You know there’s a problem when Sean Hannity gently advises Fox viewers to “please take COVID seriously.”
“Enough people have died. We don’t need any more death,” Hannity said Monday night. “I believe in science,” he added. And then, for clarification: “I believe in the science of vaccination.”
That likely came across as somewhat incongruous to the network’s audience, who’ve been inundated recently with programming that many blame for increasing vaccine hesitancy at a perilous juncture. Although Hannity included a slew of pseudo-caveats, the message was as clear as it could possibly be considering the source. “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated,” he said.
In all likelihood, Fox is concerned that pushing the envelope much further might be bad for business, if not from a viewership perspective, than at least to the extent nobody wants to be directly implicated in the event some worst-case scenario finds the Delta strain or another variant triggering a wave of new fatalities.
I bring up Hannity’s remarks because shifts in Fox’s rhetoric typically only occur when somebody is concerned enough about a given situation to compel the anchors to dial down the propaganda. (It’s not as if Hannity just decided, of his own accord, to speak highly of vaccination science.)
That, in turn, says a lot about the perceived peril associated with falling vaccinations and the spread of the Delta variant. The Daily Beast noted that “Hannity hasn’t been nearly as hostile to vaccination efforts as his primetime Fox colleagues,” so it’s not a complete one-eighty. And the same linked article observed that although “many Fox News anchors and hosts seemed to make a concerted effort on Monday to push viewers to get vaccinated, others like Brian Kilmeade and Tucker Carlson continued to [raise questions] over the safety and efficacy of the shots.” But it’s obvious that shoulders are being tapped, as it were.
This comes just days after Joe Biden accused social media of indirectly “killing people” by allowing vaccine misinformation to proliferate across platforms, an accusation Facebook vociferously denied. Amy Klobuchar didn’t mince words. “There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to… take this crap off of their platforms,” she said, of social media and vaccine misinformation.
Early this week, analysts and market participants suggested the same kind of “Hmmm, this seems to be getting serious” realization likely contributed to Monday’s dramatic declines on Wall Street. Bloomberg quoted one strategist as follows: “The broad public is waking up to the change in the COVID trends, especially the Delta variant. It’s hitting home and has become more high-profile.” The linked article contains a bevy of similar soundbites.
There’s now no question that market participants are in the process of re-appraising the growth outlook as a result of the Delta variant. The problem: We’d already passed peak growth prior to everyone (including, now, Sean Hannity fans) “waking up.” That means market participants’ already less ebullient appraisals are likely being mentally revised even lower.
Recall that in the July edition of BofA’s popular Global Fund Manager survey, the net percentage of respondents expecting global profits to improve over the next 12 months fell to the lowest in a year, while inflation expectations plummeted alongside those expecting a stronger economy (figures, from BofA, below). Yield curve expectations similarly cratered.
This is what you’re seeing across bonds, and as yields fall, it puts further pressure on any remaining shorts, which only exacerbates the situation.
Although Treasurys eventually cheapened Tuesday as equities rallied, the 2s10s breached 100bps this week for the first time in months (figure below).
Meanwhile, Goldman said the Delta variant could hold back global demand for crude. The spread of the more transmissible strain might curb demand by as much as 1 million barrels per day for the next two months, the bank said.
Goldman is still constructive on oil, by the way. The point is just to underscore the extent to which the virus is infecting (sorry) forecasts both official and back-of-the-envelope — both quantitative and qualitative — pretty much across the board.
Perhaps this will all prove fleeting. One thing that would help when it comes to growth expectations is some sign that partisan rancor inside the Beltway might yield to the gravity of the challenge at hand. Of course, that’s a pipe dream. Republicans are still dead set against robust, demand-side stimulus. That position is untenable and will become even more so in the event worries about the trajectory of growth turn out to have some merit after all.