Why Apple was the only tech stock that went up on Tuesday

Apple stock closed up 3.1% on Tuesday as other stocks tumbled on concerns of the new omicron Covid variant, showing investors see the company as a safe haven during market uncertainty.

Other large-cap tech stocks like Google, Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft closed down for the day amid a broader market selloff. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 651 points, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 1.6% and the S&P 500 was down about 1.9% on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed will discuss speeding up the bond-buying taper during its December meeting.

Needham analyst Laura Martin told CNBC that investors turned to Apple on Tuesday because the company has prodigious cash flow, allowing it to endure any slowdowns in the economy and take advantage of falling prices.

“There’s a flight to quality with companies that you know will weather the storm, not go bankrupt, not have financial distress,” Martin said, noting that other large-cap tech stocks aren’t down as much as smaller firms.

Martin added Apple is positioned to introduce new products to power new growth, including a headset.

“The biggest criticism of Apple for the last five years is no new products. When you look at the product pipeline, lots of excitement there, especially in the press today about how they’re going to introduce augmented reality glasses at the next WWDC in June,” Martin said.

Martin said there are indications that Apple’s current products, especially its iPhone Pro models, are selling well, potentially leading to a big December quarter for the company. Apple said in October it expected record revenue in its fiscal first quarter, over last year’s $111.4 billion in sales, despite supply constraints.

“Lots of really good numbers coming out of retail about how the products are selling. Tablets, especially the high-end iPhones, all of which says they’re going to have high margins and high revenue for the fourth quarter of this year,” Martin said.

Apple uses its cash flow not only to invest in new products but to return capital to shareholders through dividends and buybacks, the latter of which can help keep the stock price stable. And Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said in a note to investors earlier this month that he expects Apple to continue repurchasing shares over the next five years.

“Our analysis suggests that Apple is likely to be able to continue repurchasing ~ 3-4% of its shares per year until the end of 2026 while growing its dividend per share by 10% annually without taking on net debt on its balance sheet,” Sacconaghi said in a Nov. 17 note to investors.

Shares of Apple are up about 25% for the year.

FDA advisory panel narrowly endorses Merck’s oral Covid treatment pill, despite reduced efficacy

Medicine pill is seen with Merck logo and words ‘Molnupiravir’ and ‘COVID-19’ displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on November 5, 2021.

Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto | Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday narrowly endorsed the uPse of Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ oral Covid treatment pill, despite questions about the drug’s effectiveness, safety and whether it would help the virus mutate into even more dangerous variants.

The FDA’s Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee voted 13 to 10 to recommend emergency authorization of molnupiravir, an oral antiviral drug initially hailed as a potential game changer in the battle against Covid. It’s designed to treat adults with mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19 who are at high risk of severe disease. The 800 milligram pill is taken every 12 hours for five days after symptom onset.

The drug needs final authorization from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before it’s available to the public on an emergency basis. The FDA doesn’t have to take the panel’s advice, but it often does.

Merck originally said the drug was more than 50% effective in preventing hospitalizations and death, but a more full set of data presented to the FDA on Tuesday noted the drug is just 30% effective.

The FDA and Merck both recommended against using the drug in kids and pregnant women. Molnupiravir was found to be lethal to embryos in pregnant rats, also causing birth defects and reducing fetal body weight. It also caused other defects that interfered with bone growth in young pups, along with other abnormalities, the data shows.

Molnupiravir works by prompting the virus that causes Covid to mutate and produce errors inhibiting its ability to replicate and spread. However, some doctors and scientists worried that it could also enable the virus to mutate in a way that makes vaccines and treatments less effective.

“Even if the probability is very low, 1 in 10,000 or 100,000, that this drug would induce an escape mutant from which the vaccines we have do not cover, that could be catastrophic for the whole world actually,” Dr. James Hildreth, CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., told the panel.

Nicholas Kartsonis, Merck’s senior vice president of clinical research, said the company does not have data on the chances such a mutation could evolve. However, Kartsonis noted that Merck has not seen an increased rate of unusual changes to the spike protein, which the virus uses to attach to human cells, compared with a placebo group in clinical trials. Hildreth told Kartsonis that it is incumbent on Merck to estimate the likelihood of escape mutants.

