The price of lumber has already bottomed after a sharp sell-off and should stabilize around current levels in the coming weeks, according to Ed Egilinsky, managing director and head of alternative assets at Direxion.
Lumber futures traded slightly lower around $530 per thousand board on Monday, and sit nearly 70% below a record high of $1,711 reached in May. Prior to that record, lumber prices had skyrocketed more than 500% during the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic amid supply-chain disruptions and accelerating homebuilder growth.
Egilinsky said he sees the recently tested $500 level as a support level for the commodity, even though it’s still elevated relative to pre-pandemic pricing.
“I think it’ll stabilize here relative to the downtrend that it’s seen pretty much since the middle of July,” he told Insider.
Egilinsky laid out three specific drivers he sees underpinning lumber in the coming weeks. These in confluence should significantly curtail the supply of lumber and push prices higher, he said.
First is the tightening labor market. Egilinsky said this is the reason why fewer mills are in operation.
His assertion was supported by new data that showed job openings in the US soaring to a record 10.1 million in June, which exceeded the number of available workers for the first time since the pandemic.
Second is the raging wildfires.
“Fewer mills are in operation due to the wildfires,” he said, adding some of the impacts of these remain unforeseen.
These fires, for instance, have already affected major players, such as Canfor, one of the largest lumber producers in the US. The company on July 20 announced cutting back output at its mills in British Columbia.
Third is the emerging Delta variant.
Egilinsky said the threat of the new strain might risk the shut down of sawmills, disrupting yet again a supply chain that is just about to bounce back.
“[Sawmills] may need to be shut down for any period of time,” he told Insider.
Elite colleges are throwing money and incentives at a very large problem: overcrowded dorms.
Packed with students returning from studying remotely and incoming students who took a gap year during the pandemic, universities are running out of housing for the Fall 2021 semester, Bloomberg’s Maria Heeter reported. It’s a particular problem, she wrote, for smaller, elite schools that pride themselves on their community and intimate experience.
From Middlebury to Dartmouth, top-shelf colleges are pulling out all the stops in search of a solution, offering incentives like ski passes or $5,000 to live off campus while rethinking dorms’ structures and potential additions, according to Heeter.
New undergraduate enrollment plunged by 16% last fall, and by 3.5% this past spring. Many incoming freshman for the 2020-2021 school year chose to defer their admission, taking a year off in hopes of beginning college on a more normal note the following year. Some didn’t have much of a choice – international students faced ever-changing travel restrictions, with some not allowed to enter the US.
“The reality is that there’s going to be fewer enrollments and fewer graduates, and it’s going to take time to get that back on track,” Luke Skurman, CEO and founder of Niche, told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan last spring. He said students who deferred acceptance, students who took time off, and future admitted students could create a “much larger than usual” enrollment in fall 2021.
An uncertain Fall 2021 semester
Skurman’s prediction was spot on.
Harvard is expecting its largest freshman class in 80 years and Pomona College in California is anticipating its biggest freshman class ever, Heeter reported. Even larger colleges are welcoming record-setting class sizes: Purdue University, Indiana University Bloomington, and University of South Florida have all admitted their largest freshman classes ever for this fall.
The surge in applications has made it harder for some students to land a spot at elite colleges, which have seen acceptance rates hit a “record low,” Insider’s BreAnna Grant reported.
The overall enrollment uptick college-wide indicates that incoming freshmen were preparing for a more normal semester as colleges planned to reopen their campuses come fall. But the start of school comes at a time when the highly contagious Delta variant is running rampant across the US, which is creating another wave of uncertainty in regards to student life.
“The Delta variant is the wild card all of higher ed is watching now,” Laurie Leshin, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and leader of the Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group, told the Boston Globe. “University COVID response teams across the state are actively tracking and planning for a variety of scenarios.”
Colleges have been employing a variety of safety strategies, the Boston Globe reported, from mandating vaccines and wearing masks indoors to staggering move-ins and limiting outside visitors in dorms. It seems then that incentivizing students to live off-campus may not just solve a logistical problem, but also help create a safer environment.
Oil prices slumped on Monday as investors fretted that the continued rise in cases of Delta-variant coronavirus would knock the global economic recovery and reduce demand for energy.
Brent crude oil was down 4.17% to $67.75 a barrel in European trading, falling to its lowest level in three weeks. WTI crude was 4.44% lower at $65.25 a barrel, having slipped as much as 4.5%.
The Delta coronavirus variant is spreading rapidly around the world, driving up COVID case numbers in the US, Europe and even China.
In the US, the seven-day average of cases was 110,360 on Sunday, up from 56,987 two weeks earlier, according to New York Times data.
