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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry

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LONDON —
British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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Oil Prices Rise Further On Large Crude Inventory Draw – OilPrice.com

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Oil Prices Rise Further On Large Crude Inventory Draw | OilPrice.com


Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Crude oil prices went up today on bullish news from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which reported a 6.4-million-barrel draw in crude oil inventories and another draw in fuel inventories.

A week earlier, the EIA had estimated a modest 1.3-million-barrel decline in crude oil inventories but a sizeable draw in gasoline pushed prices higher, signaling that strong demand has not wavered amid the latest surge in Covid-19 infections.

For the week to September 10, the EIA reported another draw in gasoline inventories, at 1.9 million. This compared to a draw of 7.2 million barrels a week earlier.

Production of gasoline last week averaged 9.3 million bpd, which compared with 10.1 million bpd a week earlier.

Middle distillate inventories shed 1.7 million barrels in the week to September 10, which compared with a draw of 3.1 million barrels for the previous week.

Production of middle distillates averaged 4.2 million bpd last week, compared with 4.2 million bpd during the previous week.

A day before the EIA reported inventory moves, the American Petroleum Institute had estimated crude oil stocks had shed close to 4 million barrels, pushing prices higher. Since the start of the year, according to API numbers, U.S. crude oil stocks have declined by 70 million barrels.

Meanwhile, production is set to rise as the inventory of drilled but uncompleted wells in the U.S. shale patch declines. This, however, should not be a problem for prices since demand is strengthening, too.

[embedded content]

In its latest monthly oil report, the International Energy Agency forecast a 1.6-million-bpd rebound in global oil demand next month as the Delta variant of the coronavirus releases its grip on economies. It would then continue to grow through the rest of the year, the agency said, before beginning to slow down next year.

“The market should shift closer to balance starting from October if OPEC+ continues to unwind production cuts. Even so, it is only by early 2022 that supply will be high enough to allow oil stocks to be replenished,” the IEA said in its report.

This would provide stable support for prices over the next few months, and it is support that will be needed as U.S. shale drillers ramp up along with OPEC+ to offset depletion from legacy wells.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Canada's inflation explained: How the surge affects you and what you can do about changing prices – The Globe and Mail

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A man shops at a halal grocery store in Toronto this past May. Rising inflation has had varied effects on the price of consumer goods across Canada.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

What is driving inflation?

Probably the biggest factor in this year’s inflation surge is simply the reality that consumer prices fell to unusual lows last year, and it’s against these low prices that we are measuring the current price environment. This is what economists are talking about when they refer to “base effects.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, huge swaths of the global economy were shut down and consumers were told to stay home; demand for many goods and services plunged and prices slumped. Since inflation is typically calculated as a year-over-year change, it’s against these lows that we have been comparing the current prices, which have increased substantially as pandemic restrictions have eased. The pronounced weakness of the year-earlier comparisons have magnified the price gains in the annual inflation rate.

But there’s more to it than just a statistical quirk. The rapid reopening of many sectors of the economy has unleashed a flood of demand from consumers, which has been exacerbated by the unusually large stockpiles of household savings that built up during the pandemic.

Around the world, manufacturers, transporters and retailers have had tremendous trouble keeping up with demand. In addition, the pandemic has shifted consumer preferences to different products – home office equipment, bicycles, bigger houses in the suburbs, just to name a few – and suppliers haven’t been able to keep pace with these rapid shifts. The result has been supply shortages in numerous consumer goods as well as the raw materials to make them – driving up prices.

How does the current Canadian inflation rate compare historically?

The August consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate is 4.1 per cent, up from 3.7 per cent in July. The last time the rate was higher was in March, 2003 (4.2 per cent), during a temporary surge that was another case of base effects – namely, a slump in year-earlier gasoline prices.

