Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On

The solar cycle is at a minimum with the onset of Solar Cycle 25.

As is also apparent, the more active solar period that peaked in the first decade of the 22nd century is now entering a 30 year low activity period.

Higher seismic activity correlates with low solar activity.

We are already seeing evidence of that higher seismic correlation.

Three major earthquakes struck just north of New Zealand, including one of the strongest ever to hit the region, triggering tsunami warnings:

  • 7.3M event at 13:27 UTC
  • 7.4M event at 17:41 UTC
  • 8.1M at 19:28 UTC
[USGS]

Aseismic cluster of this intensity is rare.

But, recall at the start of Solar Cycle 24, Japan experienced a 9.1M event on March 11, 2011.

Ten years ago, New Zealand marked the 10th anniversary of the 6.3M that destroyed parts of Christchurch in the south Island, killing 185 people.

Earthquake-swarms are continuing to intensify under many of the world’s volcanoes, including those of Iceland as well as some of the 18 that run along the Cascade Volcanic Arc in western North America; here, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood are among the ones to watch.

The Cascade Arc has history of “lighting up” during the onset of Grand Solar Minimums, and this time isn’t expected to be any different.

Marchitelli et al. (2020) discuss the relationship between solar cycles and activity, and seismicity:

Large earthquakes occurring worldwide have long been recognized to be non Poisson distributed, so involving some large scale correlation mechanism, which could be internal or external to the Earth. We have recently demonstrated this observation can be explained by the correlation of global seismicity with solar activity. We inferred such a clear correlation, highly statistically significant, analyzing the ISI-GEM catalog 1996–2016, as compared to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite data, reporting proton density and proton velocity in the same period. However, some questions could arise that the internal correlation of global seismicity could be mainly due to local earthquake clustering, which is a well-recognized process depending on physical mechanisms of local stress transfer. We then apply, to the ISI-GEM catalog, a simple and appropriate de-clustering procedure, meant to recognize and eliminate local clustering. As a result, we again obtain a non poissonian, internally correlated catalog, which shows the same, high level correlation with the proton density linked to solar activity. We can hence confirm that global seismicity contains a long-range correlation, not linked to local clustering processes, which is clearly linked to solar activity. Once we explain in some details the proposed mechanism for such correlation, we also give insight on how such mechanism could be used, in a near future, to help in earthquake forecasting.

Herdiwijaya et al (2015) reached similar conclusions.

Principal component analysis by Zharkova (2020) report the current minimum will extend out some 2-3 decades.

Consistent with Zharkova, Courtillot et al. (2021) observe from their study of sunspot frequency since 1749 that the aphelia of the four Jovian planets could be the principal drivers in solar activity.

They conclude from their planetary model with a prediction that Solar Cycle 25 that can be compared to a dozen predictions by other authors: the maximum would occur in 2026.2 (± 1 yr) and reach an amplitude of 97.6 (± 7.8), similar to that of Solar Cycle 24, therefore sketching a new “Modern minimum”, following the Dalton and Gleissberg minima.

Hajra (2021) arrives at a similar conclusion. Noting Solar Cycle 24 (December 2008 – December 2019) is recorded as the weakest in magnitude in the space age (after 1957), Hajra analyzes Solar Cycles 20 through 23, and finds Solar Cycle 24 is both the weakest in solar activity, but also in average solar wind parameters and solar wind–magnetosphere energy coupling.

This resulted in lower geomagnetic activity, lower numbers of high-intensity long-duration continuous auroral electrojet (AE) activity (HILDCAA) events and geomagnetic storms. The Solar Cycle 24 exhibited a ≈ 54 – 61% reduction in HILDCAA occurrence rate (per year), ≈ 15 – 34% reduction in moderate storms (−50 nT ≥ Dst > −100 nT), ≈ 49 – 75% reduction in intense storms (−100 nT ≥ Dst > −250 nT) compared to previous cycles, and no superstorms (Dst ≤ −250 nT).

So, as GHG concentration continues to rise and climate temperatures trend south due to weakening solar activity, will the expected rise in seismicity be attributed to GHG emissions?

Or, will veritas vincit?

