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Covid vaccines barrel towards the finish line. Powell says the U.S. recovery is at risk. And China is set to overtake 56 countries in per-capita income. 

Risks Remain

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. economic recovery is likely to continue at a "solid" pace yet risks losing momentum as the virus surges, adding that it was too soon to close the Fed's emergency lending facilities. Powell called rising virus infection rates a "significant" downside risk "especially in the near term". While U.S. payrolls have recovered for six consecutive months, a resurgence in infections threatens to curtail activity and slow the recovery with millions of Americans remaining out of work, and Powell said there were signs of this happening already. 

Brink of Victory?

In early January, about the only thing the world knew for sure about the novel coronavirus was its genetic profile. Now, 300 days later, vaccine developers are on the brink of a major victory against a pathogen that's inflicted untold personal and economic damage. Two vaccines are poised to beat predictions in early 2020 that an inoculation would take a year to 18 months to develop. A big part of what made the advance possible was billions of dollars in funding. The news is fueling optimism for the quest to halt a disease, even as the seven-day average of new cases climbs in every U.S. state. Here's how Bloomberg is tracking the outbreak globally.

Markets Muted

Asian stocks looked set for a muted open after U.S. shares retreated as investors weighed escalating Covid-19 cases against optimism over a vaccine. Treasuries advanced. Futures dipped in Japan and were little changed in Australia and Hong Kong. The S&P 500 Index pulled back from a record high. Pharmacy chains were among the worst performers after Amazon.com unveiled a new push into prescription drugs. Treasury yields dipped along with the dollar. Oil slipped with gold.

Onwards And Upwards

China's surging economy is set to overtake 56 countries in the world's per-capita income rankings during the quarter-century through 2025, the IMF projects. By that date, China will rank 70th in the world on the metric, putting it close to joining the richest one-third of nations. The Asian powerhouse is forecast to have per-capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, equal to $25,307 in 2025. That will take it past Argentina, one of the richest countries in the world a century ago and now mired in debt and currency crises. The data also show large leaps for other regions, especially among east European and Asian countries. Also, here's an economist's guide to the world in 2050.

Endangered List

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is pushing ahead with a plan that threatens to kick Chinese companies off U.S. stock exchanges for not complying with U.S. auditing rules, according to people familiar with the matter. Agency officials have been moving quickly on a rule since August, when the President's Working Group on Financial Markets urged the regulator to pass new restrictions that could take effect as soon as 2022, said the people who asked not to be named. But Beijing refuses to let U.S. regulators look at China's audits of Alibaba, Baidu and other firms that trade on American markets, citing confidentiality, and years of talks have failed to yield a compromise.

What We've Been Reading

This is what's caught our eye over the past 24 hours:

And finally, here's what Tracy's interested in today

Bank of America's latest fund manager survey suggests the bulls are stampeding, with the level of cash on the sidelines getting very close to a point that would trigger the bank's traditional "sell signal." The implication, as my Bloomberg colleagues report, is that fund managers are now so bullish that it might be time to take profit on any more good news regarding a Covid-19 vaccine. Cash levels have sunk to 4.1% in November, their lowest level since early 2015, as investors jump into a rallying market. BofA's sell signal trigger — a contrarian indicator that investors might be getting too confident and risk assets too overvalued — occurs when cash is at less than 4%.

Fund managers' cash levels have dropped to their lowest since April 2015, according to Bank of America's latest survey.

Bloomberg

But of course, these aren't normal times. Arguably the amount of cash sitting on the sidelines isn't as useful a signal as it might normally be, given lingering concerns over policy as well as massive liquidity injections from the Federal Reserve. Analysts at JPMorgan, for instance, argue that the demand for savings in 2020 has eclipsed available "supply" of excess money, meaning investors have been so worried about the events of 2020 that they've effectively sucked up extra central bank liquidity and stashed it away in less risky cash or bonds. The implication in the JPMorgan model is that good news on a vaccine would help further reduce uncertainty and a "greater portion of the liquidity that has been injected so far as a function of QE and credit creation, would be deployed into higher yielding assets such as equities in the future."

You can follow Tracy Alloway on Twitter at @tracyalloway.

 

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