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Traders try to focus on earnings but trade war talk muddles message

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The markets were modestly weak all morning on Friday, but took another leg down midday. Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell gave a speech in Chicago, but there was little new information or commentary. It was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin‘s interview on CNBC that got traders talking.

Traders are eager to change the conversation from trade wars and tariffs to the economy and earnings, but it’s hard to do when President Donald Trump keeps upping the ante with China, as he did Thursday night, when he said he was exploring an additional $100 billion in tariffs.

Traders have been trying to convince themselves that Trump’s belligerent tone is a negotiating tactic and that ultimately any damage from trade wars will be modest. But the president seems to be doubling down and less concerned about markets.

Mnuchin appeared on CNBC around midday Friday and acknowledged there was a potential for a trade war, though it was not the intended outcome.

Regardless, the markets drooped after that interview, with the S&P 500 dropping more than 30 points in short order. Traders have been eager to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, but that is fading now. The stakes are going up, and there is a rising possibility of real impact to the GDP and the economy.

There is considerable collateral damage, with industrial and material stocks down notably. Traders are now regularly complaining that there is no visibility and the market is becoming uninvestible.

What comes next? Thankfully, earnings will start next week, and they will be outstanding, with expectations for the best overall earnings growth in seven years — about 18 percent for the S&P 500.

Past that, traders can only hope that negotiations with China start sooner rather than later. Some are openly hoping that the President’s trade representatives could talk a lot less, since conflicting voices are clearly causing confusion.

On Wednesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that the president was a free trade guy and implied this was all a negotiation. The Dow Jones industrial average rallied more than 700 points.

On Friday, Mnuchin came on CNBC and acknowledged the potential for a trade war. The Dow dropped 700 points before ending off of those lows, down 572 points.

Little wonder that traders’ heads are spinning.

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U.S. and China could cooperate to end crisis in Myanmar

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Protesters demonstrate against the military coup in Yangon, and demanded the release of detained State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi.

Theint Mon Soe | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

U.S.-China relations may be off to a rough start under President Joe Biden, but the two countries could find common ground to work together to end the violence in Myanmar.

Scot Marciel, former U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, said both the U.S. and China wouldn’t want to see escalating crisis in the Southeast Asian country.

A military coup on Feb. 1 triggered mass protests across Myanmar and security forces have tried to suppress the demonstrations through violent tactics. The crackdown has killed 780 people so far, while over 3,800 people are still detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group.

“My sense would be that this coup and certainly the turmoil and violence in Myanmar, I don’t see how it’s in China’s interest … my sense is China wants stability, for a whole host of reasons, so my guess is they’re not thrilled with this, but they’re being cautious,” Marciel said Friday, during a webinar organized by Australian think tank Lowy Institute.  

“So, there may be some shared interests between United States and China in this, in certainly ending the violence and the instability,” said Marciel, who was U.S. ambassador to Myanmar from 2016 to 2020.

The U.S. and other Western powers have strongly condemned the coup and imposed sanctions to pressure the military. Meanwhile, China’s response has been more muted with Beijing emphasizing the importance of stability.

China is a major investor in Myanmar and shares a border with the Southeast Asian country. Some analysts have said that China’s relatively subdued response could hurt its own interests.

Crisis not likely to resolve soon

“ASEAN just hopes that whatever plan we’re going to have on the ground in Myanmar, that the U.S. and China can also help to contribute to that plan, for example humanitarian assistance,” said Sukma, who is a former Indonesian diplomat.

Sukma said he’s “quite frustrated” that ASEAN has yet to appoint the special envoy to Myanmar two weeks after the statement. He said the regional grouping should “press ahead” with its plan so that it can start talking with the different parties with Myanmar.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” Monday that it is up to the Myanmar military to decide how and when ASEAN can play a role.

Balakrishnan reiterated that the military must stop the violence and release political detainees — which include Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders. He said only then can “honest direct negotiations” between the army and civilian leaders proceed.

“Without this national conversation and reconciliation, you’re not going to see any progress in Myanmar. Indeed the signs of a potential civil war are there,” said the minister.

