Times Scoop

Thu, 2018/01/18 - 1:17pm | Your editor
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There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

China surprised markets on the upside today reporting growth of 6.8% in Q4. Take this measure with a tablespoon of salt, however. Chinese growth statistics are inherently flawed, according to the current issue of The Economist, mainly because drops in growth were hidden by provincial reports in earlier years. Rather than revealing how poorly their regions were doing, the local Communist officials made up numbers to claim non-existent growth.

As a result, more recent data showing higher production is also false, because the rise is not from the pretend earlier up move, but from a hidden and much lower level of output.

However, stock markets do not question statistics. So China bourses went bullish. So too did Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, and India, in a generalized rush into emerging markets plays. Then new bursts of buying hit South Africa and Turkey.

This is not as dangerous as bitcoins but it is also likely to unravel, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, before the weekend.

Of course some Asian markets have a good reason for rising, like Seoul. While my experience of ice hockey via my eldest grandchild is that it is a rough and aggressive sport, there is nothing like combining two former enemy women's teams, from North and South Korea, for creating sweetness and light among fans and officials.

I also am upbeat on South Africa as it slowly eases out the corrupt Jacob Zuma and his pals from power.

But I am bearish on markets overall, perhaps because I own GE. US interest rates will go up quicker than punters expect, and inflation may well rear its ugly head this year.

 

The New York Times today had a scoop. Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of an old drug, Daraprim, by 5000%, can be stopped.

Hospitals are planning to get into the business of making generic drugs for their own use to avoid shortages and sudden price hikes. They even may sell some drugs they don't need themselves to the public. About 300 non-profit and profit hospitals are forming a new non-profit company to stop price gauging. They will buy the drugs from selected third-parties.

The VA hospital system is looking into joining them to insure the supply of needed drugs. Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, and former Medicare official Dr. Donald Berwick are among the advisors for the new group and the leading hospital rep is Dr. Richard Gilfillan, who runs Trinity Health, a Catholic chain with hospitals in nearly half the US states.

 

Today IQVIA, a pharma sales tracker, reported that prescription volumes rose 3.3% in Nov., with the biggest jump in generics, up 3.8%. However branded prescriptions fell 2.1%.

 

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