Thursday, June 04, 2020

Covid-19: Irish Times cites J P Morgan research rejected by senior executive

Covid_19 benefit of lockdowns

On June 2,
Reuters reported for a second week that Covid-19 infections had risen in the United States, "Several southern US states reported sharp increases in Covid-19 infections, with Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia all seeing new cases rise 35% or more in the week ended May 31 compared with the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis."

Nationally, US infections had fallen for a fifth straight week.

On Sat May 23, the Cantillon columnist in the Irish Times reported on a research note from two JP Morgan bank analysts.

Reopening economy does not cause coronavirus spike – researchers; JP Morgan number crunchers became lockdown sceptics after analysing data in the US

"Investment bank JP Morgan has consistently predicted market reactions, as well as accurately predicting the timelines of economic reopenings since the crisis began. On Thursday its researchers Marko Kolanovic and Bram Kaplan issued a new data-rich note to the bank’s clients.

Their research shows that almost all US states that have reopened so far have not witnessed any fresh resurgence in coronavirus."

The analysts said lockdowns likely failed to “alter the course of the pandemic.”

On June 3, Eoin Burke-Kennedy again cited the JPM research.

In six months we will be in the grip of a 1980s-style recession

"Investment bank JP Morgan recently published a research note assessing the virus R0 rates (the rate at which infections are transmitted between people) in each US state as lockdowns were lifted. It showed that in almost all US states infection rates declined, not increased, after lockdowns ended.

The report concluded that the virus had its own 'dynamics unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures that were being implemented.'

The evidence suggested that 'common sense measures unrelated to full lockdowns,” such as social distancing and hand-washing, were more effective in containing the virus."

In the Eye on the Market podcast on May 26, Michael Cembalest chairman of Market and Investment Strategy for JP Morgan Asset & Wealth Management questioned his colleagues' conclusions.

"So now let's talk about this question and debate very briefly of whether or not lockdowns did any good. There's an understandable effort underway to figure out if the lockdowns did any good and what impact did they have on Covid mortality rates and how did they affect other diseases and life-threatening conditions. These are really complicated questions; historically they've taken months if not years to analyze, and they result in peer-reviewed studies that analyze all the counterfactuals. Until then you should be very cautious when somebody pings some newspaper hyperlink at you, referring to some guy that's figured out already that lockdowns had no more mortality benefit for the countries that used them.

Here is some grade school logic: a) Germany experienced lower infection rates than Italy; b) Italy had more stringent lockdown policies than Germany, therefore c) lockdown policies had no benefit for Italy. Anybody that's taken a high school logic class will see that while a) and b) are true, c) doesn't necessarily have to follow from a) and b). The bottom line is you can only understand Italy's lockdown benefit from the dynamics of Italy's own health care and demographic situation and you can't infer anything from Germany.

There's a paper that's been circulating and have been cited publicly by research groups within other parts of JP Morgan that makes the assertion that lockdowns had no beneficial impact in Europe, and people from other research groups within JP Morgan have been all over the press touting this thing. First of all, its author was an oceanographer at Woods Hole, and I have no reason to doubt that he is an excellent oceanographer. But we have to have some discipline in a pandemic that scientists from other disciplines shouldn't just be airlifting in with observations on things that they don't work on full-time.

Even more important than that, I asked a mathematical biologist who's specialized in virus disease research to look at this paper and they had a whole bunch of concerns about its methodology, its conclusions and its assumptions; I list them on page three of the "Eye on the Market" that's coming out this week and it's a laundry list of things that didn't make sense to them.

So I have no objection to the concept, in principle, that we will eventually learn that lockdown costs exceeded their benefits, whether economically or even within the health care sphere. But to convince me it's going to take properly peer-reviewed research, not some random missives on the internet that people find not newspaper articles and not driveby opinions from people airlifting in from other disciplines. And so you can take a look and judge for yourself as whether the concerns raised by the people that I showed this article to are legitimate or not. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't hold a lot of water and lacks the same amount of discipline as that whole BCG vaccine thesis we saw about a month ago. And of course all of the nonsense about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid."