By Leigh Thomas and Howard Schneider
PARIS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Real-time data on everything from sit-down restaurant meals to job hirings shows American business and consumers leaping to take advantage of a fast vaccine rollout even as their European counterparts languish in extended lockdowns.
And while some U.S. health experts express concern at the loosening or outright dropping of COVID-19 restrictions by many states, the outcome for now is that it is widening the U.S. head start in the post-pandemic recovery.
Even after an uptick this month for the first time since January, new U.S. infections at 131 per 100,000 over seven days are lower than those in Germany, France and Italy, the top three euro economies, the Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker shows.
Coupled with a faster vaccine rollout than any in Europe aside from Britain’s, that has prompted a tangible return of activity across a U.S. economy already forecast by the International Monetary Fund to return to pre-pandemic health months before the euro area can.
Take restaurants and retail. Diner visits recorded on the OpenTable State of the Industry site show, unsurprisingly, that numbers have continued to flat-line in Germany since late 2020 when lockdown measures were introduced.
In the United States, meanwhile, the chart has regained its habitual pattern of weekend spikes as the overall curve inches closer to its pre-pandemic level. (Graphic: Restaurants still closed in Europe as US recovers Restaurants still closed in Europe as US recovers, https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROPE-US/ECONOMY/xlbpgxymyvq/chart.png)
Google Mobility read-outs on movement trends confirm the same picture for retail as a whole. U.S. mobility levels leapt in January and broke further away from European comparisons in mid-February as Italy and then Germany and France saw declines. (Graphic: Google mobility trends for retail outlet, https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROZONE-USA/DIVERGENCE/dgkvleexkpb/chart.png) (Graphic: U.S. air travel is resuming, https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ECONOMY/TRAVEL/dgkvlezdopb/chart.png)
While many European countries still have stringent travel restrictions in place – and some are considering additional ones – the number of U.S. air passengers screened topped 1.5 million this month for the first time in a year.
With some states open for leisure travel despite federal guidance to the contrary, U.S. airline executives see concrete signs of a domestic leisure travel recovery and are optimistic about the summer season.
The buoyant mood is reflected in job postings recorded on the Indeed website, with the U.S. tally having now since January pushed strongly past its February 2020 level while those in France and Germany remain below it.
Finally, a similar disconnect is seen in the composite weekly tracker compiled by the OECD think tank from Google search behaviour in areas such as consumption, labour markets, housing, trade, industrial activity and economic uncertainty. (Graphic: OECD weekly economic activity tracker, https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROZONE-USA/DIVERGENCE/jznpnggeavl/chart.png)
Such snapshots of economic behaviour must be interpreted carefully. OECD economist Nicolas Woloszko noted for example that drops in mobility over the past two to three months were having smaller effects on activity as firms and households adapted to the new conditions.
Yet the overall picture, combined with faster U.S. vaccine rollout and new Biden administration stimulus of $1.9 trillion, is already enough for many forecasters to start pencilling in a widening of the growth gap between the United States and the euro zone in the first three months of this year. (Graphic: U.S. bank deposits have soared on stimulus payments, https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROZONE-USA/DIVERGENCE/xlbpgxxwrvq/chart.png)
Already, the Federal Reserve’s projection of a 6.5% growth rate for the United States in 2021 compares with a mere 3.7% forecast for the European economy.
Worse, economists such as Gilles Moec at AXA Group see the euro area battling with further restrictions in the second quarter too until vaccine campaigns start to accelerate and cap new infections as promised by European Union officials.
“What is in balance is the fate of the third quarter, since at the current pace of vaccination reaching collective immunity by the summer definitely is a challenge,” Moec noted.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris and Howard Schneider in Washington; Additional reporting by Dan Burns; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
World Bank sees ‘significant’ inflation risk from high energy prices
Energy Prices are expected to inch up in 2022 after surging more than 80% in 2021, fueling significant near-term risks to global inflation in many developing countries, the World Bank said in its latest Commodity Markets Outlook on Thursday.
The multilateral development bank said energy prices should start to decline in the second half of 2022 as supply constraints ease, with non-energy prices such as agriculture and metals also expected to ease after strong gains in 2021.
“The surge in energy prices poses significant near-term risks to global inflation and, if sustained, could also weigh on growth in energy-importing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, chief economist and director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, which produces the Outlook report.
“The sharp rebound in commodity prices is turning out to be more pronounced than previously projected. Recent volatility in prices may complicate policy choices as countries recover from last year’s global recession.”
The International Monetary Fund, in a separate blog https://blogs.imf.org/2021/10/21/surging-energy-prices-may-not-ease-until-next-year, said it expected energy prices to revert to “more normal levels” early next year when heating demand ebbs and supplies adjust. But it warned that uncertainty remained high and small demand shocks could trigger fresh price spikes.
