Розділ: Нерухомість

November 27th, 2021 by Vbiz

Americans returned to stores for the “Black Friday” kickoff of the holiday shopping season, but online data shows that consumers have been spending big for weeks amid worries over shortages.

The day after the U.S. Thanksgiving celebration is the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, and normally sees Americans line up outside stores before they open to clinch deals on popular items.

After the pandemic kept crowds away last year, many shoppers were out in force Friday, a sign of how COVID-19 vaccines have returned life in the United States to something closer to normal.

“I just wanted to make sure that this Christmas was a good Christmas for all my friends and family,” said a masked Sylvia Gonzalez as she waited in line outside the jewelry chain Pandora in New York.

But even before retailers opened their doors early Friday morning, e-commerce shoppers in the United States had already spent $76 billion since early November, up more than 20% from the year-ago period, according to data from software company Adobe, which has projected somewhat fewer promotions this year in light of rising costs.

The jump has added to companies’ optimism about the season, suggesting some shoppers heeded calls from businesses to purchase items early this year after port backlogs and other logistics problems sparked worries that popular goods would be in short supply.

Toys led the buying spree, with Adobe pointing to actions by “anxious parents increasingly aware of supply chain challenges.”

The National Retail Federation projects overall spending could rise as much as 10.5% to $859 billion.

Nonetheless, out-of-stock listings online are up 261% compared with two years ago, according to Adobe.

Item in hand

Retailers and market watchers are broadly optimistic about the holiday shopping season in light of low unemployment and relatively strong household finances due in part to pandemic stimulus bills enacted by the government.

Countering those positive trends are lingering supply chain problems, spiking consumer prices that have affected household staples such as food and fuel, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still far from over.

On Friday, stock markets worldwide tumbled on worries that the latest strain of the virus found in South Africa could derail the global recovery.

Reminders of the pandemic were visible throughout shopping districts in the New York borough of Manhattan.

Signs at Macy’s reminded customers to keep 2 meters apart, and pop-up COVID-19 testing sites were positioned outside stores where mostly masked crowds were large, but not as sizeable as before the pandemic.

“In 2018, it was more like the New York you heard of,” said German tourist Ilke Zienteck. “Now, it’s a little bit like a small town.”

Still, the hum of customers inside shops suggested that many had adjusted to the “new normal” of pandemic living.

There were obvious gaps at some stores. At a Best Buy near Grand Central Station, a shelf of Apple accessories was almost completely empty, while the camera bags section had few remaining offerings.

Other chains like Victoria’s Secret and Foot Locker have acknowledged shortages of some choice products.

Taylor Schreiner, a digital research expert at Adobe, expects more consumers to order online and pay for expedited shipping, or pick up goods at stores.

“It’s not just because people want it quickly,” he said in an interview. “Having the item in hand is the surest way to have the gift for the person.”

January glut?

An emerging worry in the industry is that retailers will be stuck with goods originally intended for the holidays but that don’t arrive until January.

Macy’s is generally canceling orders for items with a Christmas motif but plans to keep other items if they are cold-weather-oriented and could sell later in the winter, executives said earlier this month.

Gap Chief Financial Officer Katrina O’Connell said the apparel chain was planning to hold some items for next winter.

“If we think items are going to be too late for the holiday season, we won’t put them in stores or online and have them generate markdowns,” she said earlier this week on a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “We’ll hold them for next year.”

Gap has been one of the companies hardest hit by supply chain problems due to lengthy factory shutdowns in Vietnam caused by the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, which contributed to a loss of some $300 million in sales in the most recent quarter. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 27th, 2021 by Vbiz

Stocks sank Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly falling more than 1,000 points, as a new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa appeared to be spreading across the globe. Investors were uncertain whether the variant could reverse months of progress at getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

The S&P 500 index dropped 106.84 points, or 2.3%, to close at 4,594.62. It was the worst day for Wall Street’s benchmark index since February.

The index was dragged lower by banks, travel companies and energy companies as investors tried to reposition to protect themselves financially from the new variant. The World Health Organization called the variant “highly transmissible.” 

The price of oil fell about 13%, the biggest decline since early in the pandemic, amid worries of another slowdown in the global economy. That in turn dragged down energy stocks. Exxon shares fell 3.5% while Chevron fell 2.3%. 

The blue chips closed down 905.04 points to end the day at 34,899.34. The Nasdaq Composite lost 353.57 points, or 2.2%, to 15,491.66. 

Bond yields fall; banks hit

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report. That was evident from the action in the bond market, where the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.48% from 1.64% on Wednesday. As a result, banks took some of the heaviest losses. JPMorgan Chase dropped 3%. 

There have been other variants of the coronavirus — the delta variant devastated much of the U.S. throughout the summer — and investors, public officials and the general public are jittery about any new variant that’s spreading. It’s been nearly two years since COVID-19 emerged, killing more than 5 million people around the globe so far.

The economic impacts of this variant were already being felt. The European Union and the U.K. both announced travel restrictions from southern Africa on Friday. After the market closed, the U.S. also put travel restrictions on those coming from South Africa as well as seven other African nations.

Airline stocks quickly sold off, with United Airlines dropping 9.6% and American Airlines falling 8.8%. 

“COVID had seemingly been put in the rear-view mirror by financial markets until recently,” Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. “At the least, [the virus] is likely to continue throwing sand in the gears of the global economy in 2022, restraining the recovery [and] keeping kinks in the supply chain.” 

Even Bitcoin got caught up in the selling. The digital currency dropped 8.4% to $54,179, according to CoinDesk.

In Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he is spending a holiday weekend, President Joe Biden said he wasn’t concerned about the market’s decline. 

“They always do when there’s something on COVID [that] arises,” Biden said.

‘Fear gauge’

One sign of Wall Street’s anxiety was the VIX, the market’s measurement of volatility that is sometimes referred to as its “fear gauge.” The VIX jumped 53.6% to a reading of 28.54, its highest reading since January, before the vaccines began to be widely distributed.

Fearful of more lockdowns and travel bans, investors moved money into companies that largely benefited from previous waves, like Zoom Communications for meetings or Peloton for at-home exercise equipment. Shares in both companies rose nearly 6%. 

