John Vachon Houses in Atlanta, Georgia May 1938
” … you sell what you can, not what you want”
When markets are buckling and volatility is signaling a crisis, you sell what you can, not what you want. That’s what happened last week on Wall Street, where slowing economic growth in Europe, Ebola anxiety and escalating conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine tore through the calm with a force not seen in three years. Loath to find out what their record holdings of corporate bonds and leveraged loans were worth as liquidity thinned and markets slid, professional traders turned to stocks and Treasuries to defuse risk. The result was a frenzy. U.S. government debt volume surged to an all-time high of $946 billion at ICAP Plc, the world’s largest interdealer broker, more than 40% above the previous record. About 11.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. equity exchanges on Oct. 15, the most since the European debt crisis of 2011.
“Whenever people can’t sell their illiquid assets, they turn to the U.S. stock market because everyone is involved in it and that’s what they can sell,” said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak. “That’s why the market selloff was so sharp. You sell what you can, and the deepest, most liquid asset in the world is U.S. stocks.” Equity owners were blindsided by swings that erased the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 2014 gain and wiped out $672 billion of global market value. The 30-stock gauge swung in a 458-point range on Oct. 15, the widest since 2011. Its 263-point rally on Oct. 17 trimmed the weekly decline to 1%, the fourth consecutive drop. Measures of turbulence soared this month. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) has gained 35% in October and touched its highest level since June 2012. A gauge compiled by Bank of America tracking swings in equities, Treasuries, currencies and commodities reached a 13-month high just three months after hitting its lowest level ever.
Yet another Fed head speaks out. Starting to be a long series.
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said the Fed shouldn’t overreact to turmoil in financial markets as it approaches its next policy making meeting at the end of the month. “Volatility by itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s just reflecting there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market,” Rosengren said in an Oct. 17 interview in Boston. “Just because we’re seeing volatility in the last two weeks isn’t enough to have me fundamentally change my forecasts.” Rosengren said he believes the Federal Open Market Committee should halt bond purchases as planned when it meets Oct. 28-29, ending its campaign of so-called quantitative easing. He added the program could be extended if there is additional erosion in the outlook for economic growth. “If we get a lot of information in the next week and a half that indicates there’s a much more severe problem, I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said.
What are the odds on that? Beijing will say whatever it wants to say.
China may ignite fresh panic over the state of the global economy when it reports its third quarter GDP on Tuesday, which could confirm a marked slowdown in the world’s main growth engine. The economy is forecast to have grown 7.2% in the July-September period, according to a Reuters poll, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2009 and down from 7.5% in the previous three months. “The sagging housing market has affected the economy more broadly, weighing on investment and on commodity production,” Alaistair Chan, economist at Moody’s Analytics, wrote in a report. “A bright spot was the acceleration in exports, but this was not sufficient to keep the economy from growing below potential,” he said.
Recent economic indicators, including weaker-than-expected inflation, have painted a grim picture of the world’s second-largest economy. China’s annual consumer inflation slowed to 1.6% in September, a level not seen since January 2010, suggesting rising risks of deflation. The weakening inflationary pressure is a reflection that the economy is growing below its potential growth rate, with too much spare capacity and too little demand, economists explain.
Just plain fun.
To get a sense of just how chaotic, unprepared, confused and in a word, clueless the ECB is about just its “private QE”, aka purchases of ABS, which should begin in the “next few days” (but certainly don’t hold your breath) – let alone the monetization of public sovereign debt – here is Exhibit A. Because if you were confused about what is about to happen, don’t worry: it appears the ECB hardly has any idea either, because it was just on October 7 when 40 ABS bonds were dropped from the ECB’s “eligible for purchasing” list. And then, just a week later, the ECB changed its mind about changing it mind, and reinstated 19 of the ineligible bonds right back! Citi’s Himanshu Shrimali explains the stunning flip flop that only the ECB could have pulled off without losing all its credibility (perhaps because it no longer really has any):
As straight forward as the details of the ECB’s ABS purchase programme (ABSPP) released on 2 Oct 2014 seemed, many market participants were taken by surprise on 7 October when about 40 bonds became ineligible under the central bank’s collateral framework and 19 of them were again reinstated on 15 October. We understand that the bonds were initially removed from the list of eligible securities because of inadequate servicer continuity provisions – a requirement which came into force on 1 October 2013 but had a 1-year transitional period until 1 October 2014.