Marciel said he hopes the initiatives by the group can make “a little bit of headway” in Myanmar. But it’s currently difficult to see the crisis resolving any time soon, and that likely means more suffering among the people, he added.

“It’s really impossible to predict. I would say the most likely scenario over the next several months — which is as far as I can go — is sadly probably more of the same,” he said. “I don’t see the (military) giving in, I certainly don’t see the people accepting this coup.”

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Fauci says face masks could become seasonal after Covid pandemic

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases testifies at the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on the Capitol Hill in Washington, April 15, 2021.

Susan Walsh | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON — White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that people may decide to wear masks during certain seasons when respiratory illnesses are more prevalent.

“I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks, clearly if you look at the data it diminishes respiratory diseases, we’ve had practically a non-existent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominately against Covid-19,” Fauci said during an interview on NBC Sunday program “Meet the Press.”

“So it is conceivable that as we go on a year or two or more from now that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory borne viruses like the flu, people might actually elect to wear masks to diminish the likelihood that you’ll spread these respiratory borne diseases,” he added.

Fauci’s comments come less than a month after the Biden administration announced a relaxation of federal public health guidance on wearing masks outdoors.

Visitors walk past a sign requiring face masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during Memorial Day weekend at Bethany Beach, Delaware, May 24, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that fully vaccinated people can exercise and attend small gatherings outside without wearing a face mask. The agency still recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask outdoors when in crowded areas.

“We are at the point right now where we can and start lifting these ordinances and allowing people to resume normal activity. Certainly, outdoors, we should not be putting limits on gatherings anymore and we should be encouraging people to go outside,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS Sunday program “Face the Nation.”

Gottlieb added that indoor public health measures should also be relaxed in states where coronavirus infections are low and vaccination rates are high.

“Covid won’t disappear, we are going to have to learn to live with it but the risks have substantially reduced as a result of vaccination and as a result of immunity that people have acquired through prior infection,” Gottlieb said.

As of Saturday, more than 45% of the U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, including 33.9% who have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead for remdesivir. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”

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SpaceX accepts Dogecoin payment for DOGE-1 mission to the moon

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by U.S. President Donald Trump at NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | Getty Images

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch the “DOGE-1 Mission to the Moon” in the first quarter of 2022, with the company accepting the meme-inspired cryptocurrency as full payment for the lunar payload.

Geometric Energy Corporation announced the dogecoin-funded mission on Sunday, which SpaceX’s communications team confirmed in an email to reporters. The mission’s financial value was not disclosed.

DOGE-1 will fly a 40 kilogram cube satellite as a payload on a Falcon 9 rocket, with Geometric Energy Corporation saying its payload “will obtain lunar-spatial intelligence from sensors and cameras on-board with integrated communications and computational systems.”

SpaceX vice president of commercial sales Tom Ochinero said in a statement that DOGE-1 “will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce.”

“We’re excited to launch DOGE-1 to the Moon!” Ochinero said.

A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Transporter-1 mission in January 2021.

SpaceX

Musk previously announced the company’s plans, albeit in a tweet on April Fool’s Day.

“SpaceX is going to put a literal Dogecoin on the literal moon,” Musk wrote.

The DOGE-1 mission comes after Musk, the self-proclaimed “Dogefather,” made his debut as host of “Saturday Night Live.” The price of dogecoin plunged during his appearance, falling below 50 cents, despite his references to the cryptocurrency.

For SpaceX, the announcement also comes on the day the company set a new record for its Falcon 9 series of rockets. After launching another batch of Starlink satellites into orbit, SpaceX landed the Falcon 9 rocket’s booster for a 10th time — a benchmark Musk has previously described as key in the company’s progress of reusing its rockets.

“It’s designed to do 10 or more flights with no refurbishment between each flight,” Musk told reporters in May 2018.

“We believe that the [Falcon 9] boosters are capable of on the order of at least 100 flights before being retired. Maybe more.”

A Falcon 9 rocket booster lands after launching the Sentinel-6 mission.

SpaceX

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