The coronavirus vaccine manufacturers were among the biggest beneficiaries of the emergence of this new variant and the subsequent investor reaction. Pfizer shares rose more than 6% while Moderna shares jumped more than 20%.

Merck shares fell 3.8%, however. While U.S. health officials said Merck’s experimental treatment of COVID-19 was effective, data showed the pill was not as effective at keeping patients out of the hospital as originally thought. 

Investors are worried that the supply chain issues that have impacted global markets for months will worsen. Ports and freight yards are vulnerable and could be shut by new, localized outbreaks.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 26th, 2021 by Vbiz

Britain’s blue-chip share index slumped Friday, suffering its biggest drop in more than a year as fears over a newly detected and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant gripped stock markets around the world.

 

The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index closed down 3.7% at its lowest in more than seven weeks, with commodity, travel, and banking stocks leading the sell-off.

 

Britain said the virus variant spreading in South Africa was considered by scientists to be the most significant one found yet and it needed to ascertain whether it rendered vaccines ineffective.

 

Tourism group TUI fell almost 10%, while airline companies like Wizz Air, easyJet and British Airways-owner IAG lost about 15% after British authorities imposed travel restrictions from South Africa and five neighboring countries.

 

“We don’t know so much about this variant yet but if it’s serious, it could change the macro scenarios altogether,” said Roland Kaloyan, head of European equity strategy at Societe Generale.

 

“The Bank of England will not hike rates in a period where we can enter lockdown and put serious burden on the economy.”

 

Supply-chain worries and inflationary pressures have kept the FTSE 100 under pressure, with the blue-chip index lagging its European peers so far this year.

 

Shares of major British lenders HSBC, Lloyds Bank and Barclays all fell almost 5% as investors scaled back expectations for an interest rate hike in December.

 

“Over the last month, the banking sector has benefited from a steeper yield curve but with the news today we see a lower bond yield and that’s also not quite positive for the long term,” said Kaloyan.

 

Energy and mining stocks fell 6.3% and 4.4%, respectively, tracking a slump in commodity prices on fresh economic slowdown fears.

 

The domestically focused mid-cap index dropped 3.0%, faring a bit better than its blue-chip counterpart as online trading platform Plus500 and CMC Markets gained ground.

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 26th, 2021 by Vbiz

Global stocks tumbled Friday and oil fell below $80 a barrel after news of a possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant sent investors scurrying to the safety of bonds, the yen and the Swiss franc.

Little is known of the variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but scientists say it has an unusual combination of mutations, may be able to evade immune responses and could be more transmissible.

British authorities think it is the most significant variant to date and have hurried to impose travel restrictions on southern Africa, as did Japan, the Czech Republic and Italy on Friday. 

The European Union also said it aimed to halt air travel from the region.

“Markets have been quite complacent about the pandemic for a while, partly because economies have been able to withstand the impact of selective lockdown measures. But we can see from the new emergency brakes on air travel that there will be  

ramifications for the price of oil,” said Chris Scicluna, head of economic research at Daiwa.

The World Health Organization is convening an experts’ meeting later Friday to evaluate whether the new variant is a “variant of concern.”

Global shares fell 0.8% and were on course for their worst week since early October.

European stocks plunged 2.7%, on track for their worst day since September 2020, with travel and leisure stocks particularly badly hit.

Germany’s DAX sank 3% and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 2.7% to its lowest in more than a month.

MSCI’s index of Asian shares outside Japan fell 2.2%, its sharpest drop since August. 

Casino and beverage shares were hammered in Hong Kong, while travel stocks dropped in Sydney and Tokyo.

Japan’s Nikkei skidded 2.5% and S&P 500 futures were last down 1.8%.

Giles Coghlan, chief currency analyst at HYCM, a brokerage, said the closure of the U.S. market for the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday had exacerbated moves.

“We need to see how transmissible this variant is, is it able to evade the vaccines – this is crucial,” Coghlan said.

“I expect this story to drag on for a few days until scientists have a better understanding of it.”

Oil prices slid, with U.S. crude futures down 5.7% to $73.96 a barrel and Brent crude down 4.66% to $78.38 amid fresh demand fears.

As investors dashed for safe-haven assets, the yen jumped more than 1% to around 113 per dollar, having languished earlier this week at five-year lows.

The euro rose 0.4% to $1.1251, as safety rather than policy differentials drove trade.

The single currency, however, fell to near 6-1/2 year lows against the Swiss franc at 1.044 francs per euro.

“You shoot first and ask questions later when this sort of news erupts,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney.

South Africa’s rand fell 2% to a one-year low and its 2030 bond yield soared 25.5 basis points (bps).

Bond yields move inversely to price.

Other bond markets strengthened, benefiting from their safe haven status. Ten-year Treasury yields fell 11 bps to 1.5277% and 30-year yields were down 9 bps to

1.8777%. Germany’s 10-year bond yield was down 6.2 bps at -0.31%. Gold rose 0.7% to $1,800 an ounce.

The market swings come against a backdrop of already growing concern about COVID-19 outbreaks driving restrictions on movement and activity in Europe and beyond.

European countries have expanded COVID-19 booster vaccinations and tightened curbs. Slovakia announced a two-week lockdown, the Czech government will shut bars early and Germany crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths.

“I don’t think there’s any going back to the pre-COVID-19 world,” said Mark Arnold, chief investment officer at Hyperion Asset Management in Brisbane.

“We’re just going to get mutations through time and that’s going to change the way people operate in the economy. That’s just reality.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 26th, 2021 by Vbiz

In early October, a ruptured underwater pipeline spilled crude oil in the waters off the Southern California coast. Almost two months later, life in Huntington Beach is back to normal, but residents say the reputation of the tourist city has been damaged and businesses are still hurting. Genia Dulot reports

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 25th, 2021 by Vbiz

The holiday tree is towering over the main square in this central German city, the chestnuts and sugared almonds are roasted, and kids are clambering aboard the merry-go-round just like they did before the pandemic. But a surge in coronavirus infections has left an uneasy feeling hanging over Frankfurt’s Christmas market.

