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England’s third lockdown sees ‘no evidence of decline’ in cases

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Medics take a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London hospital in London on January 19, 2021.

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LONDON — A third national lockdown in England appears to have had little impact on the rising rate of coronavirus infections, according to the findings of a major study, with “no evidence of decline” in the prevalence of the virus during the first 10 days of tougher restrictions.

The closely watched REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, warned that health services would remain under “extreme pressure” and the cumulative number of deaths would increase rapidly unless the prevalence of the virus in the community was reduced substantially.

The findings of the preprint report, published Thursday by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, come shortly after the U.K. recorded another all-time high of coronavirus deaths.

Government figures released on Wednesday showed an additional 1,820 people had died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. To date, the U.K. has recorded 3.5 million coronavirus cases, with 93,290 deaths.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) at Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the latest figures were “appalling” and warned, “There are still tough weeks to come.”

Johnson imposed lockdown measures in England on Jan. 5, instructing people to “stay at home” as most schools, bars and restaurants were ordered to close. It is expected the strict public health measures will remain in place until at least mid-February.

What were the main findings?

The REACT-1 study tests nose and throat swabs from between 120,000 and 180,000 people in the community in England at approximately monthly intervals. The latest results mostly covered a period from Jan. 6 to Jan. 15.

The study compared the results with swabs collected between Nov. 13 and Nov. 24 and those taken between Nov. 25 and Dec. 3.

Researchers found 1,962 positives from 142,909 swabs taken over the January period. It means 1.58% of people tested had Covid on a weighted average.

This represents a more than 50% increase in prevalence rates since the study’s mid-December results and is the highest recorded by REACT-1 since it started in May 2020.

Prevalence from Jan. 6 to Jan. 15 was highest in London, the study said, with 1 in 36 people infected, more than double the rate of the previous REACT-1 results.

A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 walks in London.

May James | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

Infections had also more than doubled in the southeast of England, east of England and West Midlands when compared with the findings published in early December.

“Our data are showing worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections which we will continue to monitor closely,” professor Paul Elliott, director of the program at Imperial, said in a statement.

“We all have a part to play in preventing this situation from worsening and must do our best to stay at home wherever possible,” he added.

The U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care said the full impact of lockdown measures would not yet be reflected in the prevalence figures reported in the REACT-1 study.

“These findings show why we must not let down our guard over the weeks to come,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

“It is absolutely paramount that everyone plays their part to bring down infections. This means staying at home and only going out where absolutely necessary, reducing contact with others and maintaining social distancing,” Hancock said.

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Charlie Munger says novice investors are getting lured into a bubble in ‘dirty way’ by Robinhood

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Charlie Munger

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Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett‘s longtime business partner, issued a dire warning on the manic momentum-driven trading activity by amateur investors and said commission-free trading apps like Robinhood were partly to blame for the bubble.

“It’s most egregious in the momentum trading by novice investors lured in by new types of brokerage operation like Robinhood and I think all of this activity is regrettable,” Munger said Wednesday at the Los Angeles-based Daily Journal annual shareholders meeting, which was livestreamed by Yahoo Finance.

The 97-year-old investor said retail traders are being enticed by brokerage apps touting free trading. Robinhood has been accused by critics of gamifying investing through its app. It and other online brokerage firms rely on a controversial practice called “payment for order flow” as their profit engine in lieu of commissions. These brokers receive payments from market makers like Virtu and Citadel Securities for routing trades to them.

“No one should believe Robinhood trades are free,” Munger said. “The frenzy is fed by people who are getting commissions and other revenues out of this new bunch of gamblers.”

‘Dirty way of making money’

The jaw-dropping GameStop mania became the poster child of the speculative bubble that Munger raised a red flag on. A wave of at-home traders encouraged each other on a Reddit chat room to pile into shares of the brick-and-mortar video game retailer, creating a monstrous short squeeze that saw the stock soar 400% in one week.

“There are threats of clearing house failure, so it gets very dangerous,” added Munger. “And it’s really stupid to have a culture which encourages as much gambling in stocks by people who have the mindset of racetrack betters. … It’s a dirty way of making money.”

A spokesperson at Robinhood did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Munger even compared the current trading frenzy to the historic South Sea bubble of 1720.

“You will remember when the first bubble came which was the South Sea bubble in England back in the 1700s. It created such a big havoc when it blew up,” Munger said. “England didn’t allow hardly any public trading in securities and any companies for decades thereafter. It just created the most unholy mess.”

“So the human greed and the aggression of the brokerage community creates these bubbles from time to time. I think wise people just stay out of them,” he added.