We believe the reinstatements occurred because the ECB had earlier misinterpreted the adequacy of servicer continuity provisions in these bonds. Some of these expelled bonds, which include Spanish and Portuguese RMBS, have lost 2–3 points in cash prices, according to our trading desk. A similar tiering is evident in the broader ABS market with ineligible bonds demanding 40–50bp spread pickup over eligible bonds.
Don’t worry though, and just repeat: “the bonds fell and rose not because of ECB frontrunning, or lack thereof, but because of fundamentals.” Keep repeating until it becomes the truth.
Is short covering holding up the oil price temporarily?
Plunging oil prices spurred hedge funds to cut bullish wagers by the most in six weeks, losing confidence in the willingness of producers to constrict supply. Money managers cut net-long positions in West Texas Intermediate by 8.1% in the week ended Oct. 14. Short positions jumped to the highest level in 22 months, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. WTI tumbled 8.8% this month as U.S. production expanded to a 29-year high. That added to signs of a global supply glut just as the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for demand growth. Crude is now trading in a bear market, underpinned by speculation that OPEC members are favoring market share over prices.
“The price action this week is a reflection of the positioning,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy, said by phone Oct. 17. The speculative betting makes further declines more likely, he said. WTI fell $7.01, or 7.9%, to $81.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the period covered by the CFTC report. Futures rose 41 cents to $83.16 at 12:18 p.m. in Singapore in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange today. Global crude consumption will rise by about 650,000 barrels a day this year, the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly market report on Oct. 14. That was 250,000 fewer than last month’s estimate and the slowest growth since 2009. The adviser to energy-consuming countries cut its 2015 demand growth forecast by 100,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million.
It seems silly to suggest there are any coincidences left in today’s financial markets.
The recent drop in oil prices could be due to more than just lower demand, according to some analysts, who have suggested that the U.S. could be deliberately manipulating the market to hurt Russia at a time of geopolitical stress. Patrick Legland, the global head of research at Societe Generale, conceded that he had no in depth knowledge of the situation but claimed that it was an “interesting coincidence” that the two events were happening at the same time. “Is it lower demand or is it the U.S. clearly maneuvering?,” he told CNBC Monday. “I’m not so sure that it is lower demand, it might be some sort of tactical move….I don’t know, but as someone from markets I’m always surprised by these kind of coincidences.” Brent crude futures edged higher on Monday morning to trade at $86.48 per barrel. The commodity has been trading near its lowest since 2010 and has seen a 25% dip since June with concerns of an oversupply and a lack of demand in key global markets.
The U.S. has stepped up its efforts towards self-sufficiency with its shale gas industry booming over the last decade, and has become a competitor for major oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia. Meanwhile, economists have warned of mediocre global growth in the years ahead and there are also fears of deflation in places like the euro zone. Looking at his own research, Legland claimed that there was indeed a slowdown in the global economy but maintained that it wasn’t to the extent at which oil prices have currently fallen. The U.S. would obviously deny any acquisitions of manipulation and there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. “It’s very hard to prove,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank told CNBC via email. “I have heard such suggestions before. It is clearly useful for the West, as it adds pressure on Russia,” he added.
Russia doesn’t sound worried. It will simply establish, with China, an independent ratings agency.
Russia’s credit rating was cut to the second-lowest investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited sluggish growth prospects and an erosion of the country’s reserves amid sanctions over Ukraine. Moody’s downgraded the sovereign one level to Baa2 from Baa1 and kept a negative outlook on the rating on Oct. 17. It is in line with Fitch Ratings’s credit grade and one step above Standard & Poor’s, which lowered Russia to BBB- in April. Russia has spent $13 billion from its foreign reserves this month to slow the ruble’s weakening as tumbling oil prices add to the woes of an economy that’s teetering toward recession amid the sanctions by the U.S. and European Union. President Vladimir Putin and European negotiators are struggling to hold together a six-week truce in eastern Ukraine, inching forward in talks to prevent the fighting from escalating.