To savor a mug of mulled wine — a pleasurable rite of winter in pre-pandemic times — masked customers must pass through a one-way entrance to a fenced-off wine hut, stopping at the hand sanitizer station. Elsewhere, security officers check vaccination certificates before letting customers head for the steaming sausages and kebabs.

Despite the pandemic inconveniences, stall owners selling ornaments, roasted chestnuts and other holiday-themed items in Frankfurt and other European cities are relieved to be open at all for their first Christmas market in two years, especially with new restrictions taking effect in Germany, Austria and other countries as COVID-19 infections hit record highs. Merchants who have opened are hoping for at least a fraction of the pre-pandemic holiday sales that can make or break their businesses.

Others aren’t so lucky. Many of the famous holiday events have been canceled in Germany and Austria. With the market closures goes the money that tourists would spend in restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Jens Knauer, who crafts intricate, lighted Christmas-themed silhouettes that people can hang in windows, said his hope was simply that the Frankfurt market “stays open as long as possible.”

While Christmas is 40% of annual revenue for many retailers and restaurateurs, “with me, it’s 100%,” Knauer said. “If I can stay open for three weeks, I can make it through the year.”

Purveyors are on edge after other Christmas markets were abruptly shut down in Germany’s Bavaria region, which includes Nuremberg, home of one of the biggest and best-known markets. Stunned exhibitors in Dresden had to pack up their goods when authorities in the eastern Saxony region suddenly imposed new restrictions amid soaring infections. Austria’s markets closed as a 10-day lockdown began Monday, with many stall owners hoping they can reopen if it’s not extended.

Markets usually attract elbow-to-elbow crowds to row upon row of ornament and food sellers, foot traffic that spills over into revenue for surrounding hotels and restaurants. This year, the crowds at Frankfurt’s market were vastly thinned out, with the stalls spread out over a larger area.

Heiner Roie, who runs a mulled wine hut in the shape of a wine barrel, said he’s assuming he will see half the business he had in 2019. A shutdown would cause “immense financial damage — it could lead to complete ruin since we haven’t made any income in two years, and at some point, the financial reserves are used up.”

But if people have a little discipline and observe the health measures, “I think we’ll manage it,” he said.

Next door, Bettina Roie’s guests are greeted with a sign asking them to show their vaccination certificates at her stand serving Swiss raclette, a popular melted cheese dish.

The market “has a good concept because what we need is space, room, to keep some distance from each other,” she said. “In contrast to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, they have their building and their walls, but we can adjust ourselves to the circumstances.”

The extended Roie family is a fifth-generation exhibitor business that also operates the merry-go-round on Frankfurt’s central Roemerberg square, where the market opened Monday. 

Roie said it was important to reopen “so that we can bring the people even during the pandemic a little joy — that’s what we do, we bring back joy.”

The latest spike in COVID-19 cases has unsettled prospects for Europe’s economic recovery, leading some economists to hedge their expectations for growth in the final months of the year.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, has cut his forecast for the last three months of the year in the 19 countries that use the euro from 0.7% to 0.5%. But he noted that the wave of infections is having less impact across the broad economy because vaccinations have reduced serious illnesses and many companies have learned to adjust.

That is cold comfort to Germany’s DEHOGA restaurant and hotel association, which warned of a “hail of cancellations” and said members were reporting every second Christmas party or other special event was being called off.

Other European countries where the pandemic isn’t hitting as hard are returning to old ways. The traditional Christmas market in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, in the heart of the Spanish capital, is slated to open Friday at the size it was before the pandemic.

It will have 104 stalls of nativity figures, decorations and traditional sweets in a country where 89% of those 12 or older are fully vaccinated. Last year, it had half the number of stalls and restricted the number of people allowed in the square. Masks and social distancing will remain mandatory, organizers said.

In Hungary’s capital of Budapest, Christmas markets have been fenced off and visitors must show proof of vaccination to enter.

Gyorgy Nagy, a producer and seller of handmade glazed crockery, said the restrictions initially stirred worries of fewer shoppers. But business has been good so far.

“I don’t think the fence is bad,” he said. “At the beginning, we were scared of it, really scared, but I think it’s fine. … I don’t think it will be a disadvantage.”

Markets opening reflects a broader spectrum of loose restrictions in Hungary, even as new COVID-19 cases have exceeded peaks seen during a devastating surge last spring. More infections were confirmed last week than in other week since the pandemic started.

A representative for the Advent Bazilika Christmas market said a number of its measures go beyond government requirements, including that all vendors wear masks and those selling food and drinks be vaccinated.

Bea Lakatos, a seller of fragrant soaps and oils at the Budapest market, said that while sales have been a bit weaker than before the pandemic, “I wasn’t expecting so many foreign visitors given the restrictions.”

“I think things aren’t that bad so far,” she said this week. “The weekend started particularly strong.”

In Vienna, markets were packed last weekend as people sought some Christmas cheer before Austria’s lockdown. Merchants say closures last year and the new restrictions have had disastrous consequences.

“The main sales for the whole year are made at the Christmas markets — this pause is a huge financial loss,” said Laura Brechmann who sold illuminated stars at the Spittelberg market before the lockdown began. “We hope things will reopen, but I personally don’t really expect it.”

In Austria’s Salzkammergut region, home to ski resorts and the picturesque town of Hallstatt, the tourism industry hopes the national lockdown won’t be extended past Dec. 13 and it can recover some much-needed revenue.

Last winter’s extended lockdowns cost the tourism board alone 1 million euros ($1.12 million) just in nightly tourist tax fees during that period — not to mention the huge financial losses sustained by hotels, restaurants and ski resorts.

“Overall, I do think that if things open up again before Christmas, we can save the winter season,” said Christian Schirlbauer, head of tourism for the Dachstein-Salzkammergut region. “But it will depend on whether or not the case numbers go down.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 25th, 2021 by Vbiz

Persistently high prices for gasoline are frustrating many Americans and causing a political headache for the administration of President Joe Biden, but they also might be accelerating the process of transitioning the country to more widespread use of vehicles that run on renewable energy — particularly electricity. 

