Another Week, Another Vaccine… Following last week’s announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer with BioNTech and Moderna announced this week that it also has a vaccine that is more than 90% effective.
What it means— Unlike the Pfizer compound, which must be stored at -94°F, the Moderna vaccine can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, which gives it an edge in the coming rollout. But first, both drugs must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, manufactured, and then pushed through the logistical pipeline. All of this will take time. And then we’ll see if consumers line up to take a vaccine that made it to market in record time. Additionally, Astrazeneca working with Oxford University is next in line to apply for FDA’s emergency authorization with a vaccine that survives warmer temperatures.
All the obstacles mean that we’ll be dealing with the pandemic well into 2021, which will lead to louder calls for another stimulus. Keep a sharp eye on large city mayors, especially New York and San Francisco. Both are reeling from a loss of worker population and are likely to lead the call for a substantial federal bailout. This is the issue that Speaker Pelosi has demanded and for which the Senate has refused give.
Initial Jobless Claims Jump From 711,000 to 742,000, Continuing Claims Dip From 21.16 Million to 20.32 Million… Initial jobless claims were expected to be flat, but instead trended higher.
What it means— Welcome to the new holiday season. Traditionally, retailers hire a zillion part-time workers to spray you with unwanted fragrances in department stores and to ignore you in electronics stores. But in the year of COVID-19, we’re accelerating our trend to e-shopping (electronic commerce). Retailers are rotating to curbside service as they limit in-store shoppers, and many simply have shut their doors. The net
effect is that we don’t need as many seasonal workers, which is weighing on unemployment. Employment demand is in the warehouse instead of the retail floor.
Housing Starts Increase to 1.53 Million… Annualized housing starts climbed to more than 1.5 million per year in October, far above the 1.49 million estimate and up 4.9% from September.
What it means— For those involved in real estate, the numbers are even better than they appear in the headline. Single-family housing starts grew by 6.4%, while multifamily housing starts dipped 3.2%. Building a single-family home uses more labor and materials per unit than building multifamily homes, so single-family builds add more to GDP and employment. The reason for the growth is obvious: people are still leaving major urban areas for the suburbs as the pandemic rages on, and there are few existing homes for sale. It’s all about inventory, or the lack thereof.
Costs are rising for lumber, labor, lots, and everything else associated with building, which is pushing up home prices even though wages aren’t shooting higher. Eventually the growth trend will end… but not today.
Existing Home Sales Rose 4.3% in October… For the year, existing home sales are up 27%, to the highest level in 15 years.
What it means— It’s more of the same theme as with housing starts. Hundreds of thousands of people who rented in cities are becoming homeowners in the ‘burbs. Existing home sales reached an annualized rate of 6.85 million last month, well above the estimated 6.5 million. The average sale price climbed to $313,000, 15% higher than at this time last year. Adding fuel to the housing fire, mortgage rates fell to another record low this week reaching 2.8% for a 30-year mortgage. The boom has been good for realtors as well as home renovation stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Retail Sales Increased by a Modest 0.3%… This was the smallest monthly gain in six months. Excluding auto and gasoline, retail sales increased just 0.2%.
What it means— E-commerce sales are still on fire, but even pushing Amazon Prime Days into October couldn’t persuade consumer to open their wallets much wider than they did in September. Given that many states were reintroducing pandemic-related restrictions and consumers were limiting their activities, it stands to reason that many in-person transactions, such as brick-and-mortar sales and restaurant and bar tabs, also dropped. It looks like holiday sales will be on the modest side this year.
Louisiana Catholic Priest Blesses Congregants With a Crop Duster… Last year, Rev. Matthew Barzare, the parish priest at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Abbeville, Louisiana, had a problem. He had about 200 families in his parish, but they were spread out across a rural area. For the annual Christmas blessing, he decided to do something different: he hired a crop duster to spray the area with 100 gallons of holy water.
Members of the congregation loaded the holy water onto the plane after verifying that all the pesticide had been flushed out. Barzare instructed the pilot to concentrate on areas where people gather, such as stores and schools. The process drew rave reviews, so Barzare intends to make it a Christmas tradition for his 200-family parish and use 300 gallons of holy water this year.
Maybe we should enlist churches around the country to load up crop dusters and get them to spray the entire nation. We could use it.
Data supplied by HS Dent Research
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