EU ministers to debate Astra vaccine, Biden's plan to get Republicans on board, and retail sales expected to slip.
European health ministers are meeting today to discuss the future of AstraZeneca Plc's vaccine after more countries suspended its use on reports of side effects. The gathering comes ahead of a decision on the next steps from the European Medicines Agency on Thursday. If the current suspension of the vaccine becomes longer, or even permanent, the region will lose about a fifth of its planned vaccine pipeline, pushing its inoculation drive further behind the U.S.
President Joe Biden is hoping to get some Republican support for his infrastructure package as getting a multi-year initiative through Congress without their support would be almost impossible. Democrats have rescinded a 2011 ban on earmarks, a move that would allow the kind of trading between legislators that tends to facilitate bipartisan deals. Republicans have not yet decided whether they will amend their rules in the coming weeks and follow suit.
Companies Leading the Rise of Cybersecurity
If we’re lucky, cybersecurity can feel like an afterthought – something working in the background. This perception confronts the reality that with an ever-growing number of online threats, the cybersecurity theme is driven by dozens of highly innovative companies. We recently profiled four of the key players.
The stimulus-check driven 5.3% surge in retail sales in January is very unlikely to be repeated when data for February is released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time this morning. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect a 0.5% decline in the month, with the terrible weather during February hitting consumer activity. A weak retail number may provide some short relief from inflation worries for Fed policymakers who begin their two-day meeting today.
U.S. stocks hit new record highs in yesterday's session, and the risk-on sentiment remains in place around the world. Overnight the MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.6% while Japan's Topix index closed with a 0.6% gain. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.4% higher at 5:50 a.m. with energy and mining stocks underperforming. S&P 500 futures pointed to little change at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.599%, oil dropped toward $64 a barrel and gold was flat.
The February U.S. import price index accompanies retail sales data at 8:30 a.m. Industrial and manufacturing production for the month at 9:15 a.m. may also show some weather effects. January business inventories and the NAHB Housing Index for March are at 10:00 a.m. The Bloomberg Equality Summit begins. Crowdstrike Holdings Inc., Lennar Corp. and Designer Brands Inc. are among the companies reporting results.
What we've been reading
Here's what caught our eye over the last 24 hours.
And finally, here’s what Joe's interested in this morning
Last month I wrote about Bitcoin's energy consumption, which as everyone knows by now, rivals that of several medium sized countries, like Argentina or Norway. Of course lots of things use a lot of energy. So ultimately the question of whether this consumption is bad or good comes down to what you think of the thing itself. People don't complain too much about, say, the energy required to cook food, because that is good and necessary. People do, often, complain about the energy use of private jets, because they're often used as an unnecessary extravagance. So with Bitcoin, if you think it's an important tool to protect against hyperinflation, while enabling payments for those who can't use traditional money networks, you'll think the energy use is fine. And if you think Bitcoin is just a speculative mania, whose primary use case is unsavory characters you'll think the energy use is bad.
One of the things the new administration has to deal with is some Bitcoin-related anti-money laundering rules that the Trump administration pushed at the end of its term. As my colleague Joe Light reported earlier in March, a wide variety of actors from the Chamber of Commerce to the Winklevoss twins have mobilized to stop the rules from going in effect. Obviously it's impossible to know at this point how the administration will deal with this issue and other Bitcoin regulatory questions going forward.
That being said, if you look at the categories above, it seems very likely that the overwhelming number of people in the direct orbit of this administration and Treasury are inclined to view Bitcoin (and crypto more broadly) in the negative light. Primarily a get-rich-quick speculative game, with no redeeming value, except to unsavory political or criminal elements. This isn't necessarily right (or wrong). But it is a commonly held view among the center-left/liberal academic types whose influence is strong these days. So considering this, when you then layer on top the energy use, it wouldn't be surprising if the new administration is less friendly towards it than the last one.
Joe Weisenthal is an editor at Bloomberg.
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