 

Experts say that sales of electric vehicles, or EVs, tend to rise when fuel prices do, though they cautioned it’s difficult to draw a straight line from prices at the pump to car purchases. 

 

“People buy electric cars for lots of reasons, so they’re not completely dependent on gas prices, but that’s certainly reinforcing it,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a trade group representing manufacturers of electric vehicles.

 

An estimated 468,000 new EVs were sold in the U.S. from the beginning of the year through September, according to data collected by Atlas Public Policy, a group that tracks the market for EVs. That represents a 45%  increase over the 323,000 EVs sold during the entirety of 2020. 

 

Looking solely at the month of September 2021, U.S. consumers bought 57,000 new EVs. That was 63% more than the 35,000 sold in September of 2020, and a 90% increase over the 30,000 sold in September 2019. 

Gas prices make EVs attractive 

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of one kilowatt hour of electricity in the United States rose from 13.5 cents in October 2020 to 14.2 cents in October 2021, an increase of 5.2%. By contrast, the BLS found the average cost of a gallon of gas rose from $2.23 in October 2020 to $3.48 in October 2021, a 56.1% increase. 

 

“High gas prices are tough on Americans driving gasoline vehicles,” said Luke Tonachel, director of clean vehicles and fuels for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The volatility in the global price of the oil used to make gasoline is a constant worry.

 

In the U.S., though, the structure of the electricity market keeps prices from increasing sharply. 

 

“Electricity prices are regulated, and therefore quite stable,” said Tonachel. “An EV driver can expect to pay a quarter or less as much per mile as [someone] driving a gasoline vehicle.” 

 

US EV sales expected to rise further 

While electric vehicle sales are rising rapidly, the numbers begin from a low baseline. As recently as five years ago, EV sales accounted for less than 1% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. That figure has surged to what is expected to be about 4% this year, and the real increase is on the horizon. 

 

LMC Automotive, which tracks vehicle sales and estimates the future of the market, projects that by 2030, EVs, including purely electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars that can run on both electricity and gasoline, will make up 34.2% of new vehicle sales in the United States. 

 

That transition will continue, as the federal government increasingly crafts policies meant to bring the country in line with President Biden’s promise, made at the recent United Nations Climate Conference, to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to about half of their 2005 levels by 2030. 

 

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this summer it would structure emissions guidelines for cars powered by internal combustion engines in order to “speed the transition of the light-duty vehicle fleet toward a zero emissions future.” 

 

“We’re going to see the car market accelerate the shift to EVs when the U.S. EPA sets emission standards that zero out pollution from vehicles,” said Tonachel. “That’s ultimately what we need to address the climate crisis, and it will result in cheaper mobility, too.” 

 

Another factor is the continued rollout of a network of charging stations across the country. The Energy Department currently lists more than 52,000 stations in the country, with upwards of 100,000 outlets. The infrastructure bill that President Biden recently signed into law contains $7.5 billion aimed at increasing that number by a factor of 10 within the next decade. 

 

Broader future for renewables 

 

There also is reason to believe that increased electrification of the transportation system will drive the adoption of renewables in other aspects of day-to-day life, as well. That’s because, as car battery technology continues to improve, it will make it easier and cheaper to store energy generated by wind and solar power sources. 

 

“Electrification of transportation is the key to growing renewables in the power sector,” said Cullen, of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. “Because batteries are one of the few effective and portable ways to store electricity. They’ll enable utilities and other power generators to manage demand so that you can save up excess wind or solar.” 

 

She added, “Battery storage is the path there. Electric transportation, this mobile electrical load, has the ability to be a grid asset.” 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 25th, 2021 by Vbiz

The United States has decided to almost double the duties on Canadian softwood lumber from most producers to 17.9%, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng said on Wednesday, adding that Canada is “extremely disappointed.”

The current rate for most companies is about 9%.

Ng said that the U.S. Department of Commerce on Wednesday issued the final results of the second administrative reviews of its anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders regarding certain softwood lumber products from Canada.

“Canada is extremely disappointed that the United States has decided to increase the unfair duties it is imposing on Canadian softwood lumber from most producers to 17.9%,” Ng said in a statement. “Canada calls on the United States to cease imposing these unwarranted duties on Canadian softwood lumber products.”

The U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night. Earlier this year, Washington announced plans to double the duties on imports of Canadian lumber and requested a dispute panel on Canada’s dairy import quotas.

Canada’s softwood lumber industry is a key component of the country’s forestry sector, which contributed more than $25 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2020 and employed nearly 185,000 workers. The British Columbia Lumber Trade Council also expressed disappointment.

Ng said that “following completion of any legal challenges under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement’s (CUSMA) Chapter 10 or in U.S. courts, these new anti-dumping and countervailing duty rates will apply retroactively to softwood lumber exports to the United States from companies that were subject to the second administrative reviews.”

“These unjustified duties harm Canadian communities, businesses, and workers,” she said, adding: “They are also a tax on U.S. consumers.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

Tawanda Carter is a school librarian in New Orleans, Louisiana. She said preparing for the holidays has presented a unique set of challenges this year, a sentiment shared by millions of Americans.

“Food prices are higher, and a lot of items aren’t even in stock,” she said, as she gets ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family in Atlanta, Georgia. “We’ve been keeping an eye out for sales and also thinking about new dishes to make up for the traditional ones we might not be able to eat this year.”

Across the United States, prices on essentials such as groceries and gas are rising at a pace unseen in a generation. Experts say the cause is a mix of worker shortages, supply chain issues and stimulative economic policies enacted to support families and financial markets during the global pandemic. For many, however, the timing of the price increases couldn’t be worse as families prepare for their first holiday gatherings since the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

“The price of fresh produce has doubled,” said Maria Gallagher-Venable, co-owner of a pet-sitting business in a New Orleans suburb. “Meat prices are climbing every day, too. We’re trying to do all our Christmas shopping online to avoid shipping delays, but those prices are higher than usual, as well, and the cost of gasoline has already meant finances are tighter.”

