How much should you freak out about Ebola?

Michael Corones
Oct 1, 2014 18:42 UTC

The revelation that doctors in Dallas yesterday diagnosed the first case of Ebola on U.S. soil sent a shudder of fear through the American public. But how grave is the danger?

Historically, Ebola outbreaks have been fairly well contained, but the latest outbreak, which began back on March 22 and has killed more than 3,000 people, was by June already the worst since the virus was discovered in 1976.

As this Reuters map shows, the U.S. is one of a number of countries with direct flights from the infected area, which in theory provides ample opportunity for the virus to spread far beyond West Africa.

Fortunately, unlike airborne diseases, Ebola can only be spread through contact with bodily fluids—although this means all fluids, including seemingly innocuous liquids like sweat and tears. The method of transmission should limit the virus’s ability to spread quickly without detection.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC that a seven-person CDC team is working with the infected man’s family to get a full picture of those who might have been exposed in the time between when the man arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and when he was isolated eight days later.

Symptoms of Ebola can take between two and 21 days to emerge, so the next couple of weeks will be key. As things stand, if the CDC’s identification and containment efforts in Dallas are successful, we should be in good shape.

Officials are optimistic. “It is certainly possible someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks,” Frieden told a press conference. “I have no doubt we will stop this in its tracks in the United States.” Given that doctors already missed their first opportunity to isolate the infected patient by sending him home with antibiotics, let’s hope that Frieden’s confidence isn’t misplaced.

 

 

from Global Markets Forum Dashboard:

More volatility expected as Fed rate rise looms – Cumberland Advisors’ David Kotok

Oct 1, 2014 17:54 UTC

A healthy dose of fear has re-entered financial markets in the final three months of the year. The Chicago Board Options Exchange VIX, a widely tracked measure of market volatility, rose to a two-month high on Wednesday.

David Kotok, Cumberland Advisors

David Kotok, Cumberland Advisors

Varying news reports offered threats from the Ebola virus and a stagnating European economy as tangential reasons. Perhaps another point is many investors view the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pending decision to raise interest rates as a rumbling train far off in the distance that they now hear headed their way. Closer to the horizon are headlines that can no longer lean on “Fed easing” to explain away rising asset prices and a rising stock market.

“We are in a new period of volatility and it's been developing for the last two or three months,” David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of investment advisory firm Cumberland Advisors told the Global Markets Forum on Wednesday. “When you suppress all interest rates to zero you dampen volatility and you distort asset pricing. Now the outlook for interest rates is changing so we are restoring volatility.”

The changes, he said, are evident in a rising U.S. dollar, falling commodity prices and the spread between the high yield and U.S. bond markets.

“These are examples of how things change when you return to more normal volatility and extract and stop monetary stimulus,” Kotok said.

Kotok, GMF moderator Jeanine Prezioso and Reuters Fed reporter Jonathan Spicer chat about bull and bear markets

Kotok, GMF moderator Jeanine Prezioso and Reuters Fed reporter Jonathan Spicer chat about bull and bear markets

Now comes a waiting game and a test of investors’ mettle to sift through the weeds as Fed policy moves closer to no longer supporting stock prices. The best stock pickers will resign themselves to flushing out those hit by a stronger dollar, those with exposure to commodities, as one example. The result of a stronger dollar on corporate earnings begin to show when companies report third quarter earnings, but more so in end-of-year earnings, Kotok said.

“We expect some downward guidance from companies that are seriously impacted by changes in the currency markets,” he told the GMF.

Kotok’s Cumberland has positioned itself in large cap stocks, which he says in his new book From Bear to Bull with ETFs  investors should seek out during bear markets while investing in small cap stocks in a bull run. The small cap Russell 2000 Index hit a five-month low on Wednesday.

Kotok in the Global Markets Forum

Kotok in the Global Markets Forum

“I am overweight large caps in my managed portfolios right now.”  Kotok said. “We are underweight small and midcaps, we have been for awhile. I have no way to know if we are in a corrective phase or if the bull market ended. But it's apparent that we have one of the two underway.”

Among other trades, Kotok looks at the VIX every day as well as the quarterly release of estimates of future interest rates assembled by the members of the Federal Open Market Committee.

