Biden Announces Disaster Declaration for Texas Amid Severe Weather

Posted on 02/21/2021 2:03 PM

Brazil soybean shipments hit by traffic jam | Fauci: ‘Possible' mask guidance could last into 2022


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


Market Focus:
• 10-year Treasury yields climbed above 1.35% Friday to highest in nearly a year
• U.S. mortgage rates jump on higher Treasury yields
• British pound rose to highest level vs dollar in nearly three years
• Severe weather last week wiped out Texas' citrus crop

• Biden declared major disaster in Texas, paving way for more federal assistance
• Analyst: USDA did not show enough corn acres
• USDA’s Cattle on Feed report: Larger placements and smaller marketings than expected
• Brazil soybean shipments hit by 18.6-mile traffic jam in North


Policy Focus:
• Outlook for reparations for Black descendants of enslaved people
• Dow CEO urges Biden to use Texas as catalyst for infrastructure reform


Biden Administration Personnel
• Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be tapped for ambassadorship


China Update:
• China: U.S. Treasury secretary says tariffs on China will remain, for now


Energy & Climate Change:

• Senate hearing coming on electric grid reliability
• NYT article: Storms
exposing a nation primed for catastrophe

Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• McDonald's looks for Q1 sales boost with intro of crispy chicken sandwich
* GMU launches program to boost food, beverage firms owned by people of color

Coronavirus Update:
• U.S. Covid-related deaths near half million mark
• Expect coronavirus herd immunity in U.S. by April: Dr. Marty Makary
• Pfizer says vaccine can be stored in normal freezers
• U.S has given at least one shot to more than 12% of its population
• Fauci: 'Possible' we'll be wearing masks in 2022 .
• Fauci: 6 million vaccine doses delayed by last week’s winter weather
• Israel starts lifting coronavirus restrictions and reopening its economy


Politics & Elections:
• Centrist GOP group promises $25 million to win back Congress
• Trump to speak at CPAC conference in Florida Feb. 28
• Ivanka Trump informs Marco Rubio she won’t run for his Senate seat

Other Items of Note:
• Biden visits 'good friend' Bob Dole following cancer diagnosis
• White House: No plans to invite Russia to join G7




     U.S. equities Friday: The Dow finished slightly lower, down 0.98 point, 0.00%, at 31,494.32. The Nasdaq rose 9.11 points, 0.07%, at 13,874.46. The S&P 500 declined 7.26 points, 0.19%, at 3,906.71.


     For the week, the S&P 500 finished down 0.7%, after falling all four days of the holiday-shortened week. Tech stocks are getting hit a bit harder, with the Nasdaq Composite finishing the week down 1.6%. The Dow eked out a small weekly gain of 36 points, or 0.1%.


     Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields climbed above 1.35% Friday to the highest in nearly a year, as input prices for the Purchasing Managers manufacturing index reached the highest since April 2011. U.S. crude oil topped $60 a barrel before falling back, dropping 2% as wells slowly restarted in Texas following the recent big freeze.


     Yields rise


Market perspectives:


     • U.S. mortgage rates jump on higher Treasury yields. Thirty-year fixed loan returned to 3% as inflation concerns feed through to real economy.

     • British pound rose to its highest level against the dollar in nearly three years Friday as sterling crossed $1.40, its first time hitting that mark since April 2018. The country is on course to be the first major economy to inoculate its entire adult population, after the government reached its goal of vaccinating 15 million people in mid-February.


        Pound rallies


     • The severe weather last week wiped out Texas' citrus crop during the growing season and hit other states, too. In Oklahoma, cattle ranchers scrambled to save the lives of calves born in brutal weather conditions. Large meat companies like Tyson Foods have scaled back production. For farmers and other agricultural companies across the U.S., millions of dollars of losses are expected due to disruptions from the storm. Restaurant owners will lose money, too, from canceled reservations to spoiled products and delayed shipments. Link to a Bloomberg article on Texas facing a food supply nightmare.