“We are exploring the feasibility of using currently available public SARS CoV-2 to sequence databases to monitor for the emergence of these novel variants in the replicase complex as well as the spike proteins,” Kartsonis said.

Patrick Harrington, the FDA’s senior virology reviewer, said its unclear whether changes in the the spike protein associated with molnupiravir could substantially impact the evolution of the virus more broadly.

“For molnupiravir to affect Sars-CoV-2 evolution beyond a treated individual, the variants would also have to be transmissible, and at this time we do not know if this is possible to a significant degree,” Harrington told the panel.

Merck submitted its application in October for the FDA to authorize molnupiravir on an emergency basis. No oral anti-viral medications have been cleared to treat Covid so far. Pfizer is similarly seeking approval for its own oral Covid treatment pill that it said was 89% effective in preventing hospitalization and death when administered with a popular HIV drug.

Merck, in its initial application and presentation to the FDA advisory committee on Tuesday, said the pill was 50% effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization or death in an interim analysis of 762 patients. However, analysis of the full population of about 1,400 participants showed lower efficacy rate of 30%, according to the company.

In a post-interim analysis of 646 participants, hospitalization and deaths were actually higher in the group that took the pill, at 6.2%, compared with those in the placebo group who didn’t take the drug, at 4.2%.

Kartsonis told the FDA committee that the drop in hospitalization and death in the placebo group compared to those who took molnupirivar “doesn’t add up.”

“The second part of the study was after the interim analysis enrolled an older population, enrolled patients with older age and more diabetes,” Kartsonis said. “One would have thought indeed that would be the case —- that you would see more mortality.”

“However, there were also more women in the second part of the study, and that’s been associated with what we can see with less risk, as well as more patients who were antibody positive,” he said.

Participants in the trial were unvaccinated adults who faced a heightened risk of severe Covid because they were older than 60 or had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, serious heart conditions, pulmonary disease and cancer.

Kartsonis told the FDA advisory committee that based on the interim analysis of 762 participants, molnupiravir significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death during the clinical trial, with nine out of 10 deaths occurring in the placebo group, which didn’t receive the medication.

Merck did not identify any safety concerns associated with molnupiravir during the clinical trial, according to Kartsonis. A small number of patients experienced diarrhea, nausea and dizziness, he said.

“Our hospitals currently have more than 50,000 Americans struggling with this disease and as we enter the winter months, another surge is imminent, potentially in the setting of emerging variants of concerns,” Kartsonis said. “We remain in dire need of novel effective well-tolerated and conveniently administered therapies to treat COVID 19” in outpatient settings, he added.

FDA scientists, in a briefing prepared for the committee, said animal studies found that the drug can result in reduced fetal body weight and abnormal bone formation. Merck never intended for pregnant women to use molnupiravir and did not include them in the clinical trial.

Mark Seaton, a research officer with the FDA’s division of pharmacology and toxicology for infectious diseases, told the advisory panel that malformations of the eye, kidney and skeleton in rat fetuses indicate molnupiravir could cause harm to human fetuses if administered to pregnant women. However, the abnormal bone and cartilage formation observed in animals is not thought to be relevant to adult humans, according to Seaton.

Dr. Janet Cragin, a medical officer at the CDC’s birth defects division, said it wouldn’t be ethical to prescribe molnupiravir during pregnancy given the potential side effects, but denying the drug to a pregnant woman suffering from Covid is also problematic.

“I’m not sure you can ethically tell a pregnant woman who has Covi-19 that she can’t have the drug if she decided that’s what she needs,” Cragin said, noting that her views do not represent the CDC.

“Pregnancy itself can be considered a risk factor for progression to severe Covid illness,” she said. “We know that respiratory illnesses increase in severity and can become life threatening as pregnancy progresses and that’s certainly true of Covid.”

Dr. Hildreth, the CEO of Meharry Medical College, was unequivocal in his opposition.

