Member Briefing September 8, 2022
New York Lifts Mask Mandate for Public Transit, Correctional Facilities, Shelters – Bivalent Boosters Available
New Yorkers are no longer required, but still encouraged, to wear masks on subway trains, correctional facilities, detention centers and homeless shelters, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday. Masks, however, must still be worn in health care settings and adult care facilities, including nursing homes. Signs will be posted in transit centers to encourage mask use, but also note they are optional.
Governor Hochul also yesterday announced the availability of bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters, which are designed to add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants and bolster previous vaccination protection. To schedule an appointment for the updated COVID-19 booster, New Yorkers should contact their regular health care provider, local pharmacy, or local county health department. New Yorkers can also visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations.
War in Ukraine Headlines
- Ukraine and Russia: the Latest News – The Guardian
- Ukrainian Troops Launch Counter-Offensive Near Kharkiv – The Times
- EU Plans to Cap Russian Gas Price as Putin Warns West of Winter Freeze – Reuters
- NATO Chief : European Countries Will ‘Pay a Price’ this Winter for Ukraine Support – The Hill
- Putin Threatens to Abandon Grain Deal, Further Squeeze Energy Supplies – WSJ
- How the Russian Oil Price Cap Will Work – Fortune
- Inside the Fight to Fend off Hackers at Ukraine’s Largest Telecom – Politico
- Europe Scrambles to Protect Citizens from Sky-High Energy Prices – The Economist
- Ukraine Military Chief Claims Responsibility for Strikes in Crimea – Reuters
- Ukraine Calls for Evacuation of Russian-Occupied Nuclear Plant Town – NBC
- Map – Tracking Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine – Live Universal Awareness Map
CHIPS Act: U.S. Releases New Implementation Strategy
The U.S. Department of Commerce today published “A Strategy For The CHIPS For America Fund,” outlining its implementation approach to distributing $50 billion from the CHIPS Act of 2022. The paper includes recommendations for potential grant applicants along with identifying criteria against which applicants will be considered, thought specific funding application guidance will not be released until February 2023.
Tech firms which receive federal funding under its new CHIPS Act will not be allowed to build any “advanced technology” facilities, or factories, in China for ten years. The move was justified on national security grounds, amidst fears of China stealing such technology. America also wants to rebuild its own share of the global semiconductor market, now just 10%, down from nearly 40% in 1990.
China Trade Surplus With U.S. Narrows to $36.77 Billion in August
China’s exports and imports lost momentum in August with growth significantly missing forecasts as surging inflation crippled overseas demand and fresh COVID curbs and heatwaves disrupted output, reviving downside risks for the shaky economy. Exports rose 7.1% in August from a year earlier, slowing from an 18.0% gain in July and marking the first slowdown since April, official data showed on Wednesday, well below analysts’ expectations for a 12.8% increase.
The slower growth is also in part due to unflattering comparisons with strong exports last year, but also worsened by more COVID restrictions as infections spiked and heatwaves disrupted factory output in southwestern areas.
US COVID – Senate GOP Opposes Biden Request for COVID, Monkeypox Funds
Senate Republicans will oppose President Joe Biden’s request for billions in funding to combat the ongoing Covid-19 and monkeypox pandemics, setting up a potential fight over a must-pass government funding bill. “We just don’t think that’s necessary,” number two Senate Republican John Thune told reporters Tuesday. “There’s still plenty of money still swirling around from previous Covid bills.”
The White House last week asked Congress for $22 billion for Covid vaccines, testing and treatments, and $4 billion in funding for monkeypox. The Biden administration has warned that without new funding, the US would be unprepared to combat new more virulent Covid variants should they emerge this fall.
Updated COVID-19 Booster Shots are Now Available. Here’s What You Need to Know
On Sept. 1, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the use of updated COVID-19 booster shots that are specifically tailored to combat the two most prevalent omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. As of Aug. 31, 2022, only 48.5% of booster-eligible people in the U.S. have received their first booster shot, and just under 34% of those eligible have received their second. These low numbers may in part be influenced by people waiting for the newer versions of the vaccines to provide better protection.
Prakash Nagarkatti and Mitzi Nagarkatti are immunologists who study infectious disorders and how vaccines trigger different aspects of the immune system to fight infection. They weigh in on how the updated booster shots train the immune system and how protective they might be against COVID-19.
German Industrial Orders Fall Sixth Month in a Row
German industrial orders fell for the sixth month in a row in July as the war in Ukraine continues to take its toll on Europe’s largest economy, the economy ministry said on Tuesday. Orders for industrial goods were down 1.1% on the month in seasonally adjusted terms, figures from the federal statistical office showed. Compared with July 2021, orders were down 13.6%.
In a Reuters poll, analysts had predicted a 0.5% decline in July after orders fell by an upwardly revised 0.3% in June. Domestic orders in particular fell 4.5% in July while orders from abroad grew by 1.3%, according to the statistics office.
Apple Unveils iPhone 14, Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, New AirPods Pro
Apple unveiled the iPhone 14 lineup as well as updates to its Apple Watch and AirPods Pro today at its first in-person event since the pandemic began. Here’s the latest:
- iPhone: Apple revealed the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models, along with a range of new safety features including those that the tech giant says can save your life.
- Watch: The company showed off a new lineup of smartwatches, including the Apple Watch Series 8 and the athlete-focused Watch Ultra, which Personal Tech columnist Nicole Nguyen calls “the watch I’ve been waiting for.”