References:

Courtillot, V., Lopes, F., & Le Mouël, J. L. (2021). On the prediction of Solar Cycles. Solar Physics296(1). doi:10.1007/s11207-020-01760-7

Hajra, R. (2021). Weakest solar cycle of the space age: A study on solar wind–magnetosphere energy coupling and geomagnetic activity. Solar Physics296(2). doi:10.1007/s11207-021-01774-9

Herdiwijaya, D., Arif, J., Nurzaman, M. Z., & Astuti, I. K. D. (2015). On the possible relations between solar activities and global seismicity in the solar cycle 20 to 23. AIP Publishing LLC.

Marchitelli, V., Troise, C., Harabaglia, P., Valenzano, B., & De Natale, G. (2020). On the long range clustering of global seismicity and its correlation with solar activity: A new perspective for earthquake forecasting. Frontiers in Earth Science8. doi:10.3389/feart.2020.595209

Valentina Zharkova (2020) Modern Grand Solar Minimum will lead to terrestrial cooling, Temperature, 7:3, 217-222, DOI: 10.1080/23328940.2020.1796243

Repo Madness and Market Freeze-out: “When the shorts arrive, bring your alibis”

ZeroHedge on the short pileup: https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/historic-repo-market-insanity-10y-treasury-trades-4-ahead-monster-short-squeeze

Actually scratch that: last week there were barely any shorts in the 10Y – that’s why the massive stop loss liquidation after last Thursday’s 7Y auction was just longs puking. It was only after that the flood of shorts arrived and hammered the 10Y to “fails” levels in repo.

What does that mean in English?

As we have discussed in the past, TSYs trade special, or anywhere between 0% and -3% in repo (and while they may trade at, they never drop below the fails charge), whenever there is a massive pile up of shorts. Think of it as a borrow on a stock at some insane percentage: 100%, 1000%, etc. It’s similar in rates, only such mechanics take places in the repo market and a rate of -3% is usually considered the equivalent of extremely hard to borrow. Even so, never before have we encountered a 10Y trading so special it was below the fails charge.

Why would anyone buy below the Fail Charge? As Skyrm explains, in the Treasury market, if you fail to deliver to a counterparty, there’s a fail charge equal to 300 basis points below the lower bound of the fed funds target range. The equivalent of a -3.00% Repo rate. There are a variety of reasons why a Repo desk will cover a short below the Fail Charge rate – which include: keeping clients happy, avoiding internal meetings/explanations, and internal rules that require shorts to be covered. None of this explains why the repo rate would drop to the mathematically improbable -4%, except to suggest that something is starting to crack in the repo market itself.

Skyrm concludes by saying what what we noted above, namely that “what’s important is that trading below the Fail Charge implies a real deep short-base.”

So what does this mean in the bit scheme of things? Recall what we showed yesterday using the latest data from Goldman – there is zero, nada, zilch liquidity in Treasurys. Indeed the last time the top-of-book depth was this low was during the peak of the Covid crisis last March.

At the same time, the latest repo data merely confirms that all the price action is entirely on the short side and explains much of today’s action. In fact, never before has there been such a massive pile up of shorts in the 10Y.

This is important because it means that the imbalance in the bond market is no longer just a fundamental bet by traders expecting inflation: there is also something profoundly wrong with the actual market structure itself so much so that if left unchecked it could lead to catastrophic consequences for the world’s (once upon a time) most liquidity market.

Meanwhile, none other than the Fed vice chair Lael Brainard, who was until very recently expected to become the next Treasury secretary and is widely considered to be Powell’s replacement as Fed Chair, said on Tuesday that the Fed is now “paying attention”:

I am paying close attention to market developments — some of those moves last week and the speed of those moves caught my eye. I would be concerned if I saw disorderly conditions or persistent tightening in financial conditions that could slow progress toward our goal.

Maybe on Tuesday the Fed did not see “disorderly conditions” but in light of the historic move in repo on Wednesday, the Fed no longer has the luxury of waiting.