“Do we want to reduce the risk for the mother by 30% of harm, while exposing the embryo and fetus to much higher risk of harm by using this drug? And my answer is no,” Hildreth said. “And there’s no circumstance in which I would advise a pregnant woman to take this drug.”

Robert Heflich, director of the FDA’s genetic and molecular toxicology division, said the risk of molnupiravir altering human genes in a clinical setting is low, given that the drug clearly was not mutagenic during a study in rodents. That study showed no increased mutation frequency in the liver or bone marrow of rodents, according to Merck.

However, the study was conducted as a follow-up to a previous investigation using rodents that was inconclusive about whether molnupiravir is mutagenic. Molnupiravir was found to be mutagenic during in vitro investigations using bacteria and hamster cells.

The data on whether molnupiravir is associated with gene mutation was a source of contention during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some experts and members of the public expressed concern that a single study was the basis for the conclusion about potential human risk. However, FDA experts said they believe the risk of gene mutation is low given molnupiravir’s short five-day treatment period.

9 money moves to make before becoming your own boss

MoMo Productions | Stone | Getty Images

Amid the “Great Resignation” and ongoing pandemic, millions of Americans are quitting their jobs to become their own bosses.

In October, there were about 9.44 million unincorporated self-employed individuals in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since April 2020, the number of such self-employed people has increased by nearly 2 million.

And, this year through October, Americans have applied for more than 4.5 million federal Tax Identification Numbers, needed to register new businesses, according to data from the Census Bureau. That’s already outpaced the roughly 4.3 million applications for new businesses for all of 2020, as well as the 3.5 million filed in 2019.

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Deciding to leave a steady job to freelance or start your own business generally isn’t something you should do without proper planning. Here’s what experts recommend before, during and after transitioning out of a 9-to-5 job.

“If you’re thinking about making the move, I always encourage people do to do it the right way,” said Sheneya Wilson, CPA and founder of Fola Financial in New York.

Before you take the leap

Before striking out on your own, it’s a good idea to first set a business plan for yourself and your new endeavor, according to Kevin Lao, a certified financial planner and founder of Imagine Financial Security in St. Augustine, Florida.

That means writing out in simple language what the goal of your business is, who your audience is and what you’re hoping to charge, he said.

“It’s very hard to be successful if you don’t have a very compelling ‘why,'” said Lao.

You may also want to identify multiple potential income streams for yourself, said Mandi Woodruff-Santos, a personal finance expert and executive producer and co-host of the podcast Brown Ambition. From there, you should also be open to taking on new work or revenue streams as you see fit, she said.  

Once you have a vision of your next steps as a solo entrepreneur, you want to make sure you have finances in place to sustain yourself while you build up business.

The exact amount will depend on your risk tolerance and how quickly you think you can turn a profit, said Lao, adding that when he started his own financial firm, he had 12 months of living expenses and three months of business expenses saved.

Business expenses include things like the cost of establishing an entity such as an LLC if necessary, and paying for equipment and services like bookkeeping software or buying a new computer. You may also need to buy your own health insurance and set up your own plan for retirement savings, benefits you’d generally get through an employer.

One thing that can be helpful is to set an income goal for yourself that can help you pace your work each month and make sure you’re covering your expenses.

If you aren’t quite ready to take the leap, there are other options, such as launching your business as a side-hustle with the hopes of building it up to a full-time income source later.

When you’re just starting out

There are even more things to consider once you have taken the leap and gone solo.

The first is that you need to stay organized with your finances and be clear about what’s a personal expense versus a business one.

“You want to start creating separation between you and your businesses,” Wilson said, adding that the easiest way to do this is generally to have a different bank account and credit or debit card for your business expenses.

Staying organized will help you with proper tax planning, including maximizing deductions, she added. That’s because small business owners typically have one of the highest effective overall tax rates.

“Knowing that, you should be planning before the year’s over how you can minimize tax liabilities,” she said. This includes knowing what to write off as a business expense as well as what other credits and deductions you’re eligible for.