But from a broader historical perspective, 4.1 per cent is, comparatively, nothing. Inflation was north of 10 per cent in the mid-1970s and again in the early 1980s. In the early 1990s, when the Bank of Canada formally adopted maintaining low and steady inflation as its primary monetary policy objective, inflation still hovered around 5 per cent. But since the central bank set its inflation target at 2 per cent in 1995 – using interest rates to help steer inflation toward that rate – inflation has averaged very close to that target.

What types of products or services are most affected by inflation?

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Purchase of passenger vehicles

+7.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Purchase of passenger vehicles

+7.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Purchase of

passenger vehicles

+7.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR /

THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

The August CPI data from Statistics Canada show that goods (up 5.8 per cent year over year) have seen much higher inflation than services (up 2.7 per cent). The big contributor has been gasoline, up more than 32.5 per cent from a year earlier, when prices were severely depressed by pandemic shutdowns. Home replacement costs were up almost 14.3 per cent, reflecting the surge in prices for homes in the past year.

On the other hand, prices for some things have declined significantly in the past year. Mortgage interest costs were down 9.3 per cent in August from a year earlier, reflecting deep rate cuts that the Bank of Canada made last spring to aid the economy in the face of the pandemic. The price of telephone services was down 14.2 per cent. Travel tours are down 20.8 per cent year over year.

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle

insurance

premiums

Mortgage

interest

cost

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle

insurance

premiums

Mortgage

interest

cost

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle insurance

premiums

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Mortgage

interest cost

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

How can I adjust my spending to avoid the worst of inflation?

If you’re spending, be inflation-aware. Consider planning your renovation for next year or 2023 in hopes prices for building materials ease back. Lumber prices have come back down, but other costs may still be elevated. Prices for new and used cars have been on the rise as people resume driving farther than the local grocery store. Where possible, keep your existing ride for another year or so until the post-pandemic vehicle-buying rush dies down. Grocery inflation is expected to continue through the rest of the year. If you’re able to buy in bulk, you may be able to dodge some future price increases.

Is there a ‘winner’ in inflation?

There are some investments that have performed well in past periods of inflation. Gold is one example, while others are commodities like oil and metals. Real estate is also considered a good hedge against inflation. You can get exposure to real estate by investing in real estate investment trusts.

What will bring inflation down?

Time – at least for a significant portion of the increase. Over the next few months, the year-over-year price comparisons will become less stark, as the price recovery from the earlier COVID-19 shutdowns increasingly works its way into the year-earlier numbers. For example, the average national price of gasoline in August, 2020, was $1.06.6 a litre; by mid-February of 2021, it was $1.20. In addition, we can expect unusual price pressures caused by the sudden reopening of many sectors of the economy to ease, as the initial rush of demand moderates and activity returns to normal.

Many economists believe that the high prices themselves will help solve the inflation situation, as it adds incentive to producers to increase their capacity. This will take time, but as supply catches up with demand, price pressures will dissipate.

From a policy standpoint, the biggest weapon lies with the Bank of Canada. If inflation remains persistently high, the central bank will eventually step in and raise its key interest rate from the current record low of 0.25 per cent. The bank has already taken other actions to reduce the amount of stimulus that its monetary policy is injecting into the economy – specifically, it has gradually reduced the amount of government bonds that it has been buying on the open market since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Interest rates are considered the bigger weapon to slow inflation; but the bank has said that it doesn’t want to turn to rate hikes until the economy has returned to full capacity. Based on the bank’s latest projections, that is unlikely before the second half of next year. In the meantime, the central bank is willing to tolerate inflation in the 3-per-cent range – which actually represents the top end of its tolerance band around its target of 1-to-3 per cent, designed to give it some flexibility when inflation gyrates. But if inflation stays above that band for uncomfortably long, the bank may start leaning toward acting sooner rather than later.

A key question is how much of this is temporary, and how much may be permanent. While economists are generally confident that a substantial portion of the recent inflation surge will pass as things return to something approaching normal in the coming months, it’s clear that at least some of these price pressures may be longer lasting.