What this also means is that tomorrow, when Powell speaks at the Wall Street Journal virtual event which begins at noon, the Fed Chair will likely strongly hint that the Fed will either extend the SLR exemption by another 3-6 months (we explained the critical significance of the SLR term extension earlier in “Why The SLR Is All That Matters For Markets Right Now“), or that the IOER or RRP rates will be hiked to unclog the sudden build up of collateral and push it back in the market. Perhaps the Fed will go so far as suggesting a new Operation Twist will be activated in the coming months (ahead of the Fed’s taper announcement). Incidentally, our base case is that Powell will make it clear the current SLR term, will be extended as the Fed will want to hold on to YCC until just before it announces tapering in H2.

Whatever Powell does, he will have to do something to unfreeze not just the bond but now also the repo market, as the alternative is a market this is now literally broken, something former NY Fed repo guru Zoltan Pozsar predicted last week (see “Here We Go Again: Zoltan Warns Repo Market On Verge Of Major Shock As Key Funding Rate Turns Negative“).

And speaking of Pozsar, this is what he said in his latest Global Money Dispatch note which we touched on earlier:

For every macro narrative that explains why U.S. treasury yields are rising, there is also a plumbing narrative that can explain things with equal persuasion.

So yes, Powell and the Fed could ignore the rise in yields as long as the turmoil did not spread to the repo market – such a move could be explained by the reflationary macro narrative – but now that the 10Y is trading below the fails charge in repo the repo market is officially cracking and as Sept 2019 taught us, there is nothing that the Fed is more worried about than the sanctity of the repo market.

Finally, what happens if we are right and Powell does assure the market that SLR will be extended? Well, since all of the pent up uncertainty about whether or not bank balance sheets will be usable after March 31 will disappear, what will happen is a monster short squeeze as all those shorts that pushed the 10Y to -4% in repo panic and scramble to cover, sparking a massive surge higher in prices (and plunge in yields), and since there will be immediate follow through to stocks where concerns about rising yields just sent risk assets plunging, we expect a monster move higher in stocks tomorrow. 

In fact, judging by the freefall in futures, we wouldn’t be surprise if the Fed announces that the SLR exemption will be granted at the usual pre-market time of 830am.

In any case, stay tuned because there will be fireworks – most likely to the upside – but if for some reason Powell refuses to unclog the repo market, there will be blood.

Don “Sonny” Explains the “Misunderstanding”

Babylon Bee Exclusive: https://babylonbee.com/news/cuomo-assures-public-he-always-kept-mask-on-while-sexually-harassing-women

ALBANY, NY—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized this weekend for his long-standing habit of sexually abusing young women he holds power over. And while that all sounds quite bad, Governor Cuomo did make it clear to the public that he always wore a mask and socially distanced during these interactions– a fact that has some folks saying he should get off free. 

“I have the greatest respect for my employees,” Cuomo explained during a press conference. “Especially the girls—we’ve got a lot of young girls on staff who do a really good job.” Cuomo paused for a moment and seemed to wink at someone offscreen. “And I can guarantee you right now, sure I might be a sexual predator, but not once did I remove my mask, never once broke the six-foot rule during conversations with my girls– at least in 2020. Isn’t that right, Kelly?”

Cuomo went on to explain how some of his sexual jokes may not have landed with the women since they couldn’t see his facial expressions. He also claimed that the women may have misheard him since his words were muffled by his mask and they were standing so far apart. 

“Do I regret making those comments?” Cuomo asked as he stood up to leave the press conference. “No. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some strip poker, er– I mean poker, to play.”

Nasdaq “Hull Breach”

As Tyler reports in ZeroHedge, markets are on the ropes: https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/nasdaq-crashes-through-critical-resistance-gives-march-gains

Things have accelerated south as the day wears on, with US equities all down hard led by a 2.5% plunge in big-tech.

Nasdaa is now down almost 1.5% since the end of February (and down almost 5% from Monday’s exuberant highs)…

The losses sped up as Nasdaq broke below its 50-day moving-average…

…and is clinging to the 13,000 level… and 12,800 is the nest level to test

As SpotGamma warned last night, positive gamma refuses to materially build around current SPX price levels, and as such we are growing quite concerned that markets are increasingly susceptible to a “sucker punch”.