For instance, people who have freelanced or started businesses this year can take advantage of the home office deduction, a major tax break that’s only available to people who run their own companies from home.

To ensure you’re setting everything up correctly, it makes sense to have a few professionals on speed dial. Wilson recommends having an accountant or tax preparer that can help you file your taxes correctly.

She also recommends having a good attorney depending on the type of business you’re launching.

In addition, it is helpful to have the advice of a financial planner who can help you with your own budget and financial goals as you transition into freelance life, said Woodruff-Santos.

Benefits of freelance life

Once you’ve made the decision to go freelance or launch your own business, don’t forget to treat it as any other career move.

“I announced it like people announce that they got engaged or they had a baby,” said Woodruff-Santos, adding it can help drum up potential business in your current network.

She also recommends keeping in touch with a network of other freelancers, small business owners or entrepreneurs who do similar work, in order to have a professional group to lean on.

Omicron fears could shift holiday spending to retail goods, NRF says

A person with a hand full of shopping bags walks by as Black Friday sales begin at The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, Kentucky, November 26, 2021.

Jon Cherry | Reuters

As Americans bought gifts during the peak Thanksgiving shopping weekend, the discovery of the omicron variant made headlines and prompted action by public health officials.

National Retail Federation CEO Matt Shay said Tuesday that the coronavirus strain could shake up spending patterns this holiday season and direct more dollars toward electronics, toys, apparel and other items instead of vacations and movie tickets.

“We know, unfortunately, that when the variants have had a real impact on the economy, the goods side of the economy has actually benefited from that because people change behavior away from the experience side of the economy and spend more time and more dollars engaged in the goods side of the economy,” he said on a call with reporters.

Holiday sales are expected to grow to an all-time high of between $843.4 billion and $859 billion of sales in November and December, which represents growth of 8.5% to 10.5% this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade group reiterated its rosy forecast for the holiday season on Tuesday.

Experience-based gifts — such as travel vouchers, restaurant gift cards and spa days — are expected to make a comeback this year as more Americans feel comfortable getting out again.

About 43% of consumers said they were planning to splurge on experiences and service gifts this holiday season, according to a survey of roughly 1,500 U.S. consumers in August by consulting firm Accenture. The trend was more pronounced among younger generations, with 53% of millennials and 50% of Gen Z saying they were planning to spend on experiences, the survey found.

Shay said the trade group feels confident about consumers’ appetite to spend, despite the new variant. He said the backdrop of the pandemic looks very different this holiday season, since more Americans are fully vaccinated.

“We think there’s a reason to be aware, a reason to follow the kinds of protocols we have been following all along about safe practices and getting vaccinated, but there’s not a reason to panic,” he said.

Goldman Sachs unveils Amazon-backed cloud service for Wall Street trading firms

David Solomon, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs & Co., listens during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 29, 2019.

Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs is getting into the cloud computing business.

The bank is opening up access to its trove of market data and software tools to hedge funds and asset managers in an offering designed with Amazon’s cloud division, CNBC has learned exclusively.

The move, the result of a two-year collaboration with AWS, puts 152-year-old Goldman in the unusual position of being a provider of cloud services for Wall Street, according to executives at the two firms. It’s part of Goldman CEO David Solomon’s push to use technology to better serve clients of the firm’s markets division, a trading juggernaut that has helped drive the firm’s results this year.

“Clients of the firm will get access to our decades of experience and data aggregation that should enable them to enhance their business decisions, both from a speed and efficiency perspective,” Solomon told CNBC last week in a phone interview. “We think that adds to our position as a leader in the marketplace.”

The new service, called GS Financial Cloud for Data with Amazon Web Services, will help asset managers save time by allowing their developers to focus efforts on trades, rather than spending time wrangling data sets and leaning on a patchwork of legacy software to analyze them, the companies said. It will also “lower the barriers to entry” for firms to use advanced quantitative trading techniques, Goldman said.  

The industry is struggling to keep up with the rising technological demands of the latest investment techniques, according to Goldman co-chief information officer Marco Argenti. The last decade has seen the rise of quantitative trading firms, which have soaked up assets while traditional hedge fund managers including John Paulson and Leon Cooperman have closed to outside investors.