“The COVID-19 comeback led by the rapidly-spreading Delta variant continues to raise concerns about the short-term outlook,” said Steen Jakobsen, chief investment officer at Saxo Bank.
Oil prices have rebounded sharply in 2021 as economies have reopened, and the OPEC-plus group of oil-producing countries has limited supply. Brent crude climbed from around $50 at the start of the year to above $77 in July.
But investors have started to worry that the Delta variant will weigh on the global economy as countries reintroduce coronavirus curbs and continue to limit international travel.
Goldman Sachs on Monday downgraded its forecast for Chinese GDP growth for 2021 from 8.6% to 8.3%, citing Delta variant restrictions in the country.
Brent crude declined around 7% over the previous week, in its worst week since October, but the selling intensified on Monday.
GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana on Sunday said that he disagrees with an order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that bans local school districts from implementing mask mandates.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cassidy told host Dana Bash that his viewpoint differs than that of the Florida Republican, who is considered to be a potential 2024 presidential contender.
“I’m a conservative. I think you govern best when you govern closest to the people being governed,” he said. “And if a local community is having – their ICU is full, and the people at the local schools see that they’ve got to make sure they stay open, because otherwise children miss out for another year of school, and they put in policy, then the local officials should be listened to. That is a conservative principle.”
“I do disagree with Governor DeSantis,” he said. “The local officials should have control here. I don’t want top-down from Washington, DC. I don’t want top-down from a governor’s office. … If my hospitals are full, vaccination rate is low and infection rate is going crazy, local officials should be allowed to make those decisions.”
DeSantis and fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas both recently signed orders that block mask mandates, which last week drew the ire of President Joe Biden.
“Some state officials are passing laws … that forbid people from doing the right thing,” Biden said about rules that bar Covid-19 restrictions. “I say to the governors, please help. If you’re not going to help, get out of the way of the people that are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”
The directives have frustrated some local officials who have sought to issue COVID-19 prevention measures for children returning to school from their summer vacations.
Last week, Orange County Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in Florida, issued a 30-day mask mandate for students when classes resume this week, but parents can opt their children out of the policy.
Just over half of people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated Saturday.
According to the CDC data, 50.1% of the US population has been fully vaccinated against the disease. Slightly more – 58.5% – are partially vaccinated against the disease, meaning they’ve started the two-part vaccine series but have not completed it.
The milestone comes eight months after the first vaccine – produced by Pfizer and BioNTech – was given an emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration on December 11 last year. The Moderna vaccine was given the same authorization later in December, and the single-shot Johnson & Johson vaccine was authorized in February.
The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in children aged 12-15, though none of the vaccines are currently authorized for children under the age of 12. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend students and staff mask up when they return to the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.
US officials are working to push the vaccine and stress its safety amid continued vaccine hesitancy among some Americans as the more contagious Delta variant causes a surge in cases across the US, especially in areas with low vaccination rates. While vaccinated individuals can contract and spread the virus, data and experts suggest the vaccine is effective in staving off serious illness and death.
The number of people in the US receiving the first dose of a vaccine series each week almost doubled over the past month, Politico reported. The largest increase came in states with lower vaccination rates and in areas where hospitalizations and deaths are rising due to the latest surge, according to the report.
The milestone also comes as vaccine mandates become more common. Employees of the federal government will soon be required to get the shot or face regular testing for COVID-19. Major corporations including United Airlines and Walmart have also announced vaccine mandates for employees.
The Delta variant is spreading rapidly across five states with the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Officials in the five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Mississippi – are warning that positive coronavirus cases are shooting up. In Alabama, only 26 of the more than 11,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state since the pandemic began were people who were vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
Just 44.7% of Alabama’s total population has received at least one dose against the coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracks the 50 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Following Alabama are Louisiana with 44.1%, Wyoming with 42.3%, Idaho with 41.6%, and Mississippi dead last at 40.8%.
These figures pale in comparison to national stats. About 58% of the US population has received at least one dose against the coronavirus. When it comes to adults, about 71% have received at least one dose.
In Mississippi, the state with the worst vaccination rate in the country, a top health official on Thursday said the Delta variant is spreading “like a tsunami.”
“If we look at our trajectory, we see that it’s continuing to increase without any real demonstration of leveling off or decreasing,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a press briefing.
The other four states are also facing dire circumstances.
A top medical official said Louisiana is “in the worst place we’ve ever been in the pandemic,” adding that hospitals are overwhelmed to the point where resources are highly limited.
The Delta variant has now become the dominant strain in Idaho and Wyoming.
Scientists and health officials are attributing most new coronavirus cases to the Delta variant, a press release from the Wyoming Department of Health says.