        Source: FT

        Citrus and ice
        Source: (Delcia Lopez/Monitor/AP)


     • President Biden declared a major disaster in Texas, paving way for more federal assistance. The declaration allows individuals and business owners in Texas to apply for federal emergency aid, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other recovery programs. The president plans to visit Texas as soon as this week to assess the federal response to the crisis. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said on Friday that it returned to normal conditions and restored power for millions of customers. More than 78,000 customers in Texas still did not have power as of 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday morning, according to the latest data from


     • USDA did not show enough corn acres, says grain analyst and trader Richard Crow. “Particularly when the corn ending stock has a very high probability of being smaller than their number of 1.502 billion bushels,” he notes. “The key for the corn market is to follow the cash.  If the cash firms as the export market pull out the supplies, the new crop pressure mounts for larger acres and a larger yield. It takes both to keep the same balance in the market… The March 30 planting intention report looms big to see if larger acreage numbers can be found.”


     • USDA’s Cattle on Feed report Friday had larger placements and smaller marketings than expected.  Analyst Richard Crow says the winter storm “has emptied the supply chain as home demand consumed the beef.  The slaughter levels have been reduced.  The market will need to restock the supply channels.” He and others note the storm cut the weights which will require kills to remain large.  “A key to the cattle market is when will the small placement of the fall impact the supplies of fats?” Crow asks. He thinks Mid-March to early April.  “April cattle reflect smaller numbers; it will be a test if April can exceed the 125 level?”


     • Brazil soybean shipments hit by 18.6-mile traffic jam in North. The impact of Brazil’s late soybean harvest has hit the roads of the nation’s northern export route, ensnaring truckers in long lines and threatening further delays of shipments to China. Trucks trying to unload the oilseed at the Miritituba river terminal in the northern state of Para formed a line as long as 18.6 miles in recent days, according to Bloomberg, citing Edeon Vaz Ferreira, head of the logistics branch at farmer group Aprosoja. Traffic has been halted for at least a week on an unpaved stretch that provides access to the terminal, extending the stoppage to a federal highway. “There’s a backlog of soybean trucks due to harvest delays in Mato Grosso,” Ferreira said in an interview, referring to Brazil’s largest producing state. “With the harvest highly concentrated this year, we may see more problems like this in the coming weeks.”


       Brazil soybean traffic jam




—  Outlook for reparations for Black descendants of enslaved people. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was recently asked about President Joe Biden’s support for HR 40, a bill that would create a commission to study reparations for the Black descendants of enslaved people. She responded: "It's working its way through Congress. We'd certainly support a study, but we'll see what happens through the legislative process."


— Dow CEO urges Biden to use Texas as catalyst for infrastructure reform. The Biden administration should seize on the failure of Texas’s power grid to push for a far-reaching infrastructure bill to reinvigorate ailing networks across the US, according to the chief executive of chemicals giant Dow. “I think this is a little bit like the pandemic: you don’t waste the crisis, you use this to drill in,” Jim Fitterling told the Financial Times in an interview underscoring the U.S. business community’s impatience for long-promised upgrades to the country’s infrastructure. “The reason I keep pushing for an infrastructure bill from this administration is we need reinvestment in the electricity grid,” he said. “Our electric grid is old and although there have been a lot of investments in alternative energy there hasn’t been a fundamental build to a better level of the electricity grid infrastructure and that’s going to need to happen. So, we’re going to have to get our heads together.”



—  Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be tapped for a high-profile ambassadorship for President Biden, a step that if taken would likely trigger contention with progressives who’ve balked at him taking a key role. Emanuel is the front-runner to be Biden’s nominee as ambassador to Japan, sources familiar with the matter told The Hill. He’s also being considered for the post in China, but reports note Japan is the more likely landing spot for former President Obama's chief of staff. Former State Department official Nicholas Burns is the likely front-runner to end up in Beijing.



China: U.S. Treasury secretary says tariffs on China will remain, for now. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC Feb. 18 that tariffs imposed on China by the Trump administration will remain in place for now, but that the Biden administration will evaluate such measures in the future, which will include an assessment on the effectiveness of tariffs.


U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link




— Senate hearing coming on electric grid reliability. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, intends to hold a hearing to examine grid reliability and resilience in the aftermath of Texas' power failures.


— NYT article: Storms Exposing A Nation Primed for Catastrophe. Here is the gist of a New York Times Sunday article on the topic (link for details):


     “Last week’s continent-spanning winter storms triggered blackouts in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and several other states. One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted.


     “The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country’s economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways.


    “Much of this infrastructure was built decades ago, under the expectation that the environment around it would remain stable, or at least fluctuate within predictable bounds. Now climate change is upending that assumption.


     “’We are colliding with a future of extremes,’” said Alice Hill, who oversaw planning for climate risks on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “’We base all our choices about risk management on what’s occurred in the past, and that is no longer a safe guide.’”


     “The Biden administration has talked extensively about climate change, particularly the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs in renewable energy. But it has spent less time discussing how to manage the growing effects of climate change, facing criticism from experts for not appointing more people who focus on climate resilience.”




— McDonald's looks for a Q1 sales boost with the introduction of its new crispy chicken sandwich in three varieties at competitive prices. Early estimates from Credit Suisse forecast that McDonald’s will triple chicken sandwich sales on a daily basis in the early going. Popeyes sparked the chicken wars in 2019 with its incredibly popular chicken sandwich launch. In response, new chicken sandwiches have been released by Chick-fil-A, KFC, Burger King and Boston Market as well.


— George Mason University launches program to boost food, beverage firms owned by people of color. George Mason University’s School of Business is launching a program for underserved business owners in the food and beverage retail sector with the goal of growing those companies during and beyond the Covid-19 crisis. The school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is accepting applications until March 15 for the “Build Back, Dream Forward” program, which will offer mentoring and coaching to small hospitality businesses in Northern Virginia. Participants will have access to an online discussion board, be matched with a participating business mentor and receive individual coaching sessions on specific needs or areas of focus for each. The program is limited to businesses between six months and 10 years old with an annual revenue of between $100,000 to $2 million. The owners must commit to a growth plan of one to three years, which could include increasing revenue, adding new locations or hiring more employees.




 Summary: Sources: Johns Hopkins University as of 11:30 a.m. ET; Hospitalization figures from the Covid Tracking Project as of yesterday; Vaccination figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • 61,289,500: Vaccine doses given so far in the U.S.
  • 71,510: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
  • 1,844: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
  • 58,222: People currently hospitalized in the U.S.
  • 497,957: Total U.S. deaths
  • 28,085,723: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
  • 111,203,978: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 2,463,048 deaths

       Covid Cases
       Covid deaths

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data


— Pfizer says vaccine can be stored in normal freezers. The temperature that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must currently be stored: Between -112 and -76 degrees Celsius, meaning special equipment is necessary. The new temperature that Pfizer and BioNTech are suggesting: Between -13 and -5 degrees Celsius, which most pharmacies already have the capability to do.


     A new study out of Israel last week reignited the public debate about the spacing between the two doses of Covid-19 vaccine — the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine might be just as effective if the gap between doses is wider than the recommended 21 days, according to the new study. But the U.S. government isn't budging in its commitment to the original schedule. Government officials want to stick with the dosing schedule that has been scientifically proven to be effective, warning that altering it might weaken the vaccine's effectiveness against variants, or even drive the creation of new variants that escape that protection. The current schedule provides "an optimal response when you're dealing with variants," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, said Friday in a news conference.


— U.S has given at least one shot to more than 12% of its population and expects to have enough doses to vaccinate every resident by the end of this summer. The U.K. has administered shots to more than 24% of its residents, and Israel’s rate leads the world at nearly 49%. Throughout South America, however, just 1.8% of the continent’s population was vaccinated as of Wednesday, with those rates dropping to 1.5% in Asia and just 0.1% across Africa, according to data tracked by an Oxford University research project.