“I went to the grocery store to buy a head of iceberg lettuce and it was $3.69!” said local restaurant owner Shane Finkelstein. “It’s usually a dollar. It costs more to cook at home than it used to. It costs more to eat at a restaurant than it used to. And I don’t think this is going to change. Restaurants need to charge more, or they’re going to go out of business. This is just how things are now.” ​

A worker shortage 

Gallagher-Venable thinks the worker shortage is largely the result of greedy companies unwilling to share profits with their workers.

“The minimum wage is a joke in this country, and people are tired of working like dogs just to stay in debt,” she said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of last month, approximately 3 million fewer people in the U.S. were looking for work than in February 2020, the month before the pandemic began. While there’s no denying the economy faces a shortage of workers, the underlying cause is still under debate.

Megan Forman co-owns several bakeries in New Orleans. Labor shortages aren’t only being seen in the service industry, she said. A lack of workers throughout the supply chain is causing prices to fluctuate.

“When you don’t have enough employees, you can’t produce as much as you want,” she said. “And that’s not just at our bakery. When farmers can’t hire enough workers, they can’t plant and harvest enough. When trucking companies can’t hire enough drivers, they can’t ship as much.”

Economists have said that after accruing savings throughout the pandemic, Americans are eager to purchase goods and services again. Many businesses, however, have been unable to match the demand.

“Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year for bakeries, and we’re returning to pre-pandemic sales,” Forman said. “But the ability for us to get the ingredients and supplies we need — it’s like the Wild West. So unpredictable.”

So, too, are the prices of those ingredients and supplies. Forman said these days one seller will offer eggs at $30 per case, while another has the same eggs priced at $17. The next day, she said, things can swing drastically.

“We need paper cups for our coffee, but they’re so difficult to find, or expensive when we do find them,” she said. “Everything is like that now. There’s high demand and not enough supply, so we’re getting charged more for what we need to run our bakery.” 

Getting lean 

For a while, Forman said she attempted to absorb the costs rather than passing them on to her customers. That couldn’t last, however.

“It got more expensive to purchase ingredients. It got more expensive to hire staff. And so, eventually, we need to raise the prices of what we sell, or we’re going to go out of business.”

In addition to raising prices, many business owners are reconsidering their business models and seeking ways to become more efficient. Forman, for example, said she’s begun training employees to do both “front of house” work, such as serving customers, as well as “back of house” work, such as food preparation and dishwashing. She’s also finding ways to operate at capacity with fewer staff members by, for example, making breakfast sandwiches ahead instead of offering them made-to-order.

“I think it’s forcing a lot of small companies to become better businesses,” said Grant Estrade, co-owner of a gardening supply shop and farm outside New Orleans. Estrade said that without a regular supply of employees, business leaders must evaluate what is the most profitable thing to pursue with the limited resources they have.

That, he said, can make a company leaner and more efficient. Estrade said he’s dropped parts of his business he can’t do right now and instead sought partnerships with other small businesses to do some of that work.

“If we make great soil but we don’t have the staff to deliver it, I can pay another small business to deliver it for us,” he said. “It’s economical. Maybe that’s what we should have been doing all along.”

A new way

It’s not just businesses that are reconsidering how they operate in a changing economy. Individual Americans are also looking to adapt as the cost of the holidays rises.

Rebecca Urrutia is a mother of four young children in Tolland, Connecticut. As she looks ahead to holiday gift shopping, she’s certain product shortages, shipping delays and increased prices mean the status quo will no longer work for her family.

“Our holiday shopping looks a little different this year,” she said. “We’ve decided to scale back and to shop at local bazaars, thrift shops and community share sites instead of buying brand new items for all of our shopping.”

Urrutia sees it as a silver lining that she hopes other Americans will embrace this season, she said.

“I think, after the pandemic, many of us are choosing to live more simply and to be grateful for what we have.”

Tawanda Carter, the school librarian in New Orleans, said she’s seeing something similar in her friend circle.

“A lot of us are reevaluating what we need versus what we want in life,” Carter said. The rising cost of gasoline, she said, has her thinking more about climate change and her own health. She decided to purchase a bicycle and use it for many of her daily trips. She’s living more like she imagined her great-grandmother and grandmother might have lived, she said.

“They told me their adage was ‘use it up, wear it out or make do,'” Carter said. “And our generation always talks about ‘reduce, reuse and recycle.’ I’m trying to use the current situation as an opportunity to live by a combination of both sayings.” 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation dropped sharply last week to a 52-year low, easily falling below the figure recorded at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that has played havoc with the U.S. economy over the last 20 months, the Labor Department reported Wednesday

A total of 199,000 jobless workers filed for assistance last week, down 71,000 from the revised figure of the week before and the lowest recorded figure since November 1969, the government said. The new weekly figure was also well below the 256,000 total in mid-March of last year when the pandemic first swept into the country and employers started laying off workers by the hundreds of thousands.

The new figure was an indication the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, remains on a recovery path from the worst economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The advance is occurring even as President Joe Biden and Washington policy makers, along with consumers, voice concerns about the biggest increase in consumer prices in three decades and supply chain issues that have curtailed delivery of some products to retail store shelves.

The declining number of claims for unemployment benefits shows that many employers are hanging on to their workers even as millions have quit jobs to move to other companies offering higher pay and more benefits.

U.S. employers added 531,000 jobs in October, the biggest monthly gain in three months and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6%. But the U.S. economy is still short more than four million jobs since February 2020.

Even as consumers worry about higher food and fuel prices, President Biden said Tuesday, “We’re experiencing the strongest economic recovery in the world.”

“Even after accounting for inflation, our economy is bigger and our families have more money in their pockets than they did before the pandemic,” Biden said. “And America is the only major economy in the world that can say that.”

About 7.4 million workers remain unemployed in the United States. There are 10.4 million available jobs in the country, but the skills of available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. In addition, many of the available jobs are low-wage service positions that the jobless are shunning.

The annual size of the U.S. economy — nearly $23 trillion — exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago.

The Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, is curtailing its year-plus support for the U.S. economy during the worst of the pandemic. It announced earlier this month it would cut its $120-billion-per-month purchase of Treasury investments and mortgage-backed securities by $15 billion by the end of November. In addition, the Fed is reducing purchases to $90 billion per month in December but left its benchmark interest rate unchanged.

