Denmark's rising deaths

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! For the first time in two years New Zealand will reopen its border to vaccinated Australians on 13 April, followed by tourists from visa-waiver countries such as the US and UK on 2 May.

Travellers will need to be vaccinated and test negative in a pre-departure test (PCR, supervised LAMP or RAT) but all isolation requirements are officially out the window.

About time! πŸ™ŒβœˆοΈ


Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change

AUD/USD

73.0

+1.5%

AUD/CNY

4.63

+1.1%

AU Bond

2.51

+0.4%

US Bond

2.19

+1.3%

ASX200

7,175

+1.1%

S&P500

4,358

+2.2%

Brent (bbl)

97.8

-2.1%

Gold (oz)

1,926

-0.1%

Iron ore (t)

151.5

+10.1%

Bitcoin

41,238

+4.8%

Ethereum

2,778

+6.0%

Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries.

TheΒ US S&P500Β (+2.24%) gained over 2% for the second consecutive day despite a 25 basis point increase in the federal funds rate, the US Federal Reserve’s first interest rate hike since 2018.

A 25 basis point hike was seen as the minimum ahead of last night’s meeting and comments from Fed chair Jerome Powell, where he claimed the “economy is very strong” and the probability of a recession in the next year is “not particularly elevated”, appeared to put people at ease.

Locally, theΒ ASX200 followed the US lead from the night before, adding +1.10% led by tech (+3.3%), although all 11 sectors finished higher.

Elsewhere in the region Chinese stocks listed in Hong Kong surged, with the likes of Tencent (+23.15%), Alibaba (+27.3%) and NetEase (+23.4%) all seeing massive gains after “a Chinese state media report signalled support for Chinese stocks… citing a financial stability meeting Wednesday chaired by Vice Premier Liu He”.


Food for thought

The yellow area shows Danish deaths "not related to COVID-19-infection".
The yellow area shows Danish deaths "not related to COVID-19-infection". Source

Last month Denmark – where over 80% of the population are double vaxxed and more than 60% are triple vaxxed – lifted all of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions, including mask wearing. It subsequently went through its most extreme wave of coronavirus ever, setting records in both daily infections and deaths.

Denmark’s daily coronavirus deaths per million people peaked at nearly 10 per day last week. For context, Australia’s highest daily deaths per million, recorded in late January as Omicron swept through the eastern seaboard, was around 3.

But not all is as it seems.

Excess deaths in Denmark this year are well within the normal, seasonal winter pattern. In fact, this winter – even with COVID-19 notching up nearly 8,000 new cases per million per day – hasn’t even as bad as 2018’s flu season in terms of mortality.

The reason for the discrepancy comes from the way Denmark’s government records its COVID-19 deaths. It turns out that in Denmark – as in most countries, including Australia – deaths are recorded as COVID-19 even if the person dies with the virus, rather than from the virus.

In Denmark anyone who tests positive within 30 days of dying is recorded as a COVID-19 death, even if they die of something completely unrelated.

Thankfully, Denmark’s government provides the data distinguishing the two (we’re still waiting here in Australia…). The chart at the top of this section shows deaths “not related to COVID-19-infection” in yellow, which corresponds to about 40% of the total.

The data are similar for hospital admissions and ICU patients, where only around 50% of the total were actually there for COVID-19 treatment with the rest simply incidental.

Clearly a lot of the developed world is now at the point where high rates of vaccination and prior immunity mean that COVID-19 is no worse than the regular flu. The real danger is now opportunistic politicians who might be tempted to justify additional powers and restrictions when cases inevitably rise again, without fully contextualising the data.


Chewing the fat


Bits and bytes

πŸ”Œ Queensland’s government will offer residents a $A3,000 subsidy to buy an electric car that costs up to $A58,000.

πŸ’Έ The Australian government announced grants totalling $A243 million for various manufacturing projects targeting electric vehicle components, mostly in WA.

βš”οΈ US President Biden announced $US800 million in new military assistance to the Ukraine government.

🌞 No more clock switching: The US Senate unanimously “passed a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the United States”.

πŸ“ˆ Canada’s inflation rate “rose to a new multi-decade high of 5.7 per cent last month, as the price of everything from gasoline to groceries to shelter rose swiftly”.

🐻 Larry Summers: “The Fed’s current policy trajectory is likely to lead to stagflation, with average unemployment and inflation both averaging over 5 percent over the next few years β€” and ultimately to a major recession.”

πŸ•ŠοΈ Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said peace talks with Russia “already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine”.

πŸ” Chinese state media outlet The Global Times boasted about the nation’s repeated lockdowns, claiming that “Western countries are not capable of taking a dynamic zero-COVID policy rather than not willing to”.

🚘 Stockholm, Sweden has a speed camera lottery, where those who drive at or under the limit win prizes funded by speeders. Since being introduced, “average speed reduced from 32 km/h to 25 km/h (-22%)”.

🚭 Denmark’s government is following New Zealand’s lead by proposing to “ban the sale of cigarettes and nicotine products to any citizens born after 2010”.

πŸ‘·β€β™€οΈ Korea’s unemployment rate hit just 2.7% in February, “significantly lower than the market consensus of 3.6%”. The Bank of Korea already raised interest rates to 1.25% over the past six months (from 0.5%) and will now almost certainly continue hiking.

πŸ›’οΈ UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to the UAE and Saudi Arabia last night to explore “potential further measures to increase oil production”.

πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Sarah Raskin withdrew as US President Biden’s nominee for a vacant seat at the Federal Reserve after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would object because of her controversial stance on the Fed’s role in directing energy investment away from fossil fuels.

πŸ†“ Japan’s government will remove all of its coronavirus restrictions on 21 March, although its borders will remain closed to foreigners.

πŸ—Ύ “A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the northeastern prefectures of Miyagi and Fukushima on Wednesday night, registering an upper 6 on Japan’s shindo earthquake intensity scale, one step below the top level.”