including certain quarters in the media, believed that there was a spiralling caseload of the new variant but this has not been substantiated. For instance, French journalist Vincent Glad posted that a medical news site in Thailand reported that there were over 900 cases of B.1.640.2 in France and that it had already spread to the UK.

Experts, however, have been quick to deflate anxieties surrounding reports of the variant.

According to Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College’s Department of Infectious Disease in London, “this virus [B.1.640.2] has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialised (as far as we can tell at least…)”.

In a post on Twitter, Peacock also points out that there have only been 20 genetic sequences undertaken to B.1.640.2 over a longer period compared to more than 120,000 for Omicron which has been known about for a shorter time.

Source : Euro News

Read also at DW

New coronavirus variant identified in France . . . . .

China’s Corporate Lending Rate Fell Below 5% in 2021, Lowest Ever, PBOC Governor Says

Xu Wei wrote . . . . . . . . .

The cost of borrowing by Chinese companies fell below an average rate of 5 percent this year, a historic low, according to China’s central bank governor.

The People’s Bank of China will steadily drive corporate financing costs lower and improve the formation and transmission mechanism of market-based interest rates, Yi Gang told Xinhua News Agency in an exclusive interview today.

The PBOC also will bring out targeted policies to guide financial institutions in boosting support for the real economy, especially micro and small businesses, tech innovation, and green and high-quality development, Yi said. Inclusive loans have helped more than 42 million micro and small firms this year, he said.

China’s financial risks are generally controllable, and the upward momentum of the macro leverage ratio has been contained, Yi said.

Regarding the real estate market, he said that individual developers were exposed to risks in the early stage due to their own poor management and blind diversification and expansion.

The authorities have since taken steps to resolve risks in a sound and orderly manner and meet the normal financing needs of residents and builders, and market expectations are gradually improving, he said. The property market’s structural adjustment will help form a new development pattern and achieve a virtuous cycle and the healthy development of the industry, Yi added.

The PBOC rolled out tools to support the reduction of carbon emissions and special refinancing for clean and efficient use of coal last month. Yi released that the bank will issue the first batch of funds to financial institutions by the end of this month.

He noted that these tools and refinancing policies must pay more attention to the role of the market, encourage social funds to invest in green and low-carbon fields, and help reach peak carbon dioxide emissions in a scientific and orderly manner. China aims to hit peak emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, President Xi Jinping said in September last year.

Source : Yicai Global

China’s Core Economic Issues in 2022

Sara Hsu wrote . . . . . . . . .

China’s economy has faced major disruptions through 2021 due to the ongoing China-U.S. trade war, COVID-19 restrictions, and power shortages. While the economy may continue to suffer from the ongoing trade war and possible COVID-19 resurgences, new issues are likely to rise to the forefront of economic problems in 2022. These include combating the real estate downturn and inflation, as well as bringing about common prosperity. However, risks are likely to be tightly controlled due to the upcoming 20th Party Congress in the second half of the year, as Xi Jinping is widely expected to notch a third term in office.

Ongoing Real Estate Downturn

China’s real estate developers suffered through 2021 due to increased financial restrictions, which led some developers, most famously Evergrande, to default on some debt repayments. Commercial sales and real estate investment growth have slowed down. Debt among property developers will continue to pose a barrier to achieving financial health in this sector.

The economic work meeting laid out the need to promote the construction of affordable housing and adjust the commercial housing market to better meet buyers’ housing needs. This industry represents a key investment channel for consumers, and falling home prices are quickly shored up by local government policies. At the same time, consumers often face challenges in purchasing new homes due to the higher prices, which the government attempts to address by encouraging the construction of affordable housing.

The question surrounding China’s real estate downturn is the extent to which debt defaults will impact the rest of the financial sector as well as domestic investors. The government has signaled that it is willing to ease financial terms to some extent in order to reduce fallout; in December, the central bank lowered the loan prime rate and reserve requirement ratio in order to increase bank lending to creditworthy customers. Meanwhile, it appears unlikely that the government will directly bail out indebted developers, choosing to use monetary tools in order to ease the accompanying credit crunch. The government has also encouraged banks to help healthy developers acquire distressed developers’ projects.