“Look at the option markets which show the price of real money bets on the future of interest rates. They tell you every minute of every day what sophisticated investors collectively think an interest rate will be and when it will be there. That is a high frequency indicator that deserves continuous attention.”

Click here for the full transcript from the GMF interview: RTRS_David_Kotok_01102014

Housing prices line the road to recovery

Michael Corones
Sep 30, 2014 16:13 UTC

It seems the political unrest in Hong Kong isn’t just a headache for the Chinese. Uncertainty about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations caused U.S. stocks to fall yesterday, following the lead of their Asian and European counterparts, while the same unease pushed U.S. bond rates higher.

Just-released U.S. home price data for July also failed to meet expectations, with prices increasing 6.7 percent over July, 2013, figures — short of the 7.5 percent rise that analysts had predicted.

As this Reuters graphic shows, each of the 20 markets that comprise the composite showed year-over-year home price increases, but at a decelerating cumulative rate.

Happily, despite turmoil in Hong Kong, Ukraine and the Middle East, housing is an outlier, and the general U.S. economy is proving increasingly robust. Let’s hope the trend continues.

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Why Hong Kong is taking on China

Michael Corones
Sep 29, 2014 16:59 UTC

So much for “one country, two systems”. Residents of Hong Kong, always wary of Beijing’s promise to grant certain concessions to capitalism and democracy after Britain handed over the region to China in 1997, have taken to the streets for the fourth straight night, with tens of thousands of demonstrators filling the streets of the city’s central business district. Why the protests and how high are the stakes?

Dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” after the large number of protesters carrying them to protect against the sun and, somewhat less successfully, the sting of tear gas, the demonstrations aim to pressure China to hold fully democratic elections for Hong Kong’s legislature in 2017 and to prompt the current executive, Leung Chun-ying, to step down.

The protests are expected to escalate in anticipation of China’s National Day holiday on Oct. 1, but—so far at least—the central government appears unswayed: “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong,” said Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Minister told a news briefing in Beijing.

A Reuters graphic looks at how public opinion has changed since the handover. Polls conducted by the University of Hong Kong show ebbing confidence in China’s “one country, two systems” philosophy and Hong Kong’s future in general, and more than 50 percent of respondents are either “quite distrustful” or “very distrustful” of the Beijing central government. Doesn’t sound like the protesters will be leaving the streets anytime soon.

 

 

COMMENT

For the 100 years britain controlled HK the local peasants didn’t have a say

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Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Michael Corones
Sep 26, 2014 16:52 UTC

Almost 3,000 West Africans have died from the current outbreak of Ebola virus, and on Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that by January between 550,000 and 1.4 million people could be infected if nothing is done.

But the outbreak, which began in Guinea in March before spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, is only part of the terrifying picture. Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

As a result, ”the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down,” according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.

Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.

So it’s a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, “If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become ‘a permanent feature of life in West Africa.’”

This Reuters interactive graphic (click here for the interactive version for more info) shows the affected areas with up-to-date data on the number of cases and deaths; let’s hope the world community can staunch the flow before Ebola and the associated collateral damage become widespread humanitarian disasters.

ebolaspread

Click image to see an interactive version of this graphic.

Who’s really dropping the bombs on Islamic State?

Michael Corones
Sep 25, 2014 16:02 UTC

Yesterday’s beheading of French tourist Herve Gourdel by an Algerian group prompted France to consider an expanded role in the anti-Islamic State air strikes that began this week.

The Arab League, the European Union and NATO all back action against the group, and the U.S.-led coalition boasts over 50 member states, but who is really doing the heavy lifting?

As this Reuters map shows, a couple of the usual suspects — the U.S. and France — carried out Tuesday’s initial attacks. But in an expression of just how broadly dislike for the Islamic State extends, they were joined or supported by a number of Sunni-majority countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Even with Australia, England and Turkey on the cusp of involvement, the difference between the articulated coalition and those actually participating is sizable.


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How sickly is Obamacare?