“It’s negative news, but it’s not really critical because it’s still an investment grade,” Vladimir Osakovskiy, chief economist for Russia at Bank of America Corp. in Moscow, said by phone yesterday. “It was expected and therefore the negative reaction will probably be limited.” The downgrade is driven by “Russia’s increasingly subdued medium-term growth prospect,” Kristin Lindow, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service Inc., said in a phone interview on Oct. 17. “The gradual and ongoing erosion of the country’s international reserve buffer” contributed to a weakening of Russia’s creditworthiness, she said.
These are the most useless talks imaginable. Ukraine, US, EU demand it all: surrender by rebels, getting back Crimea, low gas prices. They go into the talks on purpose with demands they know Russia can’t and won’t meet.
Russia’s foreign minister said his country will refuse to accept conditions to end sanctions after talks in Italy failed to produce a breakthrough to bolster a truce in the eastern Ukrainian conflict. Russia has been told to comply with various criteria before the U.S. and its allies revoke the limitations, Sergei Lavrov said in the transcript of an NTV interview posted on the ministry’s website yesterday. Explosions in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk were heard throughout the day after shelling had killed four people and wounded nine others earlier, the local authorities said on its website.
The U.S. and European Union imposed restrictions on Russian officials and companies after the March annexation of Crimea and July downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine. Russia’s partners, including overseas politicians and businessmen, understand that a policy designed to punish the country is doomed to failure, Lavrov said. “We respond very simply: we shall not agree to any criteria or conditions,” he said. “Russia is doing more than anyone else to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.”
Japanese female politicians are all corrupt?
After nearly two years without a single resignation from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, two female ministers – appointed only last month – stepped down on the same day. Yuko Obuchi, 40, trade and industry minister, resigned over allegations of improper use of political funds, and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima, 58, quit over claims she breached election laws. The resignations are a double blow to Abe who has made promoting women a pillar of his economic policy. Abe’s government has enjoyed unusually stable voter approval since he took office in December 2012, helped by economic policies that have boosted the stock market and an absence of scandals. Faced with a shrinking workforce, he has sought to attract more women to paid employment, emphasized a goal of having women in 30% of leadership positions by 2020, and appointed women to high profile government positions.
“This is the first real bump in the road for Abe, who has been doing well, keeping support rates high even though his policies are not that popular,” said Steven Reed, professor of political science at Chuo University in Tokyo. With the resignation of the two ministers “one of his ways of distracting people from his less popular policies is no longer a distraction.” Abe, speaking after accepting the resignations, apologized and said he would quickly choose their successors. Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi was appointed interim trade minister, and Eriko Yamatani, the minister for abductee issues, was made justice minister on a temporary basis, according to documents from Abe’s office.
Funny: “Mr Abe said: ‘By increasing the consumption tax rate if the economy derails and if it decelerates, there will be no increase in tax revenues so it would render the whole exercise meaningless.’ “. That’s exactly what happened after the first hike too.
Shinzo Abe has hinted that he may delay increasing Japan’s consumption tax, saying the move would be”meaningless” if it inflicted too much damage on the country’s economy. In an interview with the Financial Times, Japan’s prime minister,said the planned tax increase from 8% to 10% was intended to help secure pension and health benefits for “the next generation”. But he added: “On the other hand, since we have an opportunity to end deflation, we should not lose this opportunity.” The Japanese economy shrunk 7.1% between April and June compared with a year ago after Mr Abe’s government raised consumption tax from 5% to 8%. A second rise has strong backing from the Bank of Japan, the finance ministry, big business and the International Monetary Fund,which all want action to reduce the country’s mountainous debt. A postponement would require a change in the law.
