Connect with us

Economy

America Inc and the shortage economy – The Economist

Published

 on


IF YOU LOOK only at the scale of the profits cranked out by American businesses, they seem to be indestructible (see chart). Despite a pandemic and a savage slump in 2020, large listed American firms’ net income for the third quarter of this year is expected to reach over $400bn, at least a third higher than in the same quarter in 2019. Yet as earnings season gets into full swing this week, bosses and investors are watching for signs that three related worries are biting: supply-chain tangles, inflation, and hints that a long era of profitable oligopolies is giving way to something more dynamic and risky. Already big firms such as Snap, Honeywell and Intel have given the jitters to investors. Could there be more to come?

Only a quarter or so of firms in the S&P index have reported results so far. Those that have done so have pleased investors with better than expected figures. Superficially the picture is of “back to business as usual”. Bad-debt provisions taken by banks in the depths of the panic over the economy, which proved unnecessary, have been unwound. JPMorgan Chase got a $2bn benefit to its bottom line from this reversal in the third quarter. Goldman Sachs has shelled out $14bn in pay and bonuses so far this year, up by 34% year on year. American Express reported a leap in revenues as small firms and consumers spent on their cards more freely. United Airlines confirmed it was on track to hit its performance targets for 2022.

Yet look again and the three worries loom. Start with supply chains. The number of ships waiting off California’s big ports remains unusually high at about 80, according to Bloomberg. On 22nd October, Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said that supply-chain problems may last “well into next year”. The knock-on effects are feeding through industry. Union Pacific, a railway firm, lowered its forecast for traffic volumes because semiconductor shortages (often in Asia) have hit car production, in turn reducing the number of vehicles and components transported by rail. Honeywell, an industrial firm, cut its full year sales target by 1-2% complaining of a shortage of parts. VF Corp, which makes shoes (including white ones that fans of Squid Game, a hit TV show, hanker after) complained of supply-chain problems in Asia. So far the problem is not disastrous but it is inflating costs and forcing firms to adapt.

This supply chain headache is one element of a second, broader worry, about inflation and its impact on profits. Commodity prices are a source of pressure, with crude oil reaching $86 a barrel this week. Wages are too: although there are still 5m fewer people employed across the economy than before the pandemic hit, average hourly pay rose by 4.6% year on year in September. The immediate effect tends to be felt by low-margin firms that employ a lot of people: Domino’s Pizza has complained of a “very challenging staffing environment” and falling sales.

Elsewhere a mild inflationary mindset is slowly infiltrating boardrooms. Procter & Gamble predicted that commodity and freight inflation would raise its operating costs this financial year by about 4% and that sales would rise by up to 4%, owing to a mixture of price rises, and volume and mix effects. Honeywell warned there would be a “continued inflationary environment” in 2022. All firms are weighing how much they can raise prices to compensate for higher costs. So are fund managers who are busy running screens for companies that they judge to exhibit the all-important quality of “pricing power”. The shifting psychology of bosses and investors towards expecting more inflation should concern Mr Powell at the Fed.

The final big issue is whether an economy with shortages that is running hot ultimately forces an end to the managerial consensus of the past decade, which has favoured keeping margins high and being stingy with investment in order to maximise short-run cashflow. Already there are signs that attitudes are shifting in response to shortages and pent-up demand: economy-wide investment, excluding residential investment, rose by 13% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the preceding year. United Airlines has said it will increase its capacity on international routes by 10%. FreePort McMoRan, a huge miner of copper (used in electric vehicles among a wide array of industrial applications), has said that it is “prepared to make value enhancing investments in our business” in response to red-hot prices. Hertz has announced an order of 100,000 cars from Tesla. And on Wall Street a fund-raising bonanza for speculative start-ups continues, including last week the merger of a special-purpose acquisition company with the social-media ambitions of a certain Donald Trump.

Rising investment is exactly what economists want because it increases capacity today and boosts the economy’s long-run potential. Yet whether investors are prepared to take the plunge remains to be seen. Habituated by years of high margins, they tend to run shy of rising investment and competition. Snap’s share price dropped by over 20% on October 21st as signs that the war over privacy settings on the iPhone between Apple and social-media firms, and the intensifying competition in advertising between a wide array of tech firms, is hurting its results. And Intel, which earlier this year boldly announced plans for a huge rise in investment in order to return to the frontier of the semiconductor industry, alongside TSMC and Samsung, presented Wall Street with the bill in the form of much lower than expected short-term earnings: its shares dropped by 12%. If you run a company or invest in one this is the new calculation: demand is recovering and costs are rising. Can you raise prices? And should you expand capacity? By the end of this earnings season the answer may be clearer.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Economy

'Degrowth' Is a Misguided Way to Decarbonize the Economy – Bloomberg

Published

 on


Sign up to receive the Green Daily newsletter in your inbox.

Spend any time discussing climate policy and you’re sure to discover the “degrowth” movement. Its vocal proponents are hard to miss, online and off. Its core tenets might be harder to pin down, but the tagline captures the gist: Economic growth is the problem. The only way to decarbonize the economy: Degrowth!

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Economy

Omicron could pose 'significant' threat to global economy, Yellen says – Reuters

Published

 on


Dec 2 (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of COVID-19 could slow global economic growth by exacerbating supply chain problems and depressing demand, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Reuters Next conference on Thursday.

Yellen cited a great deal of uncertainty about the impact of the highly contagious variant, first detected in South Africa, given the severe U.S. economic slowdown caused by the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 earlier this year.