A hedge fund client who wanted to chart the correlation between a stock and currency exchange rates, for instance, could take months to assemble and clean the data and perform calculations with it, said Argenti. Instead, by building applications atop data feeds and analytic tools that Goldman itself uses, the analysis can be done in minutes, he said.

“If this existed we would’ve used it, but we had to build it for ourselves because there really is nothing like this in the market,” Argenti said. “All you need to do is assemble the interface and integrate it with your application and then everything else is kind of taken care of for you.”

‘Working backwards’

The product, which was unveiled Tuesday at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, is the latest sign of the unusually close ties between the tech giant and the leading Wall Street firm.

That relationship began more than a decade ago when Goldman began to port over parts of its computing workload to the cloud, according to Adam Selipsky, who rejoined Amazon as head of AWS earlier this year.

It’s been a fruitful relationship: Goldman leaned on AWS to quickly build its Marcus consumer finance business in 2016 and its Apple Card operations three years later. Meanwhile, Goldman extends loans to Amazon merchants and advised Amazon on its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods.

In discussions between the two firms, Goldman was keen to understand how Amazon took computing services it had initially created for itself and turned it into AWS, said Selipsky. (Goldman developers referred to the effort as Project Alexandria, according to the companies.) One technique Amazon taught Goldman was a concept called “working backwards,” in which the tech giant writes a press release and FAQ before starting a project to convince managers of its importance, he said.

“We have a lot of customers who ask us to help them do what Amazon did with AWS,” Selipsky said in a phone interview. “When we started talking about Goldman’s capabilities around data and around analytics in the financial services realm, the ideas just sprang up pretty rapidly about collaborating together.”

Amazon pioneered the cloud computing category, which allows companies to rent computing power and a suite of services instead of operating their own fields of servers. That has allowed companies to speed up software cycles, helping them stay on top of evolving consumer demands. AWS now accounts for the lion’s share of Amazon’s operating profit.

‘Explosively beneficial’

American Airlines, Gap, Moderna and more

An American Airlines plane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Check out the companies making headlines in midday trading Tuesday.

American Airlines, Norwegian Cruise Line — Travel stocks retreated, as investors continued to weigh the risks from the Covid omicron variant. American Airlines shares retreated more than 4%, Norwegian Cruise Line lost more than 6%, Wynn Resorts fell roughly 5%, and Airbnb dipped 4.9%.

Gap, Under Armour — Retail stock were under pressure after Cyber Monday online sales dropped 1.4% from last year, falling for the first time ever, according to Adobe Analytics. However, Adobe believes customers are spreading out their shopping this year and expects the entire holiday season will post record-breaking online sales growth. Gap fell more than 6%, Under Armour retreated about 5%, and Tommy Hilfiger-parent PVH Corp lost more than 4%.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — Regeneron shares fell more than 2% after the company said its Covid-19 antibody drugs could be less effective against the omicron Covid variant. The company said mutations in the variant suggest “there may be reduced neutralization activity of both vaccine-induced and monoclonal antibody conveyed immunity.”

Moderna, Pfizer — Shares of vaccine makers were in focus after Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told The Financial Times he expects existing vaccines to be less effective against the omicron variant. Researchers are still studying the new variant’s reaction to prior immunity, and Oxford University said there is no evidence yet that current vaccines will not protect against severe disease from omicron. Moderna shares fell more than 6%. BioNTech shares fell more than 5%. Pfizer shares gained roughly 2%. Novavax shares added more than 2%.

Dollar Tree — The discount retailer’s stock slid 4.5% after Goldman Sachs downgraded Dollar Tree to neutral from buy. The firm said the company’s operational improvements were priced in, and that Dollar Tree would struggle with foot traffic issues in the year ahead.

Solaredge — The clean energy stock shed 6.3% after Morgan Stanley downgraded it to equal-weight. The investment firm said in a note to clients that Solaredge’s shares may be fully valued after a recent hot streak.