But Mr Abe said: “By increasing the consumption tax rate if the economy derails and if it decelerates, there will be no increase in tax revenues so it would render the whole exercise meaningless.” His caution shows how much now rides on the strength of there bound in growth in the third quarter. He is expected to decide on the tax in early December when the final data come in, but early indicators have been disappointing. Concerns that Mr Abe’s plan to revive the Japanese economy is running out of steam added to gloom over global growth prospects that stirred financial markets around the world last week. On previous foreign trips, the Japanese prime minister has acted as a confident salesman for his reform program. Heonce urged traders at the New York Stock Exchange to “Buy my Abenomics.” But the exuberance has gone from Abenomics. Instead the effort to turn around the Japanese economy is looking like a long, hard, perilous slog.
And all other LNG producers.
An extended slump in oil prices threatens an expansion of the liquefied natural gas industry and risks cutting returns for project developers in Australia, poised to become the world’s biggest supplier of LNG. The nation’s exports of natural gas converted to liquid are linked to the oil price, which has declined from a June peak. Brent crude, the global benchmark, reached an almost four-year low of $82.60 a barrel last week. Australia’s natural gas industry is already facing high costs as companies from BG Group to Chevron build seven export ventures to meet Asian demand. Developers across the nation are studying further investment of as much as A$180 billion ($160 billion).
Weaker oil prices may put proposed LNG projects “to sleep for a number of years,” Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of Facts Global Energy, an industry consultant, said in a phone interview. “For the projects that are already under construction, it hits their pocketbooks seriously.” Prices below $80 a barrel may be a “disaster” for some projects, said Fesharaki, who forecasts Brent may decline to $60 a barrel before the end of the year, then rebound to about $80 by the end of 2015. In a 2012 presentation, he cited lower oil prices as a bigger concern for Australia’s LNG industry than supply competition from the U.S. Origin Energ’s long-term view of the economics of its project with ConocoPhillips is unchanged, the Sydney-based company said last week in an e-mail. In a November presentation, Origin said it needed a $55 a barrel price over the life of the project to recover its costs.
Make China’s maga cities bigger?! To what 50 million, 100 million people? Just to boost GDP? Think they’ll be happy?
China needs a new prescription for growth: Cram even more people into the pollution-ridden megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, failing to expand and improve these urban areas could be even worse. That’s because the biggest cities drive innovation and specialization, with easier-to-reach consumers and more cost-efficient public transport systems, according to Yukon Huang, a former World Bank chief in China. He estimates China’s leaders’ seven-month-old urbanization blueprint, which aims to funnel rural migrants to smaller cities, will slice as much as a percentage point off gross domestic product growth annually through the end of 2020.
“China’s big cities are actually too small,” said Huang, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Asia program in Washington. “If China wants to grow at 7% for the rest of this decade, it’s got to find another 1 to 1.5% percentage points of productivity from somewhere.” A strategy that supports the biggest cities’ expansion would add $2 trillion to China’s output in 10 years – more than India’s 2013 GDP – according to Shanghai-based Andy Xie, a former Morgan Stanley chief Asia-Pacific economist. With a population more than four times that of the U.S. living on roughly the same land mass, China should have big, densely populated urban areas, Xie said. To make that a reality, the megacities need to build up, not out, he added, citing Tokyo and its population of about 37 million as a workable example.
Some say the euro crisis is back; others argue that it never really went away. A gloomy forecast from the IMF suggesting a 40% chance of a slide back into recession and a flurry of weak data pointing to a faltering recovery, particularly in Germany, have spooked markets. Once again, the eurozone is the focus of global attention amid fears that low growth will tip the Continent into outright deflation. European equities fell last week to their lowest level for 10 months, German bunds rallied and peripheral-country bond yields rose. Most eye-catching: Greek government 10-year yields briefly soared above 9% and ended the week just below 8%. A bit of perspective is necessary. First, the origins of this slowdown lie not in the eurozone but in emerging markets. This emerging-market downturn, which caught the IMF by surprise but has in fact been under way for most of the year, was the inevitable result of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to start turning off the monetary taps.