“Hopefully it’s not something that’s going to slow economic growth significantly,” Yellen said, adding, “There’s a lot of uncertainty, but it could cause significant problems. We’re still evaluating that.”

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

Yellen said the new strain of the coronavirus could exacerbate supply chain problems and boost inflation, but it could also depress demand and cause slower growth, which would ease some of the inflationary pressures.

The spread of Omicron has roiled financial markets and prompted governments around the world to tighten travel and workplace restrictions. The United States reported its first case of community transmission of the new variant on Thursday.

Yellen, the former head of the Federal Reserve, also told the virtual global conference that she is ready to retire the word “transitory” to describe the current state of inflation plaguing the U.S. recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, echoing comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell earlier this week.

“I’m ready to retire the word transitory. I can agree that that hasn’t been an apt description of what we’re dealing with,” Yellen said.

Powell told lawmakers this week the word meant different things to different people, sowing some confusion, and it was a good time to explain more clearly what was meant. read more

STRONG ECONOMY

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pauses while testifying before a Senate Banking Committee hybrid hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pauses while testifying before a Senate Banking Committee hybrid hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Yellen insisted that stimulus spending by the Biden administration early this year was not the major driver boosting consumer prices, which hit 31-year highs in October and are running at more than twice the Fed’s flexible inflation target of 2% annually. She blamed the surging prices mainly on supply chain issues and a mismatch between supply and demand.

Yellen said the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year had helped vulnerable Americans get through the worst of the pandemic and fueled the strong U.S. economy.

While it may have contributed to inflation “somewhat,” she said the surge was largely due to the pandemic and the massive shift in consumption towards goods and away from services.

She said the Fed should keep a close eye on rising wages to avoid the kind of damaging and long-lasting “wage-price spiral” seen in the 1970s.

Yellen, who led the Fed from 2014 to 2018, said it was up to the U.S. central bank to decide what to do about interest rates, but noted that a strong U.S. economy, which would likely prompt rate hikes, is generally a good thing for the rest of the world. read more

President Joe Biden’s administration is working closely with the private sector to curb price increases, Yellen said, citing efforts to accelerate the loading of containers at ports and encourage domestic production of semiconductors.

She said lowering Trump-era tariffs on imported goods from China through a revived exclusion process could help ease some inflationary pressures, but would not be a “game-changer.” [nL1N2SN1M6]

While she is “open” to a visit to China to meet with government officials there on economic issues, Yellen said a trip is not currently on her agenda. But she said she would continue to engage with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, on issues such as technology practices, securities markets and exchange rate practices as well as efforts to rebalance China’s economy toward consumer spending.

Yellen also told the Reuters Next audience that her mind is not yet made up on whether the Fed should create a digital dollar, following China and some other countries in developing central bank digital currencies.

She said the advantages and disadvantages of such a move needed to be weighed, including possible negative effects on the banking system, and that consensus among the Fed, the Biden administration and Congress was needed to proceed. read more

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

Reporting by Alessandra Galloni, additional reporting by David Lawder, Andrea Shalal and Daniel Burns; Editing by Paul Simao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Economy

Dollar gains as Fed hawks circle before jobs report; Aussie slumps

Published

 on

The dollar leapt against its more risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand counterparts on Friday, ahead of key U.S. jobs data that could clear the path to earlier Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, even as Omicron uncertainties cloud the outlook.

Fed officials speaking on Thursday joined Chair Jerome Powell in striking hawkish stances, with San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly saying it may be time to “start crafting a plan” to raise rates to combat inflation, and Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin throwing his support behind “normalising policy.”

Meanwhile, the continued spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant globally buoyed havens like the dollar and yen and pressured riskier currencies. Omicron has quickly established itself as the dominant strain in South Africa, where it was first discovered last month, and has now been found in five U.S. states including Hawaii.

“G10 FX is very much risk-off” on “renewed jitters about the Omicron cases popping up in very distant parts of the U.S., and how we might have only seen the first phase of policy restrictions in response,” said Sean Callow, a currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, gained 0.09% to 96.173, setting it up for a 0.11% advance for the week. That would be a sixth weekly gain, the longest stretch since January 2015.

“If you strip out the noise in the market at the moment, which is driven very much by uncertainties around Omicron, the dollar is in a fairly bullish cycle,” said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

“That’s on the basis that clearly U.S. economic outperformance, especially within the developed world, is fairly entrenched for the time being, and we’re really pricing in that the Fed is going to increase the pace of the tapering programme in December and set up rate hikes well before the middle of next year.”

Money markets see high odds that the Fed will raise the target rate by a quarter point at its June meeting.

Powell reiterated in testimony to Congress on Wednesday that he and fellow policymakers will consider swifter action at their Dec. 14-15 meeting.

Economists in a Reuters poll estimate the United States created 530,000 new jobs last month, continuing a run of strong data.

The dollar was flat at 113.21 yen.

The euro was little changed at $1.12975, consolidating after its drop to an almost 17-month low at $1.1186 last week.

The Aussie dropped 0.26% to $0.7076, a fourth losing session, and earlier touched a 13-month low of $0.70625.

“We continue to expect near‑term AUD moves will be driven by Omicron and the risk remains a dip below $0.7000,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia strategist Joseph Capurso wrote in a report.

Both the European Central Bank and Reserve Bank of Australia, which decides policy on Tuesday, have stuck to dovish stances, pushing back against market bets that policymakers will be forced to bow to inflationary pressures.

New Zealand’s kiwi dollar fell 0.33% to $0.6795.

 

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Sam Holmes)

Continue Reading

Trending