If I may quote Faruq Taheed:

“Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready? It’s Robot Fighting time!”

Climate Temperatures Continue Decline Following a 2016 Peak

The UAH lower troposphere temperature trends are turning south as the weaker Solar Cycle 25 continues into the Modern Solar Minimum.

The full UAH Global Temperature Report, along with the LT global gridpoint anomaly image for February, 2021 should be available within the next few days here.

The global and regional monthly anomalies for the various atmospheric layers should be available in the next few days at the following locations:

The high frequency solar minimum between Solar Cycle 24 and 25 happened in December 2019, when the 13-month smoothed sunspot number fell to 1.8. Solar Cycle 25 with peak sunspot activity expected in July 2025.

Solar Cycle 24 had the 4th-smallest intensity since regular record keeping began with Solar Cycle 1 in 1755. It was also the weakest cycle in 100 years. Solar maximum occurred in April 2014 with sunspots peaking at 114 for the solar cycle, well below average, which is 179.

Solar Cycle 25. Solar Cycle 25 is forecast to be a fairly weak cycle, the same strength as cycle 24. Solar maximum is expected in July 2025, with a peak of 115 sunspots.

Hull Breach

HULL BREACH

Tim Knight (Slope of Hope) enumerates the support breaches: https://slopeofhope.com/2021/03/index-omnibus.html#more-194173

With the giant reversal taking place today, let’s take a fresh look at some important indexes, in alphabetical order.

First is the $COMP, the Dow Jones Composite. This cracked through its trendline on Friday, but it has sprung right back above it. We’ll see if the damage done last week actually signals anything, or if this was just a one-day anomaly. My view is that the trendline break is meaningful.

The NASDAQ Composite hasn’t been quite as forgiving, since its trendline damage was much worse. It spent the entirety of last week below the broken trendline.

Ever since August 6th of last year, precious metals have stunk out loud. We might get a bounce in the gold bugs index, but I think that horizontal line will be the limit.

Similar to the $COMPQ, the NASDAQ 100, symbol NDX, is quite plainly below broken support.

The S&P 100, symbol $OEX, remains below support as well, in spite of the very sizable rally this morning.

The same can be said of the Russell, since last Thursday’s drop was so substantial.

One area of resolute strength for the bulls is the semiconductor index, symbol $SOX, which has been safely within its channel for going on a year now.

The S&P 500, symbol $SPX, teased us all a bit late last week with a trendline break, but it has clamored back above it. We are still below lifetime highs, and I think the ecstasy over the $1.9 trillion in free money that’s about to be distributed will be transitory.

Just as the semiconductor space has been unbroken, so, too, has the Broker/Dealer Index (symbol $XMI). We are sky-high on this.

Lastly, the most vulnerable sector, in spite of all the breathless enthusiasm about crude oil, is the Oil & Gas sector (symbol $XOI). The run-up has been sensational, but that is a massive and powerful top.

$9 Trillion – “”The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Count on The Martens to ask annoying questions – stuff like “where’s my dough?” https://wallstreetonparade.com/2021/03/more-than-a-year-later-americans-have-no-idea-where-9-trillion-of-fed-money-went/

You can see the outflow. to the trading houses But where’s the in-flow?

Beginning on September 17, 2019 – months before there was any report of a COVID-19 case anywhere in the world – the Federal Reserve turned on its money spigot to the trading houses on Wall Street. By October 23, 2019 the Fed announced that it was upping these loans to $690 billion a week – again, months before any report of COVID-19 anywhere in the world. Earlier in October 2020, the Fed had also announced that it would be buying back $60 billion a month in Treasury bills.

Within a span of six months, the Fed had pumped out a cumulative $9 trillion in loans to Wall Street’s trading houses, according to its own spread sheets, with no peep as to which Wall Street firms were getting the bulk of that money. It’s more than a year later and the American people still have no idea what triggered that so-called “repo loan crisis” or which Wall Street firms were in trouble or remain in trouble.