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Lumber crash leads to 'blowout' sales as prices crater – CBC.ca

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Homeowners who resisted the urge to renovate during the first 18 months of the pandemic may find now is their chance, as lumber prices that soared to dizzying heights in the spring have crashed back down to earth.

At family-run Peacock Lumber in Oshawa, Ont., owner Glen Peacock said retail prices have “collapsed” in recent weeks. An eight-foot-long, two-by-four inch piece of framing lumber that cost $12.65 on June 1 is now selling for $3.95, Peacock said — basically what it would have sold for before the boom.

“It was amazing it went as long as it did before people said, ‘This is too much money,’ ” Peacock said. “People who waited, if they could, to do their projects are going to be in a much better position.”

A pandemic-driven surge in home renovations and do-it-yourself projects sent shock waves through the home improvement and construction industries earlier this year. North American lumber prices hit record highs of more than $1,600 US per thousand board feet in May — three times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The price roller-coaster had customers pre-ordering lumber months in advance to ensure supply and even resulted in a spate of opportunistic thefts from construction sites across North America.

But the ride has come back down even faster than it went up — and that means many retailers have been stuck trying to get rid of product they purchased at higher prices.

Many lumber yards have drastically cut back on production until the backlog of unsold wood moves. (Robert Short/CBC)

“With lumber prices falling as fast as they did, it forced everybody to sell their overpriced inventory at a loss,” said Joel Seibert, owner of Mountain View Building Materials just outside of Calgary. “What would have been the ideal situation would be for the price to take twice as long to come back down as it did to go up.”

Liz Kovach — president of the Western Retail Lumber Association, which represents retail lumber, building supply and hardware stores in Western Canada — said the pandemic price bubble burst with the arrival of summer. Warmer weather and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country resulted in Canadians travelling more and spending less time on projects around the house, she said.

Retailers slashing prices

“It’s been a challenge on the retail side,” Kovach said. “We’ve seen a lot of blowout price sales, just so that they can move the materials.”

The plunging prices have already led to curtailments and reduced operations at sawmills. Vancouver-based Canfor Corp. said at the end of August that it will run all of its B.C. sawmills at 80 per cent capacity until market conditions improve. Conifex Timber Inc., also based in Vancouver, announced Aug. 20 that it would curtail lumber production at its Mackenzie, B.C., sawmill for a two-week period.

The rapid rise in lumber costs earlier this year added “tens of thousands of dollars per home” to new home construction costs, said Kevin Lee, chief executive of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. And while consumers may already be benefiting from lower prices at home improvement stores, homebuyers signing new construction purchase contracts are still seeing elevated prices.

WATCH | High lumber prices were adding up to $30K to the price of a new home:

Price of lumber skyrockets after pandemic disrupts supply chain

6 months ago

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains so much that the price of lumber has gone through the roof. 1:58

“Builders still have to clear their inventories of having purchased higher-priced lumber. It takes a while to clear the system,” Lee said. “Yes, lumber prices from the mills came down dramatically over the summer, but that’s unfortunately taken a while to reach the rest of the industry and consumers.”

Lee said when it comes to new home construction, pricing is being complicated by ongoing pandemic-related supply chain challenges. While difficulties related to lumber have eased, home builders are still dealing with delivery delays and price inflation on everything from plumbing and electrical products to kitchen cabinetry.

“It doesn’t compare to the three to five times price increases we saw with lumber, but I’d say on average, we’re seeing 10 per cent increases on everything, including the kitchen sink,” Lee said. “And we are still seeing delays on closings, just because of an inability to get products and materials.”

In a note to clients earlier this week, RBC Dominion Securities analyst Paul Quinn said with the arrival of fall, lumber markets are already beginning to tick slightly higher. Home centres are noticing increased traffic as customers try to finish projects before winter, Quinn said, and retail demand tends to be a leading indicator for lumber pricing.

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