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Consumers are feeling less confident about the economy, but they're still spending – CNN

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San Francisco (CNN Business)Inflation may be showing signs that it’s easing, but the high-cost environment still has American consumers wary about the direction of the economy.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index dipped slightly to 106.4 in May, down from a revised 108.6 in April, according to data released Tuesday. The decline was smaller than the 103.9 analysts expected, according to Refinitiv.
“We still have headwinds from the war in Ukraine, rising prices, interest rate hikes, but consumers have been weathering it pretty well — even though we did have a slight decline, it’s relatively a strong reading,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “And a lot of that comes from the fact that confidence has been supported by strong job growth, so that’s helping to offset some of these challenges that consumers have been facing over the last couple of months.”
People shop at a grocery store on May 12, 2022, in New York City.

People shop at a grocery store on May 12, 2022, in New York City.

For most Americans, the three biggest expenses are housing, transportation and food — all of which have seen significant price increases over the past year.
April’s core Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index, which doesn’t include the volatile food and energy prices, rose by 4.9% year-over-year, down from a 5.2% increase in March, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Home prices rose by more than 20% in March from the previous year, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday, marking the highest year-over-year price change in more than 35 years of data.
Airfares have been on the rise, and gas prices set a fresh record over the holiday weekend, landing at a national average of $4.62 per gallon of regular gasoline on Memorial Day. This time last year, the national average was $3.05 per gallon. The rising prices reflect a confluence of factors, including high demand and ripple effects from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although motorists are encountering a fair bit of sticker shock, things have been worse. When accounting for inflation, gas prices were the highest in June 2008, hitting $5.38 per gallon, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Yet despite higher prices, consumers are still spending. US retail sales in April were up 0.9% from the month before and were 8.2% higher than April 2021, the Commerce Department reported earlier this month.
“We do see a softening in the durable, big-ticket item purchases, and part of that is interest rate hikes and part of that also is that consumers are now pivoting from big-ticket items to services,” Franco said. “You can only buy so many washing machines. So now it’s the shift to services and going back to dining out, movies, sporting events and so forth.”
But this period of high inflation is causing a split in how people are spending. Retailers have reported that while luxury sales have remained strong, lower-income customers aren’t buying as much discretionary items and are instead seeking out lower-priced generic products.
Overall, consumers are starting to pull back on the purchases they make, according to survey data released last week by The NPD Group. During the first quarter of 2022, consumers bought 6% fewer items at retail than in the first three months of 2021, according to the New York-based market research firm.
“There is a tug-of-war between the consumer’s desire to buy what they want and the need to make concessions based on the higher prices hitting their wallets,” Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief retail industry adviser said in a statement.
Inflation remains top of mind for consumers, The Conference Board’s Franco said, noting inflation expectations in May were virtually unchanged from April’s elevated levels.
“Looking ahead, expect surging prices and additional interest rate hikes to pose continued downside risks to consumer spending this year,” she said.

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Charting the Global Economy: Factories Slow Down From US to Asia – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast.

Manufacturing from the US to Asia is very much in a slowdown as factories continue to struggle with supply snarls, labor shortages and elevated materials costs.

A measure of US manufacturing activity weakened in June to a two-year low, and several regional Federal Reserve surveys indicated business activity shrank. Factory purchasing managers’ gauges across Asia eased, with South Korea, Thailand and India among those showing the biggest declines, according to S&P Global.

Similar indexes in Poland, Spain and Italy also showed weaker activity compared to May.

Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:

US

Consumer spending fell in May for the first time this year and prior months were revised lower, suggesting an economy on somewhat weaker footing than previously thought amid rapid inflation and Fed interest-rate hikes.

Regional Fed manufacturing surveys have taken on a grimmer tone, with four of five indicating business activity shrank in June. Separately, a measure of overall manufacturing slid to a two-year low as new orders contracted, restrained by lingering supply constraints and some softening in demand.

The pandemic housing boom is careening to a halt as the fastest-rising mortgage rates in at least half a century upend affordability for homebuyers, catching many sellers wrong-footed with prices that are too high.

Europe

Confidence in the euro-area economy slipped as households become more pessimistic amid fears a Russian energy cutoff will spark a recession. At the same time, they’re less worried about inflation than they were a month ago, though there’s a split between core and peripheral euro-area countries.

After suffering from unprecedented shocks in recent years, the UK is succumbing to more intractable problems marked by plodding growth, surging inflation and a series of damaging strikes.

Asia

China’s economy showed some improvement in June as Covid restrictions were gradually eased, although the recovery remains muted. That’s the outlook based on Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight early indicators for this month. The overall gauge returned to the neutral level after deteriorating for two straight months.