Meta Platforms — Facebook-parent Meta’s shares fell more than 3% after the U.K. competition watchdog said the company should sell the GIF-sharing platform Giphy, which Facebook acquired last year. The regulator said the deal could harm social media users and U.K. advertisers. Meta has said it disagrees with the decision is considering an appeal.

Beyond Meat, Oatly — Shares of Beyond Meat and Oatly retreated roughly than 6% and 7%, respectively, after HSBC initiated coverage of the protein stocks at a reduce rating. “Given the prospect of heightened competition, the growth we forecast will be insufficient for many participants to achieve their lofty growth ambitions,” the firm said.

Twitter, Square — Shares of Twitter and Square retreated more than 5% and 2%, respectively. The moves come a day after Jack Dorsey announced he is stepping down as CEO of Twitter while staying on as chief executive at Square. Bank of America upgraded Square to neutral from underperform and reiterate a buy rating for Twitter.

— CNBC’s Jesse Pound and Tanaya Macheel contributed reporting

Powell says Fed will discuss speeding up bond-buying taper at December meeting

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies before a Senate Banking Committee hybrid hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021.

Elizabeth Franz | Reuters

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated Tuesday that the central bank could step up the removal of its efforts to boost the economy.

In an appearance before a Senate committee, the Fed chief said he thinks reducing the pace of monthly bond buys can move quicker than the $15 billion a month schedule announced earlier this month.

Powell said he expects the issue to be discussed at the December meeting.

“At this point, the economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are higher, and it is therefore appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases … perhaps a few months sooner,” he said. “I expect that we will discuss that at our upcoming meeting.”

Stocks fell following Powell’s comments, while government bond yields rose.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy including interest rates and the Fed’s efforts to boost activity through bond purchases, said following its November meeting that the pace would be cut by $15 billion a month — $10 billion in Treasurys and $5 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

However, the post-meeting statement indicated that would be the case for November and December but noted it “is prepared to adjust the pace of purchases if warranted by changes in the economic outlook.”

Minutes from the meeting indicated that committee members were prepared not only to cut the asset purchases but also to start raising interest rates if inflation persists.

The Fed had been buying at least $120 billion a month, a figure that included $80 billion in Treasurys and $40 billion in MBS.

Since the November FOMC meeting, additional data points have show inflation running at its highest pace in more than 30 years.

During Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Powell faced multiple questions about inflation and what policy adjustments that Fed was considering to deal with the issue.

Fed officials long have maintained that inflation is “transitory,” a word Powell defines as not leaving a lasting mark on the economy. The word appeared in the post-meeting statement, though the chairman said it’s probably not useful anymore.

“The word transitory has different meanings for different people. To many it carries a sense of short-lived. We tend to use it to mean that it won’t leave a permanent mark in the form of higher inflation,” Powell said. “I think it’s probably a good time to retire that word and try to explain more clearly what we mean.”

Powell vowed that the Fed would be vigilant in controlling inflation.

“You’ve seen our policy adapt and you’ll see it continue to adapt. We’ll use our tools to make sure that higher inflation does not become entrenched,” he said.

Regeneron says its Covid drug could be less effective against omicron

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Leonard Schleifer on Tuesday said that the company’s Covid-19 treatment may be less effective against the heavily mutated omicron variant of the virus.

Regeneron’s Covid treatment is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies administered in a hospital or clinic intravenously to treat patients at risk of developing a severe case of Covid. The Food and Drug Administration approved it for emergency use last year.

“Our cocktail, certainly one of the antibodies, should take a hit, the other one, maybe less,” Schleifer told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday. “We started with very potent antibodies, so we have to look at how much the hit is, but more importantly, we have to get ready for the next one,” he said. 

Regeneron, in a statement earlier Monday, said the mutations present in the omicron variant “indicate that there may be reduced neutralization activity of both vaccine-induced and monoclonal antibody conveyed immunity,” including the company’s antibody cocktail.

The company pointed out, however, that there isn’t yet any data directly testing the impact of omicron on vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.

Schleifer said the antibody cocktail remains very effective against delta, the predominant variant in the U.S. He said Regeneron has started a clinical trial on an antibody that looks promising. 