Producer price inflation created rising prices in 2021 without heavily impacting consumer price inflation. This was due to high commodity prices and transportation bottlenecks, combined with labor and energy shortages. Supply chain disruptions are likely to continue somewhat into 2022, easing by the second half of the year as interruptions due to COVID-19 and surging demand stabilize. In addition, China’s power shortages due to emissions restrictions will be reset in 2022, and production plans are likely to be adjusted.

Producers have begun to pass through higher costs to consumers, resulting in a slight rise in consumer price inflation. Somewhat increasing food prices have also resulted in higher CPI. Rising demand ahead of Chinese New Year is expected to result in a higher CPI to some extent in January. In addition, inflation in the United States and the European Union is likely to be transmitted to China through rising import prices. Therefore, although CPI remains much lower than PPI, CPI is likely to rise in 2022.

Common Prosperity

Xi Jinping has continued to underscore the importance of “common prosperity,” which involves cultivating quality and more egalitarian economic development. Along with this, China ushered in a slew of regulations in 2021, some of which cracked down on monopolistic firms and their anti-consumer practices. Already, the campaign has induced wealthy individuals and firms to donate to charity in an attempt to reduce economic inequality ahead of further government regulations.

The drive for common prosperity will continue to gain force through 2022, although how it will be translated into specific policies remains somewhat unpredictable. More regulations to control excessive and “unfair” economic gains and policies to reduce inequality may come into effect.

Slowing Growth

The Chinese government has prioritized economic stability for 2022. Han Wenxiu, deputy director of the Office of the Central Committee of Finance and Economics, stated after the Central Economic Work Conference that officials must be cautious in introducing policies that have an economic tightening effect.

The World Bank has set China’s 2022 growth forecast to 5.1 percent, a much slower pace of growth than China averaged in previous decades. China is likely to shore up GDP by investing, once again, in fixed assets. Infrastructure investment will comprise a large part of this. The country will probably issue more special bonds in order to partly finance fiscal spending.

The Beijing Winter Olympics to be held in February will also stimulate the economy to some extent. New technology industries such as new energy vehicles and industrial robots will continue to provide a source of economic growth. Technologies that help China to move closer to carbon neutrality will also provide growth support. Even so, China’s economy will continue to face headwinds as it battles a flagging real estate sector and inflation, coupled with geopolitical forces such as the China-U.S. trade war and technology tensions.

Source : The Diplomat

Read more at BNN Bloomberg

China Likely to Make 5% Growth Its Bottom Line for 2022 . . . . .

What to Know About ‘Flurona’

Sony Salzman wrote . . . . . . . . .

In the midst of a new pandemic surge, another seemingly new ailment is now grabbing headlines: flurona.

Despite the catchy name, “flurona” is not new. It is a term coined to describe what happens when a person tests positive for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

“Both are common, so it is not unexpected that some people would be infected at the same time,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Flurona is not a new disease, experts stress, nor is it a new variant of COVID-19. The flu virus and COVID-19 virus are from two very different virus families. Scientists are not concerned about the two viruses mixing to create a new virus.

There are many different types of viruses that are capable of infecting people. Viruses that cause the flu and COVID-19 are two examples, but there’s also HIV, the chicken pox virus, rabies virus, the common cold and many others.

It has always been possible for one person to be infected with two or more different viruses at once. And with flu season coinciding with a new COVID-19 surge, there’s a greater chances that a handful of people will test positive for both viruses at the same time.

Doctors call these instances co-infections. Though uncommon, last year’s flu season also saw a handful of cases of flu and COVID-19 in the same person at the same time.

“It has not been a big issue for us because of the low levels of influenza circulating in the community,” Dr. Jonathan Grein, director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told the hospital’s website. Cedars-Sinai said it had recently seen one mild case of the co-infection.

“It’s obviously not good to be infected with two viruses rather than one, but there’s no clear indication that this is a particularly bad combination,” Grein added.

With the flu and COVID circulating at the same time, people can reduce the risk of becoming severely ill with either virus by getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID, wearing a mask in crowded spaces and washing your hands.

Source : abc News