“We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist in Wyoming.
Federal and state health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In response to surging cases brought on by the Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended once again that Americans – including people who are already fully vaccinated – mask up in indoor spaces.
Just 26 of the 11,600 people who have died from COVID-19 in Alabama since the pandemic began were vaccinated against the disease, Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said.
The majority of the approximately 2,000 people currently hospitalized with the disease in the state are also unvaccinated, Harris said, according to the Associated Press.
According to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, approximately 33% of people in Alabama have been fully vaccinated against the disease. The state has the lowest vaccination rate out of any state in the US, the AP reported.
“I think it’s correct to say that we wouldn’t see these kinds of numbers if we had more people vaccinated,” Harris said, according to the AP. “Again, the case numbers are being driven by people that aren’t vaccinated, which is unfortunate.”
While breakthrough infections – cases where vaccinated individuals contract COVID-19 – can occur, experts and data say that the vaccines remain effective in staving off serious illness and death.
There are 1,923 COVID-19 patients in the hospital in Alabama, according to state data. It’s the highest number of hospitalizations seen in the state since January when vaccines were not widely available. About 93% of beds in Alabama ICUs were occupied, Harris said, according to the AP.
According to state data, cases in the state were up this week more than 3% over the week prior. Cases are up nationwide, and surging in parts of the country, driven by the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant of the disease.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, and adviser to President Joe Biden and the longtime director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that new daily cases of COVID-19 could reach 200,000 in the coming weeks.
“What we’re seeing, because of this increase in transmissibility, and because we have about 93 million people in this country who are eligible to get vaccinated who don’t get vaccinated – that you have a significant pool of vulnerable people,” he said.
In an attempt to reduce the budget by $80 million, the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) had decided to consolidate living units at the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) where I lived, and at other prisons across the state. I had already put in for a transfer, but I had no idea when it might come through.
The plan to merge four living units into two at MCC would force prisoners to live like sardines in a can – tightly compacted with little to no breathing room – forgoing all safety measures related to protecting prisoners from COVID-19 as new variants of the virus continue to emerge around the country.
As more prisoners found out, we made our way from person to person, looking for a potential match to “cell-up” with. Most of us were frustrated and told ourselves it couldn’t be possible for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to do this. However, deep down, we all knew DOC would do as they pleased with little to no fear of being held accountable for the mistreatments of the thousands of prisoners in their care – during the pandemic and far beyond.
Finding a new cellmate became everyone’s top priority. This is the person you’ll have to use the bathroom in front of, trust to be around photos and personal information of your loved ones, and hope they don’t do anything stupid, like use drugs or get involved in prison politics that would get you in trouble. Basically, when you live with someone in prison, you’re connected to that person. Their actions can easily have an impact on your life.
“These cells are too small to double-bunk us. Plus, are we now just foregoing COVID precautions with the Delta variant on the rise in our state,” one prisoner said.
“We don’t matter to DOC, we’re simply animals in cages to them, not humans who deserve to be treated as such. Whatever is convenient to them is what will happen to us,” another said.
Us prisoners are tired of the hypocritical antics DOC continues to place upon us. Continuously we’ve been reminded that our safety and wellbeing are secondary to their budget concerns, or anything DOC deems important, which is never the prisoners entrusted to their care.
Compromising our health
This has been the pattern with correctional departments throughout the pandemic and across the whole country. Safety measures take place only for show, as the majority of the safety restrictions never came into effect until after over 90% of the people in the prison where I lived contracted the virus, all while prisoners begged for their safety to be taken seriously. After weaponizing these conditions against prisoners, and in the name of our safety and wellbeing, the Department plans to pack us tightly in a small living environment just to save a little money. I didn’t know my safety and wellbeing was for sale.
In a memo released on July 12, 2021 by DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange, addressed to prisoners, their loved ones, and guards, we were told, “With a significant increase in the number of vacant beds, the state must address this unfunded capacity issue now.” This was a clear reminder that officials are only concerned about the DOC’s budget, and not the safety of their prisoners or staff.
When asked about the rumors of four units being merged into two, one guard said, “I already have a new assignment to switch to another part of the complex. I’m not dealing with double the guys in one unit. It’s going to be chaos with that many people.”And he isn’t the only guard to say he’s leaving the living units. Quite a few have voiced concern because of how dangerous the move to compress the units is. Many have decided to accept an early retirement, relocate, or simply quit.
But these are choices that prisoners don’t have. We’ll just have to buckle-up and endure whatever’s dished out, like riding a rollercoaster without a seatbelt.