How fast U.S. economic growth continues is unclear. The delta variant of the coronavirus continues to pose a threat to the recovery, with more new cases being recorded again after the number had declined in recent weeks.

About 90,000 new cases have been added in recent days, up from about 75,000 daily in recent weeks. The number of deaths each day has been dropping, to about 1,000 a day, from the 2,000 total of a few weeks ago.

About 60 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus, a figure Biden says is “unacceptably high.” The president has mandated that 84 million workers at companies with 100 or more employees get vaccinated by January 4 or be tested frequently, but the order is being contested in a raft of lawsuits that have yet to be decided.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

A senior U.S. State Department official said the United States is not asking the world’s top chipmakers to provide “trade secrets” in response to a request for supply chain information to help address the global chip shortage. 

“We’re not asking for information that will be public. It’s confidential information that will be kept confidential,” said Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez in an interview with VOA on Tuesday. 

“It’s intended to do what we need to do, which is to find ways to ease the bottleneck in supply chains.” 

Fernandez led U.S. participation in the second U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (EPPD), an initiative launched last November, as the United States seeks closer economic ties with Taiwan. 

Taiwan is home to the world’s largest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Any disruption in Taiwan affecting TSMC production could strain the global supply chain to the snapping point. Many link the survival of this self-ruled democracy to U.S. supply chain security. 

Fernandez said TSMC’s decision to build a new plant in Japan, which is slated to open in 2024, is a good move that “diversifies” the supply chain locations. 

 

He also confirmed the State Department has changed the name of the Clean Network, an initiative launched during the Trump administration to promote a trusted 5G network supplier while discouraging other nations from using equipment from Chinese telecom Huawei to build theirs. It is now called the Trusted Network. 

“I like ‘Trusted Network.’ It’s not a question of cleanliness. It’s a question of who do you trust,” Fernandez said. 

The following are excerpts from the interview. It has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

VOA: On Monday, you led U.S. officials’ participation in the second U.S.-Taiwan EPPD. What was discussed? What was agreed on? And what can we look forward to? 

FERNANDEZ: We discussed a number of items that are important to both the U.S. and to Taiwan: supply chain issues, economic coercion, science and technology changes, things that we can do to try and deepen our people-to-people relations as well as to deepen our economic partnership. And I think you will see a number of suggestions implemented from that dialogue. For example, we are going to start creating private-sector engagement between the two private sectors to make sure that both Taiwan and the United States are able to benefit from our deep economic ties. 

VOA: Countering economic coercion was among the topics discussed. What specific measures is the United States considering? 

 FERNANDEZ: One of the things that the U.S. can do is to try and, first of all, provide moral support and statements of support to countries such as Lithuania, Australia and others who are being pressured. But also, we can do things such as replacing export credits that China takes away when it doesn’t like the actions that are being taken. …One of the points that we discussed with Taiwan is what can the U.S. do going forward to anticipate and to try and counter economic coercion on the part of China. 

VOA: There is a very strong pushback in Taiwan about the U.S. asking Taiwan to share semiconductor chip data such as inventory, orders and sales records, which are considered trade secrets. What exactly is the U.S. asking for? If the situation were reversed, the U.S. would probably not comply with such a request. 

FERNANDEZ: I’m so glad that you asked that question, because there’s a lot of misinformation as to what we’re asking. What we’re trying to do is to figure out why there are supply chain bottlenecks in countries. Why, for example, … are car companies unable to receive those kinds of semiconductors that they need in order to build their cars? What we’re asking for is information from consumers, also from producers, from intermediaries, we want to find out why is there a bottleneck so that we can actually work to get rid of those bottlenecks. We’re not asking for information on trade secrets. We’re not asking for information that will be public. It’s confidential information that will be kept confidential. … We are not going to use it in order to benefit our companies. 

VOA: TSMC announced plans to build a new plant in Japan and start operations there in 2024. Do you think this will diversify the supply chain?   

FERNANDEZ: I think, you know, it’s a commercial decision. But what we try to promote on any supply chains, not just semiconductors, is diversity of suppliers, diversity of locations, diversity of products. Anything that diversifies the supply chains is good both for our industry and for the world economy.    

VOA: Concerning 5G network security, is it fair to say the U.S. is still discouraging countries from using Huawei equipment to build their 5G networks? If so, why not continue using the name “Clean Network.” Why call it “Trusted Network”? What is the difference? 

FERNANDEZ: We are going to continue to talk to countries about the danger of unsecure networks. The bottom line is, telecommunications equipment has to be secure. It is in many ways the backbone of our economy. It is a national security asset. And so we talked to countries about why they need to make sure that their telecom networks are secure.

We in the United States … believe very strongly that Huawei is not secure. Why is it not secure? Because it depends on the PRC government. It is an entity that has to follow the dictates of the PRC. And so we talked to countries about what are the risks, and we talked a little bit about alternatives. There are alternatives, not just the traditional 5G telecom network providers but also new technologies such as O-RAN and many others. And, you know, these are not just U.S. companies — they’re companies from around the world.

I think our main concern is to make sure that these are trusted networks that will not impair and will not jeopardize the security of a national telecommunication system. I like “Trusted Network.” It’s not a question of cleanliness. It’s a question of who do you trust. 

VOA: You came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Cuba. Can you share your personal journey with our audience?

FERNANDEZ: Oh, you don’t have time for that! We came to this country when I was 11 from Cuba. We settled in New Jersey. Cubans, for most part, either go to Miami or they go to northern New Jersey. You know, my mother worked in a factory as a seamstress. My father worked at a bank. It was hard. But we also got a lot of help from many people in this country — from teachers, from churches. And I think back on those days, of the courage of my parents for basically leaving it all behind. But also with a lot of gratitude. I had a lot of luck, but I also had a lot of people who were willing to help. 

VOA: What went through your mind when you were coordinating the charter flights to bring Afghans out of the country? 