Japan’s factory output shrank at the fastest pace since the height of the pandemic as the lagged impact of China’s virus lockdowns continued to disrupt supply chains and economic activity in the region. The weakness in manufacturing extended across Asia, particularly in South Korea, Thailand, India and Taiwan.

Emerging Markets

Colombia’s central bank delivered its biggest interest rate increase in over two decades. Policy makers are bracing for another spike in annual inflation that’s already above 9%. 

Two years after Argentina emerged from its latest default, a debt crisis in brewing once again. This time, the immediate trouble is in the local bond market, where creditors have become reluctant to roll over maturing government bonds.

Zambia’s inflation rate dropped below 10% for the first time in almost three years in June, bucking a global trend of record consumer-price growth. Optimism over the nation’s economy since the election of Hakainde Hichilema as president in August, a potential debt restructuring and a $1.4 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund has seen a rally in the local currency, which has helped contain prices.

World

Differences in underlying inflation trends call for different policy outlooks among the world’s top central banks, according to Bloomberg Economics. The Fed will have to go well into restrictive territory, the Bank of England may go a little above neutral and the European Central Bank might not even get that far.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Quarterly Investment Guide 3Q 2022: US economy on shaky ground – CNBC

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Minister Of The Economy Franz Fayot On Luxembourg’s Transition Towards A Green Economy – Forbes

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Just last week, Luxembourg’s Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, came to the cities of Toronto and Montreal as part of an economic mission organized by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in close cooperation with the Ministry of the Economy. I had the opportunity to sit down with Minister Fayot at the InterContinental Toronto Centre, and get some insights into the Grand-Duchy’s economic transition towards sustainability.

A transitioning economy

With up to one-third of its GDP related to the finance sector, Luxembourg’s economy is widely dominated by the financial sector. However, the past 20 years have been characterized by a push for economic diversification, and increased transparency and regulations following the financial crisis, said Minister Fayot.

“What we are trying to do is diversify [the economy] even more into new sectors to make us less dependent on the financial sector and adaptable to new circumstances,” he said. “We are also more and more developing a green finance sustainable finance sector, which is doing very well.”

A green state responsibility

Minister Fayot, whose guiding principles are a strong welfare state and sustainability, firmly believes that the government must assume its pivotal role in shifting the economy towards sustainability — “both in terms of environmental sustainability, but also social sustainability,” he added.

In June 2020, an international consultation was launched to gather strategic spatial planning project ideas considering the climate-related challenges and social issues, and support for the country’s ecological transition towards a zero-carbon territory by 2050.

“We need to understand that we have to help businesses innovate, and invest in the future,” said Minister Fayot.

A rising startup ecosystem

Luxembourg has seen a steady growth in startups over the past decade.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of the Economy launched a strategic initiative aimed at providing a thorough understanding of the startup ecosystem based on data analysis and interviews with key stakeholders.

Luxinnovation, the national innovation agency, identified over 500 active startups offering innovative digital and data-driven solutions in its latest mapping.

These assessments will also provide relevant comparisons with international markets, and aim to identify the necessary next steps for development opportunities in the upcoming years.

“Our innovation agency is there to guide startups, but also other more established businesses, to get access to grants,” explained Minister Fayot. “We have a state aid framework in Europe which we have to comply with, but the main message is that there is an obvious need to co-finance innovation, particularly in times when we are in this transition towards a more green economy.”

Going above the limits of territory

Surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany, Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the world — slightly smaller than Rhode Island. Yet, despite its dependence on its neighboring countries’ energy supplies, it is making continuous efforts to increase its share of renewable energy by also investing in projects across its borders, said Minister Fayot.

“We don’t have that much sun in Luxembourg, and we don’t have an unlimited space to build wind power,” he said. “It’s a bit of a limiting factor, but it shouldn’t excuse anything.”

“We are investing a lot into energy efficiency,” he added. “We are trying to get people to e-mobility and pushing for geothermal heating and energy in new constructions.”

A growing space sector

Luxembourg might not be the first to come to mind when we think of space, but, the country owns one of the world-leading satellite operators, and is increasing its investment into space resources.

“The SpaceResources.lu is an initiative that we launched about six years ago, and it is very much focused on the space resources segment of the space industry,” he said. “We are not launching anything in space out of Luxembourg, but focusing on services like space traffic management.”

As part of the economic mission, a group of space companies participated in a distinctive program set up by the Luxembourg Space Agency in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency. This included on-site company visits, workshops and B2B opportunities that led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two national space agencies.

Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.

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