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Trump says U.S. could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine in October, contradicting CDC’s timeline

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President Donald Trump said the U.S. government could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October, a much more optimistic estimate than from his own health officials. 

“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know and I think much closer than I think most people want to say,” Trump said during a White House press briefing Wednesday. “We think we can start some time in October. So as soon as it’s announced we’ll be able to start. That will be from mid-October on. It may be a little bit later than that.”

He said the U.S. has manufactured all of the necessary supplies and health officials will be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year.  The vaccine could be distributed starting in October or November, but he said “I don’t think it’s going to be too much later than that.”

Trump’s remark come as infectious disease experts and scientists in recent weeks have said they have concerns that the White House may be pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s been adequately tested. There are currently no approved vaccines and at least three drugmakers expect to know if their potential vaccines work by the end of the year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said it’s “conceivable” but unlikely the U.S. will have a safe and effective vaccine by October. 

Whichever vaccine is authorized by the FDA, it will likely be in short supply once it’s cleared for public distribution, medical experts warn. The vaccine will likely require two doses at varying intervals, and states still face logistical challenges such as setting up distribution sites and acquiring enough needles, syringes and bottles needed for immunizations.

Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 free to all Americans. In the plan, the CDC said it anticipates a coronavirus vaccine will initially be granted an emergency use authorization before a full formal approval.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers at a Senate hearing he expects vaccinations to begin in November or December, but in limited quantities with those most in need getting the first doses, such as health-care workers. He said it will take about “six to nine months” to get the entire American public vaccinated.

Trump said Redfield was mistaken when he said the vaccine wouldn’t be widely available to the general public until next summer or early fall.

“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information and I called him and he didn’t tell me that and I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly,” Trump said. “We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced and it could be announced in October, it could be announced a little bit after October but once we go we’re ready.”

Trump said he got the “impression” Redfield “didn’t realize” what he said. 

“I didn’t see him say it, but if that’s what he said then it’s a mistake because … we’re ready to distribute immediately to a vast section of our country and then beyond because we want to help other countries also but we’re ready to distribute immediately,” Trump said.

The CDC did not immediately respond to request for comment on Trump’s remark. 

Trump also said he thinks drugmakers are having “tremendous success” with vaccines. 

“The results will be early and strong. The safety has to be 100% and we’re going to insist on that and the companies are going to insist on that as well,” he said.

When larger quantities of vaccine become available, the CDC said, there will be two simultaneous objectives: to provide widespread access to vaccination and to ensure high uptake in target populations, particularly those who are at high risk of death or complications from Covid-19.

“The CDC’s goal is to have enough Covid-19 vaccine for all in the United States who wish to be vaccinated,” Redfield said.

Even if a vaccine is ready to be distributed by the end of the year, numerous polls now suggest Americans would be hesitant to get one.

Just 42% of Americans say they would want a vaccine, according to a poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released this month, short the 60% to 80% of the population epidemiologists say is needed to achieve so-called herd immunity and suppress the virus.

CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.

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South Africa’s rand will rally into year-end with risks priced in

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Waldo Swiegers | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The South African rand will see a significant appreciation against the U.S. dollar by the end of the year, as much of the macroeconomic risk facing the country is already priced in, according to Absa CIB Head of Currency Strategy Mike Keenan.

The currency plummeted in late March as the coronavirus began to spread throughout the world, sending riskier markets into an historic tailspin. Despite losing around 5% to the rand over the past three months, the U.S. dollar is still up by more than 16.5% against Africa’s most liquid currency since the turn of the year. As of Wednesday afternoon, the rand was changing hands at around 16.3285 to the dollar.

Compounding the impact of the crisis on the rand, beyond the natural expectations of a fall in emerging market currencies in a global economic downturn, were a host of pre-existing macroeconomic factors. Already blighted by low growth and rising debt, Moody’s in March downgraded the country’s last investment-grade sovereign credit rating to “junk.”

Keenan suggested that it was this “perfect storm” of factors that drove the currency up to 19.35 to the dollar in March.

“We believe a lot of that risk is now priced into the currency and even though things like low growth and the fiscal situation are not going to turn around overnight, I think the global environment is becoming increasingly more supportive of the rand,” he said, highlighting dollar weakness and a recovery for commodity prices as reinforcement for the export-driven currency.