The Federal Reserve, as is typical, outsourced this money spigot to the New York Fed, which is literally owned by some of the largest banks on Wall Street. We wrote at the time the New York Fed was making these massive repo loans that this action was unprecedented in Federal Reserve history for the following reasons:

No Wall Street crisis has been announced to the public to explain these massive loans and Treasury buybacks;

Not one hearing has been held by Congress on the matter;

Not one official elected by the American people has authorized these loans;

The loans are not being made to commercial banks (which could re-loan the money to stimulate the U.S. economy). The loans are going to the New York Fed’s primary dealers, which are stock and bond trading houses on Wall Street who count hedge funds among their largest borrowers; (See list below. There is only one bank among the 24 primary dealers.)

Many of the primary dealers are units of foreign banks whose share prices have been in freefall. The Fed is making these loans at approximately 2 percent interest – an interest rate these firms could not come anywhere close to obtaining in the open market;

These same foreign banks are counterparties to mega U.S. banks’ derivative trades – raising the suggestion that this is another bailout of Wall Street’s derivatives mess as occurred in 2008;

The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 was supposed to rein in this exact type of abuse by the New York Fed and, in fact, it states that Congress must be informed as to which banks are receiving the money to be sure it’s not going, once again, to failing financial institutions as happened in the last crisis;

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), when it released its audit of the Fed’s bailout programs of 2007 to 2010 chastised the Fed for failing to document the reasons it was flinging trillions of dollars to Wall Street and foreign banks. Notwithstanding the GAO’s report, the New York Fed is back to its old tricks again;

The New York Fed is owned by its members banks in its region. Representatives of these banks sit on its Board of Directors. It is thus too conflicted to be in charge of this bailout money spigot which is ultimately backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer if the New York Fed fails;

The New York Fed is the regulator of the largest bank holding companies in the U.S. But its failure as a regulator is why these same banks needed to be massively bailed out in 2008 and, apparently, again now. This system lacks any semblance of checks and balances;

The parent organizations of five of its primary dealers have admitted to criminal felony counts brought by the U.S. Department of Justice for frauds against the investing public. Bailing out felons and Wall Street firms with serial histories of wrongdoing perpetuates moral hazard and, thus, more wrongdoing and bailouts.

The House Financial Services Committee has announced that it will hold a hearing on March 23 titled: “Oversight of the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s Pandemic Response.”

This is part of the ongoing series of hearings where both the U.S. Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve Chairman show up to pretend that the American people are receiving complete transparency on what the Fed is doing with its money creation powers. (It’s another one of those Big Lies that have come to dominate this era of American history.) While former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jerome Powell starred in this dog and pony show last year, the March 23 hearing will hear from the new Treasury Secretary and former Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, along with Powell.

There is little hope of seeing any new sunshine from this pair, since Yellen hasn’t even disclosed the millions of dollars she received in speaking fees from Wall Street banks and trading houses in 2018, the year she stepped down as Fed Chair. As for Powell, hope for transparency was extinguished when we reported in August of last year that the Wall Street investment manager, BlackRock, was managing upwards of $25 million of Powell’s personal money while landing three no-bid contracts with the Fed to manage part of its emergency lending programs. One of those programs, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, allowed BlackRock to buy back its own sinking Exchange Traded Funds, some of which were invested in junk bonds.

The Fed has gone out of its way to foster the impression that its middle name is transparency. For example, on April 23 of last year it issued a press release which said:

“Building on its strong record of transparency and accountability around financial reporting and the policymaking process, the Federal Reserve Board on Thursday outlined the extensive and timely public information it will make available regarding its programs to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby foster economic recovery. Specifically, the Board will report substantial amounts of information on a monthly basis for the liquidity and lending facilities using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding….”

Indeed, the Fed is reporting a substantial amount of information on a monthly basis on some of its Section 13(3) emergency lending facilities, but no one in Congress is demanding transparency on its previous $9 trillion in cumulative repo loans or on three of its ongoing emergency lending facilities that have yet to release one name of a loan recipient: the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF), the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), and the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF).

The PDCF, CPFF, and MMLF were the first three Section 13(3) emergency lending facilities created by the Fed. All three programs were created in mid-March of 2020. Today is the first day of March 2021 and yet not one name of a loan recipient in those three programs has been released by the Fed.