Better off without SPACs

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Nvidia (NVDA) earnings Q4 2021

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Nvidia founder, President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang

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Nvidia stock went from a 3% gain to a 2% loss in extended trading on Wednesday, after CEO Jensen Huang told analysts on an earnings call that he does not expect the company’s business of selling processors to cryptocurrency miners to “grow extremely large.”

Nvidia beat elevated analyst expectations for both earnings and revenue for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, which ended in December.

Here’s how Nvidia did:

  • Earnings: $3.10 per share, adjusted, vs. $2.81 per share as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.
  • Revenue: $5.00 billion, versus $4.82 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.

Earlier this week, Nvidia announced new graphics cards designed for mining cryptocurrencies like ethereum, which the company said would allow it to boost stock for gamers who want the same cards to run graphically intense games.

Nvidia said that it planned to sell cryptocurrency-geared cards to industrial miners starting in March, but Huang said on the earnings call that he did not think it would be a huge part of the company’s business. “We expect that to be a small part of our business as we go forward,” he said.

Ultimately, Nvidia sales were up 61% year-over-year.

Investors had been expecting revenue growth over 55% from last year and Nvidia beat those expectations, even during a worldwide semiconductor shortage.

Nvidia also suggested that its hot streak would continue by forecasting $5.3 billion in revenue for the current quarter, ahead of investor expectations of $4.51 billion.

Nvidia stock has had a lot of momentum in recent months, with the stock rising over 106% in the past year. Investors see the Santa Clara, California chipmaker as a key supplier to several new technology trends. It sells semiconductor components for gaming, artificial intelligence, data centers, and automobiles.

Nvidia has two primary segments: Graphics, which is primarily its graphics cards for consumers and professionals, and Compute and Networking, which includes chips for data centers, automobiles, and robots.

Both had impressive quarters, which the company attributed in part to impact from the Covid-19 pandemic. Graphics reported $3.06 billion in revenue, which was up 47% from the same period last year. Compute and networking, the data center division, was up 91% year-over-year to $1.95 billion.

PC gaming has been a hot market during the pandemic, and Nvidia is perhaps best known for its graphics cards that enable high-performance gaming. Nvidia said that its gaming performance was driven by sales of its newest graphics cards.

However, Nvidia has had issues keeping its newest graphics cards in stock. On Wednesday, it said that the company was increasing supply but inventory will likely remain low through the end of the current quarter.

Nvidia’s automotive business did not perform well during this quarter. It was down 11% to $145 million, Nvidia said, and it ended up down 23% for the entire year.

Last September, Nvidia said it planned to buy ARM from Softbank for $40 billion in a transaction with deep implications for the semiconductor industry. ARM develops low-level technology widely used across the industry to develop low-power chips for mobile devices — and it supplies technology to most of Nvidia’s competitors. Companies are already lining up to object to the deal through regulatory channels.

“We are making good progress toward acquiring Arm, which will create enormous new opportunities for the entire ecosystem,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in a statement.

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Biden signs executive order to address chip shortage through a supply chain review

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President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to address a global chip shortage impacting industries ranging from medical supplies to electric vehicles.

The order includes a 100-day review of key products including semiconductors and advanced batteries used in electric vehicles, followed by a broader, long-term review of six sectors of the economy. The long-term review will allow for policy recommendations to strengthen supply chains, with the goal of quickly implementing the suggestions, Biden said at a press event Wednesday before he signed the order.

The action follows calls from bipartisan members of Congress and industry leaders warning about the potential consequences of the shortage. Commonly known as chips, semiconductors are used to power electronics including phones, electric vehicles and even some medical supplies. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that “semiconductor manufacturing is a dangerous weak spot in our economy and in our national security.”

Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday to discuss the shortage and said it was “very productive.” He praised the cooperative nature of the meeting, saying, “it’s like the old days, people actually were on the same page.”

The semiconductor supply chain had taken a hit early in the Covid pandemic since much of the world’s chips are manufactured in places like China and Taiwan. The health crisis has underscored issues with U.S. reliance on supply chains abroad in many areas, and the semiconductor industry is no different. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, a coalition backed by several chipmakers, the U.S. only accounts for about 12.5% of semiconductor manufacturing.

The shortage has already impacted several companies. Ford said earlier this month that reduced estimates from suppliers could mean losing up to a 20% of its expected first-quarter production. General Motors said earlier this month that it would extend downtime at several production plants due to the shortage and would “reassess in mid-March.” On Wednesday, ahead of the executive order announcement, however, GM CFO Paul Jacobson said the worst of the chip shortage may actually be over already.

In a letter to Biden last week, several industry associations including SIA, the Advanced Medical Technology Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association wrote that the U.S. should incentivize new semiconductor manufacturing plants to be established in the country to compete effectively with other nations that have invested in chip production.

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WATCH: Chip shortage slows production of game consoles, cars and more

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