FERNANDEZ: So this happened a day or two after I got into this job. I was confirmed on a Tuesday and on Thursday we had to start dealing with this here. So I didn’t have a lot of time to get prepared. I saw a lot of faces that reminded me of the faces that I had seen as I was leaving [Cuba]. … I didn’t go home for three weeks. You know we were able to, after August 31, we were able to get out hundreds and hundreds of Americans, and not just Americans but also locally employed staff, humanitarian workers. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done. And I’m also very proud of my colleagues because they showed the devotion that makes the State Department such a special place. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

Indian farmers have welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s decision to repeal three controversial farm laws that had led to the longest and largest protest against his government. However, as Anjana Pasricha reports, the farmers plan to continue pressure on the government to meet other key demands.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

As Americans face high prices in stores and at the gas pump, President Joe Biden says he is taking key steps to lower gas prices by opening up strategic reserves and to ease the burden on consumers in other ways. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from the White House.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 23rd, 2021 by Vbiz

The shutdown of internet access via mobile phone networks that began Saturday dragged on for a fourth day Tuesday. The government said in a statement the shutdown is in the interest of national defense and public security and will last until around 10 p.m. tonight.

VOA talked to some Burkinabes on the streets of Ouagadougou to ask how the shutdown was affecting them and what they thought of the government’s decision.

Alexi Sawadogo, a physician, spoke outside a bank on one of the city’s busy boulevards. He said he was there to check his account balance as the shutdown meant he could no longer do so online. 

“It disconnects us from our friends who are outside the country, with whom we communicate regularly,” he says. He notes that he understands that it is because of the French convoy that was blockaded in the north, but says insecurity is not a valid reason and that the government needs to review its strategy. 

The shutdown has come in the wake of protests in recent days that have blocked a French military supply convoy that is attempting to travel from Ivory Coast to Niger. Protesters say they want an end to French military intervention in the regional war against Islamist militants. 

There have also been protests against the government’s handling of security, after a terrorist group believed to be associated with al-Qai da killed more than 50 military police in an assault on a base in northern Burkina Faso on November 14th. 

Ali Dayorgo, a university student, said the shutdown has affected his ability to work and learn the latest news.

He says he doesn’t understand why the shutdown is happening, but he hears the voice of the Burkinabe youth. “I feel the anger of the youth,” he expressed, adding that even if he doesn’t join protests against insecurity, he supports them.

A funeral for some of the victims of the attack is taking place in Ouagadougou today. 

Drabo Mahamadou is the national executive secretary of the “Save Burkina Faso Movement,” one of the protest groups that is calling for President Roch Kabore to resign. He said they have called on the population to attend Tuesday’s funeral and to attend a protest on Saturday.

He says, because the government is insensitive to pain, we are calling on the population to come out en masse on the 27th. We want [protesters] to prove that this government is not helping Burkina Faso. It is the government that is causing harm to the Burkinabé people.

A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Eloise Bertrand is a research fellow at the University of Portsmouth who focuses on Burkina Faso. She thinks the restrictions on the internet are unwise; pointing out that “this shutdown may well backfire against the government. We can see that civil society groups and stakeholders who were not really involved in protests against the French convoy are annoyed and angered by this internet shutdown.”

Reports suggest the French military convoy is now waiting in the town of Zinaire, about 30 kilometers north of the capital. Protests are also said to be taking place in the town.

With the demonstrations continuing, it remains to be seen if the government will lift the internet shutdown tonight. Further protests are scheduled for Saturday.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 23rd, 2021 by Vbiz

The White House announced Tuesday a coordinated release of millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in multiple countries to bring down energy costs.

The U.S. Department of Energy will make available 50 million barrels of oil, according to the White House statement.

China, India, Japan, South Korea and Britain are also participating. The statement did not specify how much oil each of those nations will be releasing.

“American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic,” the White House said. “That’s why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply.”

The Biden administration is also looking at potential price manipulation in oil and gas markets with a Federal Trade Commission investigation.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday reappointed Jerome Powell to a second term as chair of the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, saying that Powell has played a pivotal role in helping the United States recover from the worst of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden’s reappointment of Powell, 68, to one of the most important economic policy positions in the world, ends weeks of speculation in financial markets and in Washington political circles. Some progressive Democrats in Congress had pushed Biden to name Fed Governor Lael Brainard to head the Fed, but the president instead named her as vice chair.

Biden’s appointment of Powell, a Republican and former private equity executive, to another four-year term is a rare instance in which he renamed a key official first appointed by his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump, as the Fed chief.

Financial markets greeted the Powell reappointment favorably, with all major U.S. stock indexes up sharply in early trading Monday.

In politically fractious Washington, Powell enjoys wide bipartisan support and is expected to again win Senate confirmation. Of the 84 lawmakers who voted for him four years ago, 68 of them are still in office, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Powell was first named to the Fed’s seven-member policy-making board a decade ago by then-President Barack Obama, another Democrat, before being elevated to Fed chair by Trump. Biden also has three other current or upcoming vacancies to fill on the Fed board, which broadly sets economic policy for the U.S., the world’s largest economy.

Biden said the U.S. has made “remarkable progress over the last 10 months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again,” and praised the work of Powell and Brainard. Under Powell, the Fed provided stimulus money to boost the recovery.

“As I’ve said before, we can’t just return to where we were before the pandemic, we need to build our economy back better, and I’m confident that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard’s focus on keeping inflation low, prices stable, and delivering full employment will make our economy stronger than ever before,” Biden said in a statement.

“Together, they also share my deep belief that urgent action is needed to address the economic risks posed by climate change and stay ahead of emerging risks in our financial system,” the president said.

“Fundamentally, if we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve – and I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs,” Biden said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, herself a former Fed chair, praised Powell’s reappointment, as did several Republican senators.

“The steady leadership of Chair Powell & the Federal Reserve helped ensure our economy was able to recover from a once-in-a-generation health & economic crisis,” Yellen said. “I’m pleased our economy will continue to benefit from his stewardship, & the expertise & experience of Lael Brainard.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

This holiday season promises to be an extraordinary one. Experts say supply chain issues, the pandemic, inflation and online sales will impact holiday shopping. Maxim Moskalkov has the story. VOA video by Anatolie Casenco.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

A Sydney restaurant is using a Chinese-made, multi-lingual hospitality robot to address chronic staff shortages as Australia’s economy begins to recover from COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures. 