Michael Corones
Sep 24, 2014 16:39 UTC

The Republican establishment continues to hammer away at Obamacare, questioning the effectiveness of the law and the accuracy of the administration’s data about it. Yesterday, reality television star and professional troll Donald Trump tweeted that “ObamaCare is not working and has missed all targets.”

But do the data support this? Even the administration’s revised enrollment numbers for those who have paid their premiums beat the White House goal, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects a 25 percent bump in the number of insurers offering coverage next year, which could help keep premiums affordable.

Electioneering aside, the Affordable Care Act aims to expand coverage, and as this Reuters graphic shows, the rate of people without insurance recently dipped to 13.4 percent. That’s lower than the 14.5 percent poverty rate—a first for U.S. numbers, according to Reuters data. Certainly doesn’t sound like a negative trend.

COMMENT

I’m signed in and have tried to post a comment TWICE over 1 hour apart… yet no comments appear available on this article (by anyone).
What’s going on????

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Why quitters are good for the economy

Michael Corones
Sep 23, 2014 16:36 UTC

This week Anchorage television reporter Charlo Greene quit her job—on-air, complete with a curse—in order to work full-time in support of Alaska’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.

Does that tell us anything about today’s job market? It sure does. Voluntarily leaving one’s job tends to be a sign of optimism about the employment market, and Greene’s departure may be emblematic of our confidence that we are finally creeping out of the Great Recession.

U.S. job openings hit a 13-year high in July, and August’s 6.1 percent unemployment rate was the lowest since President Obama took office in January, 2009. Meanwhile, our latest graphic on labor market turnover suggests that the positive trend is continuing, with increases in hires, job openings and quits. Be interesting to see where Greene winds up if the pot move doesn’t work out.

 

COMMENT

No, Charlo Greene has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Most poeple don’t quit until they have another job lined up so people quitting their jobs is a sign of increased openings. Also when the BLS publishes a bigger number of people being hired and a smaller number being layed off. We knew that but Thank you Captian Obvious.

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What cost fantasy football?

Michael Corones
Sep 22, 2014 17:11 UTC

Now even Congress is joining in the outrage over the National Football League’s waffling response to the domestic violence cases involving its players. But do the fans really care?

Despite calls to boycott the league and John Oliver’s not-too-satirical assertion that Commissioner Roger Goodell has lost the moral high ground to celebrity gossip website TMZ, fans are still enthusiastically tuning in and turning up at games.

What—or rather, how much?—is at stake. A Reuters graphic shows that the $1.2 billion fantasy sports industry remains a major driver of fan interest, with the NFL dominating better than one-third of the market share. Bad behavior may not pay, but indifference can be lucrative.

Separatists around the world

Jordan Fraade
Sep 19, 2014 16:29 UTC

Scottish voters rejected independence yesterday by a surprisingly decisive margin of 55-45. But while the United Kingdom remains united, secession movements elsewhere are still going strong. The number of UN member states has increased almost fourfold, from 51 to 193, since the organization’s founding in 1945, though growth in the number of countries overall has been much slower in the post-Soviet era. A peaceful, fairly decided election in Scotland may give breakaway regions a new precedent to point to.

In particular, the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain is getting ready to make breakaway moves. Despite the “no” vote in Scotland, the Catalan regional government has promised that it will push ahead with its own independence referendum on November 9. That’s not going to be easy: the central government in Madrid has said that even a non-binding vote would violate the Spanish constitution. Catalan regional leader Artur Mas responded to the Scottish vote by saying, “What happened in Scotland is not a setback for us, because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote.”

The Catalan independence movement has counterparts in Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, Tibet’s independence activists and Canada’s Quebec. Even in the U.S. a new poll brought the surprise news that as many as a quarter of Americans wouldn’t object to their state seceding from the union.

Here is a map highlighting the countries where breaking away remains on the political agenda.

Reuters Independence graphic.jpeg

COMMENT

This map doesn’t show all separatist. Type in google: separatist with the continent you live in, you will find at least 50 more regions. Especially in Asia! Also you can visit the UNPO (unrecognized nations and ppl’s organisation) website; however the last doesn’t show the regions with use guns in order to get their freedom. ps. I really don’t get why indonesia and india/pakistan are not on the map, half of their countries want to separate!!

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