The sky won't be the limit

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared that based on recent modelling, “we can be cautiously optimistic our hospitalisations have peaked and are trending down”.

The state’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard then chimed in, adding that he expected up to half of Queensland’s population to have been infected by the end of February, which when combined with a high vaccination rate (88.8% aged 12+) gives them a solid “wall of immunity” for any subsequent waves.

Great news, especially given that the state’s peak in COVID-19 hospitalisations was just 925 in late January, versus a worst case modelling scenario showing that up to 5,000 beds may have been needed.

The ICU peak was similarly subdued at just 71, compared with modelling showing a need for up to 500.

Reading the tea leaves

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries. The S&P500 is a snapshot 30 minutes before close.

At the time of writing the US S&P500 was trading down -1.74% after data showed the US recorded its highest rate of consumer price increases in 40 years, which sent 10-year bond yields soaring over 2% for the first time since 2019.

The January CPI reading came in at an above-expectations 7.5% from a year ago and 0.6% from the prior month (which equates to an annualised rate of 7.4%), with an acceleration in the prices of everything “from food and furniture to apartment rents, airline fares and electricity”.

The faster than expected price increases and positive labour market news (last week’s unexpectedly strong jobs report was followed by another decline in weekly initial jobless claims) raise the prospect that the US Fed will opt for a larger, 50 basis point increase to its key rate when it meets in March.

Locally, the ASX200 finished higher for the third straight day, adding +0.28% to finish at its highest level since 20 January. Notable movers were NAB (+4.5%) and AMP (+5.9%) after both reported better than expected results, while tech (+2.6%) mirrored gains in US from the night before (e.g. Afterpay owner Block added +9.7%)

Food for thought

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket revolutionised space flight.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket revolutionised space flight. Source

How much has space travel changed in the last 60 years? Not much at all for about 50 years, until SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket appeared on the scene in 2010 at a cost per kilogram amounting to about half that of all previous space launches.

Innovation in space flight quickly became so good that NASA’s last launch was in 2011 – it now relies on much cheaper rockets from the likes of SpaceX to launch crew and supplies to the international space station.

While NASA does have a new programme in place called Artemis which plans to return humans to the Moon, it has been plagued with issues. Most recently the launch was delayed due to a problem with NASA procuring its $US1 billion (!) spacesuits, which now won’t “be ready until April 2025 at the earliest”, leading to a cheeky offer from Elon Musk that “SpaceX could do it if need be”.

But regardless of what NASA’s up to, innovations from SpaceX other companies such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin will likely continue to reduce the price of sending things into space, which already “can be 97% cheaper than a Russian Soyuz ride cost in the ’60s”.

Unfortunately, other than cheaper satellites (which one day might make broadband internet cable-free), the innovation hasn’t yet spread to human space transportation, where “Flights beyond that [the suborbit] to actual orbit—a much higher altitude—are far more expensive, fetching more than $50 million per seat.”

But the trend is certainly moving in the right direction and as Visual Capitalist’s Bruno Venditti wrote, “perhaps the sky won’t be the limit in the near future”.

Bits and bytes

❌ Victorian Labor MP Kaushaliya Vaghela, who crossed the floor to ensure the government’s infamous “red shirts” scandal is re-investigated, “will likely be forced to resign as party rules mandate that MPs must vote in accordance with party lines”.

🔬 Modelling by UWA predicted that due to waning immunity, if WA’s “reopening happens just one month after the original date” of 5 February, an additional 10 people would die, and “for each month the reopening is delayed, the death toll will increase”.

⛪ The Morrison government has likely run out of time to pass its promised religious discrimination laws before the election, after five Liberal senators crossed the floor to have the bill amended.

🏖️ Tasmania’s Education Minister Sarah Courtney resigned just days after returning from a vacation in France, during which she contracted COVID-19, all while Tasmania’s schools were preparing to reopen.

🛂 The Australia government’s drug advisory group, ATAGI, recommended that people be considered “overdue” in terms of their vaccination status if they have not received a booster within 6 months.

📱 Australian Facebook users spent an average of 17.6 hours on it per month last year, down 3% from 2020. Meanwhile, TikTok users spent an average of 23.4 hours per month on its app, up 40% from 2020.

🕵️‍♀️ China-owned TikTok “shares your data more than any other social media app”, and “third-party tracking still happened even when users didn’t opt into allowing tracking in each app’s settings”.

👄 While discussing dating apps the Chair of Australia’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, James Paterson, said “If you’re a 6 and they’re a 10 - it might not be your looks that they’ve been charmed by, it might be your access to classified information.”

🖼️ “A painting worth £740,000 has been destroyed after a ‘bored’ security guard drew eyes on faceless figures depicted in the artwork at a Russian gallery.”

🛢️ Does this mean the Germans will now take a position on Ukraine? Japan will divert natural gas to Europe “in response to requests from the United States and European Union”.

🏋️ Just some training, da. Around 30,000 Russian troops are taking part in “military exercises” with neighbour Belarus, which borders Ukraine, in what is “the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War”.

💉 Australia’s drug regulator, the TGA, provisionally approved AstraZeneca as a booster vaccine for people aged over 18 years but Pfizer and Moderna remain its preferred booster doses.

👩‍🔬 A study using mice (warning: it may never work on humans!) conducted by scientists at McMaster University found that an inhaled COVID-19 vaccine “can provide broad, long-lasting protection against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and variants of concern”.

📈 Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of France’s TotalEnergies, said “I’ve no good news to deliver, oil prices will remain high [in Europe]”, due to the shift away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy and renewables, limiting investment in the sector.

👷‍♂️ Australia’s Housing Industry Association warned that the tradie shortage could last for at least another two years due to “a rush to new home builds and renovations over the past two years”.

☢️ New experiments have shown that we’re “a step closer to fusion power”, demonstrating “that we can create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds and get high performance”.

🏝️ The Philippines reopened to double vaccinated international tourists yesterday for the first time in nearly two years.

🍁 Canada’s anti-vaccine mandate “Freedom Convey 2022” is taking its toll on the economy, with Ford, Toyota and Chrysler-maker Stellantis all reporting disruptions as several US-Canada border crossings remain blocked.

🥝 Hundreds of protestors have been arrested in Wellington as the anti-vaccine mandate “Convoy 2022 NZ” continues into a fourth day.

🏀 Disgruntled Australian star Ben Simmons was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets just prior to the NBA’s deadline, with superstar James Harden going in the other direction.