As the extraordinary liquidity flows that fueled developing-country booms and commodity-price bubbles have unwound, developed countries with major export sectors such as Germany have been hit too. Geopolitical tensions have also played a part. The market is worried about future sources of global demand, but falling commodity prices are akin to a tax cut for developed economies that should underpin domestic demand. Second, the eurozone, on most measures, is in better shape than in 2012.Former crisis countries Spain, Portugal and Ireland are growing again and have exited their bailout programs; even Greece is likely to have grown in the third quarter of this year, after 24 quarters of recession. Budget deficits have been slashed. Eurozone banks are much better capitalized. The launch of the eurozone’s banking union should reverse some of the fragmentation in the banking system. The eurozone also now has rescue funds and a central bank willing to backstop the financial system.
Much to say about the mental effects of a 7 year crisis that’s continuously denied.
Six years into the economic crisis we can still get days – as with last week’s market correction – where the froth blows off the recovery and reveals only something flat and stale beneath. The fundamental economic problems have not been solved: they’ve just been palliated. In today’s economy we never quite seem to turn the corner towards rising growth, falling poverty, stabilised public finances. Not so much winter without Christmas, but winter without ever getting to the shortest day. And that is doing something to our psychology. It is destroying our confidence in “agency” – the human ability to avoid danger, mitigate risk, regain control over fluid situations. [..] And it is logical to feel powerless if you witness the best educated and briefed people of your generation flounder – as politicians and diplomats have – in the face of a collapse of global order. But for economists – veterans of Lehman Brothers, Enron and the dotcom boom and bust before them – there is a feeling of deja vu.
We know what it’s like to get all your preconceptions blown out of the water, and see talented people flounder. In economics, big, uncontrollable forces are the norm; but by understanding them – by charting the rules of the game we’re supposed to play – we gain the ability to act. So, as one Lehman trader anecdotally told his new recruit before the crash: “Stay here, keep your head down, do nothing extraordinary and in 20 years you will have a Lamborghini, just like me.” Agency in a normal capitalist system is about knowing the rules. But in a disrupted system, power flies to the extremes. The majority of people feel powerless because the rules no longer apply: you can keep your head down, do nothing extraordinary, and still leave the building with only a cardboard box. Meanwhile, for a tiny minority, disrupted systems seem to endow them with kryptonite powers.
More claims. Let’s see that proof. Why keep on keeping everything a secret? What are the intentions behind that?
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency says its review of the crash of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukrainian has concluded it was brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk. After completing a detailed analysis, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has concluded that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 19 in eastern Ukraine while on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. In an Oct. 8 presentation given to members of the parliamentary control committee, the Bundestag body responsible for monitoring the work of German intelligence, BND President Gerhard Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence. The BND has intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK air defense missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile on July 17 that exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft.
Evidence obtained shortly after the accident suggested the aircraft had been shot down by pro-Russian militants. Both the governments of Russia and Ukraine had mutually accused each other of responsibility for the crash. After a Dutch investigative commission reviewed the flight recorder, it avoided placing any blame for the crash. Some 189 residents of the Netherlands perished in the downing of Flight MH17. BND’s Schindler says his agency has come up with unambiguous findings. One is that Ukrainian photos have been manipulated and that there are details indicating this. He also told the panel that Russian claims the missile had been fired by Ukrainian soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to the passenger jet were false. “It was pro-Russian separatists,” Schindler said of the crash, which involved the deaths of four German citizens.
As the number of Chinese facing chronic hunger is 158 million.
Chinese officials like to point out that their country has less than 10% of the world’s arable land but has to feed a fifth of the world’s population. So you would think that China obsessively ensures there is no wastage in its agriculture sector. You would be wrong. Every year China wastes at least 35 million metric tons of grain through subpar storage, during transportation by truck, rail, and boat, and through excessive processing, said a Chinese official earlier this week. “The losses can feed 200 million people for a year, which is shameful,” said Chen Yuzhong, an official with the State Administration of Grain, reported China Daily today. In particular, 27.5 million tons is lost through improper storage and transportation, while another 7.5 million tons is destroyed during processing, he said. Excessive processing that leads to waste happens as companies polish rice two or three times, according to Wang Lirong, a quality engineer in the State Administration of Grain.