The fact is, these consolidations will have a large effect on the prisoners, their loved ones, and the guards forced to endure them. The cells – in a prison that’s already over a hundred years old – are a mere 6’×10′, smaller than the average person’s bedroom. Furthermore, the residential wings only have 10 phones and 12 showers which more than 300 prisoners will be forced to share.
These amenities are already spread thin with the 150 people currently residing in the living units. Doubling up on prisoners will only make these resources even harder to use, causing more stress and pressure on prisoners who have spent the last year and a half being restricted and bullied by DOC administration in the name of our own safety.
DOC claims all who are impacted by the consolidations have been a part of the process and able to voice concerns throughout the process in DOC’s choice to make decisions. Yet, the majority of prisoners and their loved ones had no clue such a plan was even on the table. The first time prisoners and their loved ones were notified, on July 12, 2021, was mere days before the consolidation would take place.
And the sad truth is, prisoners, our loved ones, and guards never needed to be placed in such a volatile position. With DOC’s budget in crisis, legislators and the governor knew drastic changes were inevitable in how the prison system functioned over the next two years mostly due to the constraints COVID-19 placed on our country as a whole. Working proactively to address budget concerns without compromising the health and safety of those connected to the prison system, various pieces of legislation were introduced (led by Look2Justice, of which I am a co-founder with my wife Chelsea Moore, and many other organizations, impacted parties, and community members), some making it quite far through the legislative process. And to be fair, the WDOC even supported the passage of the expansion of Earned Time, which would have reduced the prison population allowing the Department to meet their required budget.
Unfortunately though, when it came time to step-up and make the necessary changes, Democratic leadership backtracked and stalled the bills in the committees where they sat, claiming if too much criminal reform legislation was passed, Democrats could possibly lose their seats in swing counties to Republicans during the next election.
Because of their cowardice to do the right thing, prisoners, mostly from impoverished communities of color, will suffer the consequences in the dark shadows, out of the public’s eye.
As a society, we cannot continue to be fear-mongered into believing all criminal justice reform legislation threatens our safety. Because of this way of thinking, we are actually making our communities less safe, allowing impoverished communities of color to continue to be targeted, and allowing dehumanizing practices to continue within the carceral state.
Individuals behind prison walls and fences, including me, need to be accountable for the harm we’ve caused our communities. However, if we are continuously treated as an “other,” and our health and safety is always compromised, how are we ever meant to reintegrate into society? How can we ever feel like we belong?
It’s time to take an honest approach to prison reform and stop fear-mongering society so politicians and the prison industrial complex can thrive off the backs of the poorest communities in America. What’s taking place in states across the country is dehumanizing, racist, and downright wrong.
“With the Delta variant, we certainly are seeing just more infectivity across the population that includes kids, that includes infants as well,” Dr. Dominic Lucia, a pediatric emergency physician who works at the hospital, told CNN.
Harris Health, which is part of the Texas Medical Center, admitted 336 coronavirus patients on Thursday – the highest daily number of admissions since February, according to its website.
Texas has been grappling with an explosion of recent COVID-19 cases largely driven by the Delta variant.
Individual investors have bought more stock in Moderna and Pfizer in recent sessions than they have since late last year, spurred in part by the increasing spread of the Delta strain of coronavirus, figures released by Vanda Research on Wednesday showed.
Combined net inflows into the stocks reached $180 million over the last 10 days, the largest amount since each company unveiled positive COVID-19 vaccine trial results in November, led by Pfizer’s announcement on November 9.
Moderna shares have jumped by 20% through Tuesday from July 21, when the biotech firm joined the benchmark S&P 500 index in acknowledgment of the stock’s growth since its vaccine announcement. Meanwhile, Pfizer shares since last week have climbed by more than 9%, trading around all-time highs above $45, after the company increased its 2021 guidance for COVID vaccine sales.
“The rise in global cases of the delta variant, the imminent FDA approval and the rise in vaccine prices have all coalesced to turbocharge the rally,” said Vanda.
The Financial Times this week reported that Pfizer and Moderna have raised the prices of their COVID vaccines in their latest supply contracts with the European Union. Higher prices would come at a time of increasing coronavirus infections worldwide led by the highly transmissible Delta variant. Delta is the dominant strain in the US and the country is reporting more than 75,000 COVID cases a day, higher than a low point of roughly 11,000 cases a day six weeks ago, according to the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has accelerated its timetable to fully approve the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, with the aim of finishing the process by the start of next month, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Moderna, whose vaccine is the second most widely used in the US, is still submitting data following its June filing for final approval, the report said.
Stock in Moderna and Pfizer were standouts during a summer lull in US equity purchases by retail investors which have dropped to their lowest level since May, said Vanda.