According to the Fed’s H.4.1 report for Wednesday, April 1, 2020, just weeks after creating the PDCF and MMLF, they had, respectively, loaned out $33 billion and $52 billion to unnamed Wall Street firms.

The Commercial Paper Funding Facility first made an appearance on the Fed’s H.4.1 release on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. At that point, it had already made $974 million in loans to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that was created to buy up commercial paper that was, ostensibly, too toxic to roll over or find an alternative market for issuance. The end recipient of this Fed largesse has yet to be named.

The CPFF continued to grow exponentially each month after its creation, reaching $12.8 billion by June 17, 2020, according to the Fed’s H.4.1.

The Fed’s most recent H.4.1 for February 24, 2021 shows the following outstanding loans to these three emergency facilities that have never reported one name of the ultimate loan beneficiary: $265 million for the PDCF; $1.6 billion for the MMLF; and $8.6 billion for the CPFF.

Trust will continue to erode in both Wall Street and the Fed until Americans get a transparent accounting of where this money went and why it went there.

Red Ponzi Fades

Goldman:

China’s Caixin manufacturing PMI fell to 50.9 in February from 51.5 in January, though still in expansionary territory. Most sub-indexes implied growth momentum moderated in the manufacturing sector. The production sub-index dropped to 51.9 in February from 52.5, and the new orders sub-index fell to 51.0 from 52.2. The new export order sub-index edged up only marginally to 47.5 from 47.4, still below 50 due to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections globally as highlighted by surveyed companies.

Surveyed companies remained cautious in hiring and the employment sub-index fell slightly to 48.1 from 49.6 in January. The raw materials inventory sub-index rose by 0.6pp to 48.8, but the finished goods inventory index edged down to 50.3 from 51.0. Stock shortages and travel restrictions continued to affect suppliers’ delivery in February. Price indicators suggest inflationary pressures moderated slightly but remained relatively high due to rising raw material prices and transportation costs according to the survey. The input price index fell slightly to 58.1 from 58.9 in January, and the output price index was 53.5, moderating from 54.9 in January. On future output, surveyed companies remained optimistic and expect “rising client demand globally once the pandemic comes to an end and planned product releases make debut”.

If that wasn’t enough, a former finance minister warned fiscal risks remain “extremely severe with risks and challenges”, with low revenue for five years ahead and no prospect of any spending cuts ahead, suggesting policy may need to be tightened at some point

In kneejerk response, China’s 10-year government bond futures closed 0.3% higher, the most since Dec. 22, while In the cash bond market, the yield on 10-year sovereign notes dropped 2 bps to 3.26%, having barely budged in the past week and completely oblivious to the turmoil gripping the rest of the global bond market.

Investing in Chinese Stocks sees problems in Red Ponzi real estate: http://investinginchinesestocks.blogspot.com/

Very early, initial signal of a possible reversal in real estate: the 3x Bearish Real Estate ETF (DRV) broke its downtrend. Some other charts that look interesting in the real estate space. Some are failing at their initial pandemic gaps, some look relatively weak and could be starting meaningful breakdowns if they lose support (assuming a larger bearish move is underway in the market), while others are near pre-pandemic highs.

Check out some “playa”s:

“Investors may think the economic recovery in China has become less strong than expected, which could stoke risk-off sentiment in the short run and help bonds,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore.

China’s economy is now fading and its credit impulse is set to shrink rapidly.

Not only will this affect reflation assets but also push yields lower. However, thanks to the 6-12 month diffusion lag of China’s credit impulse, we first have about 9 more months of higher yields and commodity prices before the hangover finally arrives.

False Positive PCRs and “Asymptomatic” CoVid-19

For more than a year the reverse‐transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT‐PCR) test for viral load has been considered a “gold standard” in the diagnosis of CCP/CoVid-19 infection.

Should it be?

RT-PCR is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction. This technique’s “transformation and amplification” process infers the amount of a specific RNA by monitoring the amplification reaction using fluorescence. Real-time PCR or quantitative PCR (qPCR) are commonly used for analysis of gene expression and quantification of viral RNA in research and clinical settings.