- AirPods: Apple also unveiled the second generation AirPods Pro, its small, higher-end wireless earbuds.
There are some new choices. For instance, at $599, you could either get an iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch screen or an iPhone 13 Mini with 5.4-inch screen. There are now four 6.1-inch models to choose from—12, 13, 14 or 14 Pro—each with variations on processor and camera, in a $400 range.
U.S. Dollar Hits 24-Year High, Oil Prices Tank
US oil tumbled 5.1% to $82.41 a barrel in recent trading. That’s the lowest intraday price since January 24. US crude is now down by more than one-third since briefly hitting $130 a barrel in early March. Brent crude, the world benchmark, dropped below $90 a barrel for the first time since February 8. Brent was recently down 4.6% to $88.55 a barrel.
The selling comes just days after OPEC and its allies, known collectively as OPEC+, reversed course by cutting production to support prices. Analysts cited a range of factors behind Wednesday’s losses, including concerns about the health of the world economy and the skyrocketing US dollar. A stronger US dollar tends to weaken demand for oil overseas. The dollar surged to a 24-year peak against the yen and a 37-year high versus sterling on Wednesday, as Japan’s dovish monetary policy and Europe’s economic problems contrasted with a relatively stronger U.S. economy and a hawkish Federal Reserve determined to bring down inflation to its 2% inflation target.
The Analyst Who Predicted the 2008 Housing Bust—Sees U.S. Home Prices Falling in Both 2023 and 2024
“Poison Ivy.” That’s what housing bulls called analyst Ivy Zelman after she came out in 2005 and called the top of the housing bubble. Back in February, the founder of Zelman & Associates called the “peak” of the Pandemic Housing Boom. She was on the money again. Just weeks later, spiked mortgage rates pushed the U.S. housing market into a slowdown. This summer, as the housing correction intensified, Zelman provided a bearish assessment of U.S. home prices to clients of her boutique housing research firm.
“As fast as [inventory levels] are rising and demand is plummeting, we could see pretty substantial [home] price corrections. But it’s going to vary by market,” Zelman says. “I don’t think this will just end quickly. This is going to be a very pressured market nationally in 2023 and 2024.”
Schools Are Back and Confronting Severe Learning Losses
For two years, schools and researchers have wrestled with pandemic-era learning setbacks resulting mostly from a lack of in-person classes. They are struggling to combat the learning loss, as well as to measure just how deep it is. Some answers to the second question are becoming clear. National data show that children who were learning to read earlier in the pandemic have the lowest reading proficiency rates in about 20 years.
While some students have begun to make up ground, researchers say that, on average, it could take five years or more for today’s fourth-graders to read proficiently unless the pace accelerates. By then, billions of dollars in federal pandemic-related aid for education will have run out.
Potential Rail Strike Threatens to Kneecap US Economy Ahead of Midterms
A potential nationwide freight rail strike is looming, threatening to cripple the U.S. economy ahead of the holiday shopping season and November’s midterm elections. Roughly 115,000 rail workers could walk off the job as soon as Sept. 16 if they cannot agree to a new contract with railroads.
Five of the 13 unions representing rail workers have reached tentative agreements with railroads to enact the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) recommendations, which call for 24 percent pay raises, back pay and cash bonuses. But the bulk of railroad workers belong to unions that haven’t yet agreed to a deal. It’s also unclear whether workers would vote to ratify PEB recommendations that don’t address their concerns about punishing hours and rigid schedules that make it difficult to take time off for any reason.
Tooling and Workholding Markets Poised for Growth
The market for manufacturing technology has experienced a significant rebound since the brief downturn triggered by COVID-19 shutdowns in early 2020. While orders for machinery have increased well beyond their pre-pandemic levels, orders for workholding technologies, as well as shipments of the cutting tools used in the machinery, have not yet surpassed 2019 levels.
The divergence between the orders for new machinery and shipments of tooling or orders for workholding is the first time this pattern has emerged in recent history. The last time machinery orders and tooling shipments were out of sync for a similarly long period of time was in the early 1980s, prior to a prolonged downturn in the manufacturing technology industry. While the recent divergence could be an ominous sign, there are several reasons the economy and the industry are not the same as 40 years ago.
High Natural Gas Prices Will Cripple Europe And Hurt U.S. Consumers This Winter
Russian gas supply cutoffs will devastate the European economy this winter, starting with Germany. United States consumers will not be spared pain; natural gas prices are up 95% on US futures markets for the crucial November through March time period.
When comparing last year’s September 1, 2021 closing prices of the five month winter contract natural gas price strip that runs from November through March, the prime winter heating months, against those of September 1, 2022, U.S. natural gas futures markets are up a stunning 95% year-over-year.
A Cosmic Tarantula, Caught by NASA’s Webb
NASA tweeted a photo of a “giant space tarantula” captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. At only 161,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, the Tarantula Nebula is the largest and brightest star-forming region in the Local Group, the galaxies nearest our Milky Way. It is home to the hottest, most massive stars known. Astronomers focused three of Webb’s high-resolution infrared instruments on the Tarantula.
Viewed with Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the region resembles a burrowing tarantula’s home, lined with its silk. The nebula’s cavity centered in the NIRCam image has been hollowed out by blistering radiation from a cluster of massive young stars, which sparkle pale blue in the image. Only the densest surrounding areas of the nebula resist erosion by these stars’ powerful stellar winds, forming pillars that appear to point back toward the cluster. These pillars contain forming protostars, which will eventually emerge from their dusty cocoons and take their turn shaping the nebula.