“Nowadays, consumers have a higher demand for the appearance of rice in color and shape, but whiter rice doesn’t mean more nutrition,” Wang said. Of China’s 210 million farming families, only 3% stockpile the grain in the most effective fashion, according to statistics from China’s agriculture ministry. China’s major grain-producing provinces of Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang lack granaries for about 35 million tons of grain. Despite its massive waste, China is doing a good job of feeding its population, mainly by upping overall production through technological improvements, and by giving its farmers more incentives to produce, said Premier Li Keqiang earlier this week. [..] The proportion of people in China experiencing undernourishment has dropped from 22.9% in 1990 to 1992, to 11.4% in 2011 to 2013. Over the same period, the number of those facing chronic hunger has fallen from 272.1 million to 158 million, according to the FAO.
Looking at US reactons to ebola, you’d think you’re in a kindergarten.
More than 300 people have had possible or verified contact with Ebola patients in the U.S., according to data released by health authorities yesterday. The new numbers were issued as the top public official co-ordinating the response to the deadly virus in Dallas said 48 of the original contacts with deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan were cleared of risk for the disease over the weekend or were expected to be cleared today. Duncan’s girlfriend Louise Troh and three people in her Texas household are scheduled to come out of a 21-day quarantine today, barring any last-minute appearance of symptoms. “Big day today,” Judge Clay Jenkins, the highest elected official in Dallas County, said yesterday evening. “It marks a day on the curve where we begin to see a decline.” Numbers from the CDC, covering Texas, and from the Ohio Department of Health showed there are still many under monitoring for possible Ebola symptoms. The potential Ohio exposures to Ebola stem from a trip from Dallas to Ohio by Amber Joy Vinson, a nurse who contracted the disease from Duncan.
Ohio issued travel-restriction recommendations for residents who had contact with Vinson to limit the risk of spreading the disease. Counties that include Cleveland and Akron have begun notifying affected residents of the restrictions, said Scott Milburn, a spokesman for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital came under Congressional criticism in hearings last week for its handling of Ebola patients. In a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News yesterday, the Dallas hospital apologized for failing to diagnose Duncan’s symptoms when he first showed up at the emergency room. In its defense, the hospital has said it followed CDC safety procedures. The protocols used to treat Ebola patients in Dallas were inappropriate, Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in talk shows yesterday. The guidelines were based on field experience in Africa unsuited for more-invasive treatments used in U.S. hospitals.
Far too much is being demanded from these. Talk about heroes. And see what you get when you are one.
At 3:30 a.m. in the world’s biggest Ebola treatment center, Daniel Lucey found the outbreak reduced to its essentials: patients lying on mattresses on the floor and vomiting in the dark, visible only by the wavering flashlight beam of a single volunteer doctor. “I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Lucey, a physician and professor from Georgetown University who is halfway through a five-week tour in Liberia with Medecins Sans Frontieres, the medical charity known in English as Doctors Without Borders. “The epidemic is still getting worse,” he said by phone between shifts. That’s an increasingly urgent challenge for MSF and the global health community. As fear spreads in the U.S. over transmission of the virus to two nurses in a modern Dallas hospital, the main fight against the outbreak is still being waged by volunteers like Lucey half a world away.
MSF has been the first – and often only – line of defense against Ebola in West Africa. The group raised the alarm on March 31, months ahead of the World Health Organization. Now, after treating almost a third of the roughly 9,000 confirmed Ebola cases in Africa – and faced with a WHO warning of perhaps 10,000 new infections a week by December – MSF is reaching its limits. “They are at the breaking point,” said Vinh-Kim Nguyen, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal who has volunteered for a West African tour with MSF in a few weeks. MSF has already seen 21 workers infected and 12 people die, and “there’s a sense that there’s a major wave of infections that’s about to wash everything away,” Nguyen said.