“Just like vaccines are going to have to adapt, we’re probably going to constantly have to adapt our monoclonals and we have a large repertoire of them, and then we’re going to have to keep cycling them,” Schleifer said. 

The omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 has more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, which is the mechanism the virus uses to bind to human cells. Some of the mutations are associated with higher transmission and lower antibody protection, according to the World Health Organization. 

While omicron is believed to be more infectious than past variants, its exact impact on the strength of vaccines is unclear. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Monday that vaccines could be less effective against omicron, but more data is needed. 

The World Health Organization and scientists have also said it could take weeks to understand whether omicron is likely to cause severe illness or escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines.

Vaccine makers are already preparing for a situation where their current vaccines are less effective against the new variant, with several companies announcing on Monday that they had begun work on vaccines tailored for omicron.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Inflation euro zone November 2021

A sign showing entry only for “2G”, the term in German for people who are either vaccinated against or recovered from the coronavirus.

Jens Schlueter | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The euro zone’s inflation rate has risen to a record high in November, preliminary data showed Tuesday, prompting further questions about what the European Central Bank will do next with its monetary policy.

Headline inflation came in at 4.9% for the month, compared to the same month last year. This was above a consensus forecast of 4.5% from Reuters and was higher than October’s 4.1%. The figure was the highest on record in the 25 years that the data has been compiled.

Higher energy prices contributed the most to the latest inflation reading. According to Europe’s statistic office, Eurostat, energy is on track for its highest annual price rise in November at 27.4%, from 23.7% in October.

The data comes at a time when policymakers are waiting for more data on a new Covid-19 variant, omicron, which was reported for the first time last week in southern Africa.

The travel restrictions implemented in the wake of the new variant are raising concerns about how economies could suffer. Experts argue that societies are better equipped to deal with the virus now compared to the first Covid lockdowns, but market players have been on edge with the prospect of further restrictions.


ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos said last week that the central bank still plans to end its emergency bond purchases program in March. However, market players want to know how the central bank will be adjusting its other tools.

“The Omicron variant has increased the level of uncertainty even further but for now we suspect that it will have a fairly small impact on inflation,” Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said in an emailed note to clients.

On the other hand, Rupert Thompson, chief investment officer at wealth manager Kingswood, said the latest figures make it more likely that the ECB will have to reduce monetary stimulus.

“Euro zone inflation now looks set to remain well above the ECB’s 2% target for much of next year and these numbers will make it all the harder for the central bank to justify continuing its QE [quantitative easing] program and holding off on any rate rise before 2023,” he said.

In addition, Charles Hepworth, investment director at GAM Investments, said: “It may be wishful thinking on the part of ECB President Lagarde when she declares that price pressures won’t run out of control – they already are and it’s difficult to follow the argument that it will abate soon.”

Egyptian gas may flow to Lebanon in a few months: U.S. energy envoy

A worker uses a mobile phone torchlight to illuminate his cutting space at the fish market, where portable emergency lighting runs due to a power cut, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.

Francesca Volpi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Natural gas from Egypt may start flowing to Lebanon within two or three months, and hopefully “long before” the country’s elections in 2022, according to Amos Hochstein, the U.S. State Department’s senior advisor for global energy security.

The governments of four countries in September reached an agreement to pipe gas from Egypt, through Jordan and Syria, to ease the power crisis in Lebanon.

At the time, Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla said the plan, which is backed by the U.S., would be put into action at the “earliest opportunity,” Reuters reported.

Hochstein said there is still work to be done before the pipeline is ready, but said he is confident that the plan, as well as an effort to interconnect Jordan and Lebanon’s power grids, will succeed.

“Every week that goes by, I am more optimistic that we’re going to be in a position to have the gas flowing, the energy interconnected in the coming couple of two, three months,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Monday.

Asked if that could happen before Lebanon’s elections, which are scheduled to take place in March 2022, he said he is “quite hopeful [that] at least the gas deal would work, and would have gas flowing long before that.”

Lebanon’s power situation