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Doctor warns Southern states vulnerable to Delta variant this summer

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Dr. Peter Hotez warned that Southern U.S. states could feel the impact of the highly transmissible Delta Covid variant as early as this summer, due in part to low vaccination rates. 

“I’m really holding my breath about the South and what happens over the summer,” said Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Here in the South, particularly in Louisiana, Mississippi, we’re seeing really low vaccination rates. And less than 10% of adolescents are vaccinated in many of these southern states, so we have a real vulnerability here,” Hotez said.

A new study in the U.K. found Pfizer’s vaccine is 88% effective against the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India.

Vaccination rates vary across the U.S.: More than 50% of the population in many Northeastern states is now fully vaccinated, compared with just around 30% of the population in many Southeastern states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, stressed the importance of vaccines to protect against the Delta variant, which he said accounts for more than 6% of the U.S. coronavirus infections that scientists have genetically sequenced.

Hotez also told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that he’s still recommending Covid vaccinations to adolescents, despite CDC warnings over a higher-than-expected number of cases of heart inflammation in 16- to 24-year-olds.

“I’m pretty convinced that the possibility of severe Covid-19 from this new Delta variant is a far bigger concern, so I’m strongly recommending for adolescents to get their two doses of the vaccine,” Hotez said.

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Nifty and Sensex gain ahead of RBI meeting

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A security guard walks past the National Stock Exchange of India building in Mumbai, India.

Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Indian shares hit a record high on Wednesday as investors remained upbeat in the middle of corporate earnings season and ahead of the central bank’s policy meeting.

The Nifty 50 index rose 0.79% to 16,258.05, led by gains in financial services index which was up 2.44%. Earlier the benchmark reached a session high of 16,290.20.

On Tuesday, the Nifty 50, which represents the weighted average of 50 of the largest Indian companies on the National Stock Exchange, closed above the 16,000 level for the first time.

Meanwhile, the S&P Sensex was up 0.79% at 54,247.64 on Wednesday, retreating from a session high of 54,440.80.

Shares of Indian banks climbed: HDFC rose 2.6%, Axis Bank was up 1.8% and ICICI added 3.2%.

State Bank of India shares, however, declined 0.4%. India’s largest public lender is due to report earnings for the three months ending June on Wednesday.

RBI in focus

Indian markets have held up comparatively well despite the economy’s struggles since last year to get growth back on track — progress was delayed by a devastating Covid-19 second wave this year.

Investors are also looking ahead to the decision by the Reserve Bank of India, which begins its three-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday. The central bank is expected to leave interest rates unchanged.

“The RBI MPC is unlikely to rock the (policy) boat in August, opting to keep the repo rate at 4% and the policy corridor unchanged,” said Radhika Rao from Singapore’s DBS Group in a note last week.

“Forward guidance will favour a continuation of the accommodative policy stance to guard against growth risks, especially the third Covid wave,” she said. “The accompanying commentary will heed inflation risks through close monitoring and refrain from tweaking the policy levers for now.”

India’s retail inflation numbers for May and June came in above the RBI’s inflation target range of 2% to 6%.

India’s growing retail investors

The resilience of India’s stock markets has seen an influx of retail investors, despite the pandemic-led struggles in the economy.

Retail participation likely grew in part due to a low interest rate environment. The RBI has also introduced measures to inject more liquidity into the system to help the economy recover.

The National Stock Exchange of India, which operates the Nifty 50 index, added almost 15 million new investors to the markets over the last 15 months, according to its CEO Vikram Limaye.

“Retail participation in Indian equity markets has been a very important component — almost 50% of the market activity is non-institutional, non-proprietary. It largely covers retail landscape,” he said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday.

NSE data showed that for the fiscal year just ended — from April 2020 to March 2021 — 45% of participation in capital markets at the stock exchange came from individual investors.

“This is a good trend because we want retail participation in markets to improve and the penetration levels are still low, and have a long way to go,” Limaye said.

He added that the exchange is taking steps to improve investor education so that people are aware of the downside risks of retail investment and can invest based on their knowledge and risk appetite.

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Commerzbank earnings q2 2021

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The Commerzbank AG logo sits on an illuminated sign outside a bank branch as the bank’s headquarters stand beyond at dusk in Frankfurt, Germany, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2017. 

Alex Kraus | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — Commerzbank on Wednesday reported a net second-quarter loss due to restructuring costs and an exceptional write-off to an outsourcing project.

The German lender saw a net loss of 527 million euros ($625.7 million) in the three months through to the end of June, roughly in line with analyst expectations of a net loss of 504 million euros.

This was after booking restructuring expenses of 511 million euros and a write-off for ending an outsourcing project of 200 million euros.

“We have kept our Common Equity Tier 1 ratio stable despite the high one-time write-off and restructuring expenses,” Bettina Orlopp, chief financial officer of Commerzbank said in a statement.

“This again proves that we have a very strong basis for the transformation, and it demonstrates that we are also able to deal with exceptional charges on our way to a sustainably profitable future.”

The German bank’s CET1 ratio, a measure of bank solvency, stood at 13.4% at the end of the quarter.

Other highlights of the quarter:

  • Revenues reached 1.86 billion euros, an 18.1% drop from a year ago.
  • Operating expenses stood at 1.7 billion euros, versus 1.53 billion a year ago.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Wednesday, Orlopp said: “On the customer side we are satisfied, if you look at the numbers net commission income is 7% up year-on-year, so that’s a good result.”

She also said that the bank is aiming to achieve an operating profit this year, despite the latest results.

“We are targeting definitely an operating profit, I think the whole question is what happens with net income for the year – that’s tougher to predict,” Orlopp said.

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Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin will allow confidence vote in parliament

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unveils his new cabinet members at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya on March 9, 2020.

Mohd Rasfan | AFP | Getty Images

Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Wednesday he will put himself through a vote of confidence when parliament reconvenes in September to prove the legitimacy of his leadership and government.

The Malaysian parliament has never voted on a confidence motion on a prime minister.

Muhyiddin, who came to power in March last year, has governed with a razor-thin majority in the 222-seat parliament. Since becoming prime minister, Muhyiddin has sought to avoid parliamentary votes that his political opponents could use as a proxy to a no-confidence vote against his leadership.

The prime minister has in the past week faced increasing pressure — including from his allies — to step down. That came after the Malaysian king issued a rare public rebuke of the government’s move to revoke emergency laws without the palace’s approval, as required by the constitution.  

Malaysia’s king is a constitutional monarch and is revered by the country’s multi-ethnic population.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Muhyiddin said he was informed by the king that eight members of parliament have withdrawn their support for the government.

But Muhyiddin claimed he still commanded majority support in parliament, and proposed to prove his legitimacy as the country’s leader through a vote of confidence next month. Muhyiddin said the king accepted his proposal.

Malaysia has plunged into a political crisis since the sudden resignation of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in February last year. The latest political tussle has come as the country is battling its worst Covid-19 outbreak.

Daily new reported Covid infections in the Southeast Asian country rose above the 10,000-mark for the first time in mid-July — and have stayed there since, despite lockdown measures and a state of emergency to control the virus spread.

Malaysia’s health ministry said Tuesday that Covid cases are estimated to remain around 17,000 a day. It projected that daily infections would reach a peak in mid-September, before falling to around 1,000 cases per day in October.

The country has vaccinated around 22% of its population, the health ministry said.

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