However, the amplification process has its drawbacks. The well-described long tail of RNA positivity after the transmissible stage means that many, if not most, people whose infections are detected during routine surveillance using high-analytic-sensitivity tests are no longer infectious at the time of detection (Mina et al., 2020). Depending on when the test is taken, one could have a positive result and yet be in the post-infectious stage.

A particularly high Ct count further expands the response curve to include larger fractions of post-infectious load.

As reported in The New York Times, most than 50% of infections in Massachusetts and New York identified by PCR-based surveillance had PCR cycle threshold values in the mid-to-upper 30s, indicating low viral RNA counts. Thousands of people are being sent to 10-day quarantines after positive RNA tests despite having already passed the transmissible stage of infection (Mandavalli, 2020).

The exponential growth of the reverse transcribed complementary DNA (cDNA) during the multiple cycles of PCR produces inaccurate end point quantification due to the difficulty in maintaining linearity (Gettemy and Gold, 1998). Combined with detecting post-infectious conditions,

RT‐PCR may also increase the positivity rate, depending on the number of repetitions of this test.

Thus, knowing the cycle number (Ct) is crucial to an accurate and reliable CoVid diagnosis. Per Umemneku et al. (2019), RT-PCR tests are NOT the gold standard.

It is crucial to evaluate diagnostic accuracy studies, analytical validity, and testing for agreement in CT, RT‐PCR, and antibodies tests at the different clinical stages. For the moment, and whenever possible, it is more useful in clinical practice to evaluate tests by several methods because there is no generally accepted reference standard.

Off-Guardian (OG) picks up the “test accuracy” trail by observing the rapid fall-off in CoVid positive tests since January 2021 (see https://off-guardian.org/2021/02/26/coronavirus-fact-check-10-why-new-cases-are-plummeting/)

Why the sudden fall-off in case?

Well, Trump isn’t president – sorry, couldn’t resist that one. But interesting timing coincidence anyway.

But why indeed?

As OG observes:

  • It’s not the vaccines – not even a tenth of the population has been vaccinated while the drop is happening simultaneously in different countries all around the world, and not every country is vaccinating at the same rate or even using the same vaccine.
  • It’s not the lockdowns – “Sweden, famously, never locked down at all. Yet their “cases” and “Covid related deaths” have been dropping exactly in parallel with the UK”

So why?

Well, here’s OG’s take, referring to the graph on the top of the page:

As you can see, the global decline in “Covid deaths” starts in mid-to-late January.

What else happened around that time?

Well, on January 13th the WHO published a memo regarding the problem of asymptomatic cases being discovered by PCR tests, and suggesting any asymptomatic positive tests be repeated.

This followed up their previous memo, instructing labs around the world to use lower cycle thresholds (CT values) for PCR tests, as values over 35 could produce false positives.

OG concludes:

What we’re seeing is a decline in perfectly healthy people being labelled “covid cases” based on a false positive from an unreliable testing process. And we’re seeing fewer people dying of pneumonia, cancer or other disease have “Covid19” added to their death certificate based on testing criteria designed to inflate the pandemic.

Just as we at OffG predicted would happen the moment the memo was published.

There may be other factors, such as the seasonality of solar exposure.

But that’s for another post.

References:

Gettemy JM, Ma B, Alic M, Gold MH (February 1998). “Reverse transcription-PCR analysis of the regulation of the manganese peroxidase gene family”Appl. Environ. Microbiol64 (2): 569–74. doi:10.1128/AEM.64.2.569-574.1998PMC 106084PMID 9464395.

Mandavilli, A. (2020, August 29). Your Coronavirus test is positive. Maybe it shouldn’t be. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/29/health/coronavirus-testing.html

Mina, M. J., Parker, R., & Larremore, D. B. (2020). Rethinking covid-19 test sensitivity – A strategy for containment. The New England Journal of Medicine383(22), e120.

Umemneku Chikere CM, Wilson K, Graziadio S, Vale L, Allen AJ. Diagnostic test evaluation methodology: a systematic review of methods employed to evaluate diagnostic tests in the absence of gold standard—an update. PLoS One. 2019;14(10):e0223832. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223832