“Added to that, we think the SARB (South African Reserve Bank) is close to the end of its cutting cycle, so we think the rand goes to 15.75 by the end of the year because all of the bad news is priced in, and we think we are in the recovery phase,” he added.

Devil in the data detail

South African GDP (gross domestic product) contracted by an annualized 51% in the second quarter, with the beginnings of a rebound anticipated in the third quarter as lockdown measures continue to ease. Keenan anticipates that some sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, will take longer to return to pre-Covid levels, while others such as property have shown signs of pent-up demand coming through in light of lockdowns being lifted.

“There is going to be winners and losers from this and it is going to be critical in the third quarter numbers to see how the various components play out,” he said.

“We are going to have to really scrutinize the detail of the data rather than just the headline figure, to see what sectors are coming back and which sectors are still under a lot of pressure, and then taking it a step further to see how much these various sectors employ.”

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 16: Finance minister, Tito Mboweni briefs the media on the details of government interventions in various sectors of the departmental portfolios on COVID-19 at DIRCO Media Centre.

Phill Magakoe/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Unemployment remained high in South Africa even before the pandemic, and Keenan suggested that signs of a recovery in mass employment sectors such as manufacturing and mining would be key.

However, these sectors also face struggles predating Covid-19, with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni seeking to overcome opposition within the ruling ANC on much touted reform of state-owned enterprises, and the government embroiled in a legal battle with trade unions over public sector wage freezes in order to secure more fiscal space.

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Fed picks its side in inflation debate and sends market a message — no rate hikes for years

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Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, Jan. 29, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Fed does not expect to see inflation pick up for years, and it is willing to keep rates at zero even after it does.

Stocks initially surged after the Fed released its post-meeting statement and its latest economic forecast, showing it will keep interest rates at zero at least through 2023, as expected. Stocks gave up their gains as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell briefed the media, and described the Fed’s guidance as strong and “powerful.” 

“He’s the great and powerful Oz. Investors got duped. They thought enhanced forward guidance meant something, but when they peeked behind the curtain they realized the Fed didn’t do anything, and the market rolled over,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

Treasury yields moved slightly higher after Powell said the Fed plans to keep its asset purchases at current levels for now. Some bond market pros have been expecting the Fed to increase Treasury purchases, and Powell did not commit to that. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 0.695%.

“We’re going to continue to monitor developments, and we’re prepared to adjust our plans as appropriate,” Powell said.

But it was the Fed’s guidance that markets found dovish. In the Fed’s latest projections, core inflation is expected to stay low and not reach the Fed’s 2% target until 2023. At the same time, the job market is expected to improve to the point where unemployment is at 4% in 2023, below the longer run rate of 4.1%.

“This is dovish – lower rates for longer, higher equities, weaker dollar,” said Jon Hill, senior fixed income strategist at BMO. “The Fed is saying we’re not hiking in 2023, maybe in 2024 … What they’re saying is these are our goals. We expect to have just barely met them and even then, they’re not raising rates.”

The Fed last month announced a change to its policy, where it will now let inflation run above its target for some time before it moves to raise rates. But in the central tendency of Fed forecasts, the Fed sees core inflation running below 2% through 2022. It expects core PCE inflation at 1.3% to 1.5% this year, and 1.6% to 1.8% next year. The pace reaches 1.9% to 2% by 2023.

 But AB economist Eric Winograd said Powell may have undercut the dovish message he was sending.

“He noted that targeting an inflation overshoot for ‘some time’ as the statement says, means that they are not targeting a ‘sustained’ overshoot. So how long is ‘some time’ if it isn’t sustained?'” Winograd said. “That imprecision is a problem that the committee is going to have to solve to reap the full benefits of the framework shift. It’s not a coincidence that the stock market, which had been in positive territory, flipped negative after the chair’s comments.”

Powell said the Fed expects inflation to ultimately improve. 

“That’s very strong forward guidance, and we think that will be durable guidance that will provide significant support for the economy,” he said.

While some Wall Street strategists and investors believe inflation could become a problem, the Fed has said it is more concerned about disinflation.

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EU’s von der Leyen wants 30% of the fiscal stimulus to be raised via green bonds

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