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Pfizer to the rescue

Good morning! Australia secured another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday, bringing the total to 40 million – enough for two doses for every adult.

Unfortunately it's not due to arrive until the end of the year, so you might have to wait a little bit longer for that trip to Bali...

Market Wrap

The US is red hot

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract.

The S&P500 (+0.8%) and Dow Jones (+0.9%) closed at – you guessed it – new record highs on Friday. The drivers appear to be big spending Biden, repeated doveish remarks from Fed chair Joe Powell and a quick reopening in much of the US, where nearly 200 million people (~1% of the population) are being vaccinated every single day.

Corona Wrap

Big Pharma to the rescue

Even the latest target seems optimistic.
Even the latest target seems optimistic.

We wrote the following commentary and compiled the above chart over the weekend, before ScoMo performed an epic backflip and abandoned his government's latest target less than a day after setting it. However, he would "still like to see these doses completed before the end of the year", so we're going to leave the below unedited as it remains relevant.

Subsequent to the government's decision to recommend against using AstraZeneca in people under 50 years of age – AstraZeneca being the only locally manufactured vaccine available – ScoMo has devised a new vaccination target: first doses for all adults by the end of 2021.

It's possible: Look, we've been rightly sceptical of every target devised so far because they've failed at basic arithmetic every, single, time. But this time it is actually possible (a required average of ~130,000 vaccines administered per day), provided the Pfizer doses actually show up and the issues with distribution are resolved.

But would we bet on the latest target being met? We'll take the under, thank you very much.

A big provision: Vaccines are in heavy demand all over the world and Australia only just placed its order, meaning we're probably at the back of the queue. However, it won't be long before the UK and US – two major manufacturers – have fully vaccinated their populations, so supplies will increasingly start flowing offshore over the next few months.

Elsewhere: Hong Kong has all but abandoned AstraZeneca, asking the company to delay delivery of 7.5 million doses. Blood clots and the lack of efficacy against the new South African variant (just 10%) were cited as the reasons. Hong Kong will instead use China's Sinovac, Pfizer and explore other options such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Tech Wrap

The future of money

China's new digital currency – no thank you!
China's new digital currency – no thank you! SCMP

We have an article over on EconByte looking at the People's Bank of China's (PBOC – its central bank) new digital currency, the e-CNY.

TL;DR: China's new digital currency will not be the "future of money", nor will it come close to challenging the US dollar's global dominance in global financial transactions.

The details: While there has been a lot of fear mongering surrounding the news (it's not actually news – China's central bank has been working on a digital currency since at least 2014), it's really not that big of a deal. If it's blockchain-based, it's probably going to be private and centralised. In other words, it'll be exactly the same as the existing CNY, only more efficient from the government's point view (spying on its people).

Always remember that while China can force its own people to accept its new e-CNY, it can't force anyone else. If anything, the PBOC's national digital currency will be a blow to Chinese financial apps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, not the US dollar or any other fiat currency.

Elsewhere: China's regulators fined Alibaba Group a record $US2.75 billion for "antitrust violations". Better get Alipay on the new e-CNY, pronto!

Random Wrap

  • The attempt by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union to unionise thousands of workers at Amazon's fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama, failed on Friday. The final tally showed 1,798 "No" votes defeating 738 "Yes" votes.
  • The details of 500 million LinkedIn users were found available for for sale. Similar data from 1.3 million Clubhouse users were also leaked, for free. It's believed it was all 'scraped' using public APIs. Details included user IDs, names, email addresses, phone numbers, genders, professional titles and links to other social media profiles.
  • If you somehow missed it, Prince Philip passed away aged 99. RIP.
  • Chinese vaccines "don't have very high protection rates", said the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Sinovac is only around 50% effective at preventing symptomatic infections). Expect a pivot to mRNA when China develops the capability – and you can be sure they're allocating billions towards it.
  • Elon Musk's Neuralink got a monkey to play pong using its mind. File this one under "things humanity doesn't need".