— U.S. virus herd immunity is being predicted by April, according to Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, chief medical adviser to Sesame Care. In an opinion item in the Wall Street Journal, he notes that Covid cases have dropped 77% in six weeks and that experts should level with the public about the good news. Link to commentary.


— Fauci: It's 'possible' we'll be wearing masks in 2022. As the U.S. nears 500,000 Covid-19 deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's "possible" Americans will still need to wear masks in 2022, even as the nation may reach "a significant degree of normality" by the end of this year. Asked by CNN's Dana Bash whether he thinks Americans will still need to wear masks next year, Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, replied: "You know, I think it is possible that that's the case and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality." The comments from Fauci come as the U.S. nears a full year in its fight against the virus.


     Meanwhile, Fauci said on NBC’s Meet the Press that 6 million vaccine doses had been delayed by last week’s winter weather. Two million of them have now gone out, and the rest of the backlog should be cleared by the middle of the week.


— Israel has started lifting its coronavirus restrictions and reopening its economy after a nearly two-month long lockdown. Shops, museums, libraries, and malls are reopening Sunday along with most grade and high school classes.




— Centrist GOP group promises $25 million to win back Congress. The centrist Republican Main Street Partnership plans to invest $25 million in swing House districts in 2022 to help the GOP recapture Congress. The group is focused on electing pragmatic, fiscal conservatives in suburban strongholds that shifted blue under Trump, with an emphasis on wooing female voters. The partnership will spend against Democratic incumbents but also play in Republican primaries in open seats, using proprietary polling and focus group data to dictate strategy, messaging, and which districts are targeted. Sarah Chamberlain, leader of the Republican Main Street Partnership, argued Republicans win elections that are contrasts in policy, pointing to the dozen House seats the GOP flipped in 2020. “What happened in this last election cycle, they voted against a man they didn’t like,” Chamberlain said Friday. “They didn’t vote against his policies; they voted against his tweet messages.” In the 2020 election cycle, the Republican Main Street Partnership spent $8 million on congressional races.


    During the 2020 elections, Democrats — and some election predictors — had anticipated they would be able to expand their majority in the House, pushing into historically red areas of the Sun Belt where Trump’s unpopularity had destabilized the GOP coalition. Instead, Republicans took 14 Democratic-held House seats, including a dozen that Democrats had captured in an anti-Trump wave election just two years earlier.


— Trump to speak at CPAC conference in Florida Feb. 28. Donald Trump will speak Feb. 28 at the annual Conservative Political Action Campaign (CPAC) conference in Orlando, Florida, his first public appearance since leaving the White House, according to Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. The former president will discuss the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Trump intends to share his views on the growing GOP support for his “America First” agenda as well as about what the Republican party could do to yield wins in 2022 and 2024 elections. Trump spoke at the annual event several times during his presidency. In 2020, Trump spoke out against the rising influence of socialism, which was the conference’s theme that year. The former president warned about the agenda of far-left radicals and its impact on America if left unchecked. Sponsored by the American Conservative Union, CPAC will feature several members of Trump’s administration, GOP lawmakers, and others, according to a posted schedule. Thousands are expected to attend. Former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and former Housing Secretary Ben Carson are among those listed, along with GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.


— Ivanka Trump informs Marco Rubio she won’t run for his Senate seat. Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of former President Donald Trump, will not seek Sen. Marco Rubio’s Senate seat in 2022, according to reports. The now-former senior White House adviser spoke with the Florida senator several weeks ago and told him she would not pursue his office, according to The Associated Press, which cited a Rubio campaign spokesperson. The two also discussed appearing together at an upcoming event.



— Biden visits 'good friend' Bob Dole following cancer diagnosis. President Biden visited former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) Saturday after Dole was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last week. The 97-year-old Kansan said in a statement he was diagnosed “recently” and will start treatment on Monday. “While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” Dole said. Biden and Dole served in the Senate together from 1973-1996.


— White House: No plans to invite Russia to join G7. The Biden administration will not be inviting Russia to join the G7 group of world leaders, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday. The group once known as the G8 included the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia — but was cut down to the G7 in 2014 following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.



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