The World Bank noted that some commodity prices rose to or exceeded levels in 2021 not seen since a spike a decade earlier.
Natural gas and coal prices, for instance, reached record highs amid supply constraints and rebounding demand for electricity, although they are expected to decline in 2022 as demand eases and supply improves, the bank said.
It warned that further price spikes could occur in the near-term given current low inventories and persistent supply bottlenecks. Other risk factors included extreme weather events, the uneven COVID-19 recovery and the threat of more outbreaks, along with supply-chain disruptions and environmental policies.
Higher food prices were also driving up food-price inflation and raising questions about food security in several developing countries, it said.
The bank projected crude oil prices would reach $74/bbl in 2022, buoyed by strengthening demand from a projected $70/bbl in 2021, before easing to $65/bbl in 2023.
The use of crude oil as a substitute for natural gas presented a major upside risk to the demand outlook, although higher energy prices may start to weigh on global growth.
The bank forecast a 5% drop in metals prices in 2022 after a 48% increase in 2021. It said agricultural prices were expected to decline modestly next year after jumping 22% this year.
It warned that changing weather patterns due to climate change also posed a growing risk to energy markets, potentially affecting both demand and supply.
It said countries could benefit by accelerating installation of renewable energy sources and by cutting their dependency on fossil fuels.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Diane Craft)
Global Climate Policy Acceleration Means Sink-or-Swim Decade for Canada's Economy: Report – Canada NewsWire
OTTAWA, ON, Oct. 21, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – Canada’s economy faces a “sink-or-swim” decade, according to the first study to assess Canada’s economic prospects in the face of accelerating global market shifts responding to climate change.
Sink or Swim: Transforming Canada’s economy for a global low-carbon future is a major new report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, Canada’s independent climate policy research institute. The report assesses Canada’s economic prospects in response to the global low-carbon transition and offers recommendations for successfully navigating that transition.
Countries responsible for over 70 per cent of global GDP and over 70 per cent of global oil demand have committed to reaching net zero emissions by mid-century. Trillions of dollars in global investment will move away from high-carbon sectors. The impact of these global shifts will be profound, shifting trade patterns, reshaping demand, and upending businesses that are too slow to adapt.
To better understand the risks and opportunities of this transition for Canada, Sink or Swim stress tests publicly traded companies under different scenarios. Without major investment, the report finds, many exporters and multinationals will see significant profit loss in the coming decades. The stakes are high for Canada, with almost 70 per cent of goods exports and over 800,000 jobs in transition-vulnerable sectors, including oil and gas, mining, heavy industry, and auto manufacturing.
To succeed in this global transition, the report concludes, Canada must use climate policy, company disclosure, and targeted public investment to mobilize private finance and improve the resilience of Canada’s workforce and impacted communities.
“Our analysis shows that global policy and market changes will have a profound impact on Canada’s economy and workforce. To stay competitive, Canada needs to rapidly scale up new, transition-consistent sources of growth—and successfully transform existing ones. Moving too slowly is now a greater competitive risk than moving too quickly.”
—Rachel Samson, Clean Growth Research Director, Climate Choices
“The global transition means Canada must transform its economy in the face of new market realities. With smart, certain policy and innovation across the private sector, there is a path to strong economic growth, gains in well-being, and lower emissions.”
—Don Drummond, Stauffer-Dunning Fellow and Adjunct Professor at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University and fellow-in-residence at the C.D. Howe Institute
“Major Canadian investors understand the pressures our economy will be facing as a result of accelerating global market shifts, and we’re issuing a strong call for increased climate accountability and transparency in the corporate sector.”
—Dustyn Lanz, CEO, Responsible Investment Association
“The Aluminum Association of Canada supports a holistic view of Canada’s trajectory towards net zero emissions. A multifaceted approach with room for everyone will support a transition to a prosperous and sustainable economy.”
—Jean Simard, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Aluminium Association of Canada
“Canadian businesses and investors need clarity on which economic activities are consistent with the transition to a low-carbon future. Without that clarity, there is a risk that finance will flow in the wrong directions and miss areas of great opportunity. The analysis in this report will support the development of practical taxonomies that can be used for transition-consistent investment decisions and financial products.”
—Barbara Zvan, CEO & President, University Pension Plan and member of Canada’s former Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. UPP is a participating organization of the Sustainable Finance Action Council
ABOUT CLIMATE CHOICES
The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices is Canada’s independent climate policy research institute, providing evidence-based policy analysis and advice to decision makers across the country.
SOURCE Canadian Institute for Climate Choices
For further information: Catharine Tunnacliffe, Director of Communications, (226) 212-9883
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