The robot waiter is programmed to know the layout of the tables and delivers food from the kitchen. It is also multi-lingual, programmed to communicate in English and Mandarin. The so-called BellaBot is built by the Chinese firm PuduTech. 

Each machine costs about $17,000. They can be leased for $34 per day for each device, or the equivalent of two hours’ wages for restaurant staff. The devices are in use in other Australian restaurants and imports into Australia appear to be unaffected by recent trade tensions between the two countries. 

Liarne Schai, the co-owner of the Matterhorn Restaurant in Sydney, is delighted with her new mechanical staff member. 

“Ah, love the robot. Love the robot, she makes my life a lot easier. It is like a tower that has got four trays. It will carry eight of our dinner plates in one go. She is geo-mapped to the floor (customer names, location of tables, etc.) The robot knows where all our tables are,” Schai said.  

Australia’s hospitality workforce has traditionally relied on international students. They have, however, been restricted from entering after Australia closed its borders to most foreign nationals in March 2020 in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  

Labor shortages are affecting not only hospitality in Australia, but a range of industries from construction to information technology.  

Liarne Schai says she has tried for months without success to recruit workers. 

“It is the biggest issue we have at the moment. We have been running ads for chefs, for waiters, for kitchen hands for six months and we have had zero applicants. We are offering above award wages, we are offering bonuses, we are offering everything you can think of to attract appropriate staff and I am not even getting inappropriate staff, or untrained staff. I am just getting nobody.” 

Labor shortages should ease when Australia reopens its borders to foreign nationals, but analysts expect many vacancies will remain unfilled.  

Employer groups have demanded that Australia increase its intake of migrant workers. 

Australia’s official unemployment rate stands at 5.2%.   

But with more than 700,000 Australians without a job, there are calls for the government to boost domestic training programs and wages. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

A Kenyan ride-hailing company has introduced electric bicycle rentals for the first time in the capital, where air pollution and motor vehicle traffic are problems. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 20th, 2021 by Vbiz

On a recent afternoon, Tina Singh watched nearly a dozen students at a suburban Los Angeles truck-driving school backing up their practice vehicles into parking spaces. Many had never operated a manual transmission before.

“It’s an exciting time to be a truck driver right now because there’s so much demand for drivers,” said Singh, the school’s director. “Our yards are busy, and they’re very vibrant with a lot of activity.”

Business is booming at the California Truck Driving Academy amid a nationwide shortage of long-haul drivers that has led to promises of high pay and instant job offers. The Inglewood school has seen annual enrollment grow by almost 20% since last year, and has expanded to offering night classes.

“Everything in this country runs by truck at some point or another,” Singh said. “And so, you know, you need truck drivers to move goods.”

 

The U.S. is about 80,000 drivers short due to a convergence of factors, according to Nick Vyas, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Marshall Center for Global Supply Chain Management.

Consumer spending is 15% above where it was in February 2020, just before the pandemic paralyzed the economy. Production rose nearly 5% over the past year as U.S. factories worked to keep up with an increased demand for goods, according to the Federal Reserve. Imports have narrowed the gap.

At the same time, many U.S. workers decided to quit jobs that required frequent public contact. This created shortages of workers to unload ships, transport goods and staff retail shops.

In California, the straining supply chain is illustrated at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where dozens of ships wait off the coast to be unloaded. The average wait is nearly 17 days, despite around-the-clock port operations beginning in October.

A lack of drivers at the ports has helped fuel the surge at the nearby California Truck Driving Academy, where instructors in reflective vests keep watch as students practice steering big rigs around a fenced-in paved lot.

“You’re kind of helping the community out, and you’re making money at the same time,” student Thierno Barry said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Barry, 23, was happy to be behind the wheel on his first day, despite rolling over several orange safety cones.

“I feel great, especially during the pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile, the school is facing its own shortage — of truck driving instructors.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 20th, 2021 by Vbiz

President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better package of climate and social spending passed the House of Representatives on Friday morning, 220-213, less than 24 hours after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) produced an analysis of the legislation finding that it would add a relatively modest $160 billion to the federal debt over the next 10 years.

The bill, which still must pass the narrowly divided Senate, dedicates more than half a trillion dollars to spending on measures to combat climate change, provides funding for universal pre-school, expands access to healthcare, and provides tax credits to families with children, among other things.

The rapid passage of the bill after the CBO announced the verdict on its costs underlines the importance of that agency to the legislative process in Washington, as well as lawmakers’ willingness to be flexible about how they read the agency’s analyses.

A significant number of Democrats  who represent contested districts – enough to scuttle the bill if they had voted against it – had been concerned about the political impact of Republican claims that the bill would greatly expand the federal debt. Last week, these mostly moderate Democrats told Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they would not vote for the bill without a CBO analysis that showed it was fully paid for.

Detailed ‘budget score’

The CBO is a non-partisan federal agency within the legislative branch created in 1974 that is considered by many economists the gold standard for analyzing the budgetary impact of proposed legislation and its long-term impact on the federal debt.

On Thursday afternoon, the CBO began releasing its analysis of the bill, known as a “budget score.” It found that the combination of spending and tax breaks contained in the package add up to $2.4 trillion and that elements that would raise revenue or reduce spending add up to $2.27 trillion.

One element of the CBO report caused some confusion because of the way the numbers were presented. The official release said that the bill would result in a $367 billion increase in the debt over 10 years, because it did not account for the revenue effects of the increased IRS enforcement. In a different statement, the agency estimated $207 billion of increased revenue related to IRS enforcement, leaving the ultimate budget deficit increase at $160 billion over a decade.

A flexible reading of the CBO

In a political climate where Democrats and Republicans generally distrust each other, the CBO is still seen as above the fray, delivering non-partisan analysis. The agency’s judgment that the addition to the debt would average out to just $16 billion per year meant that the legislation does not officially pay for itself.

That’s where the flexibility in reading CBO analysis kicked in.

A key element of the bill is an $80 billion increase in funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the nation’s tax laws. The White House and a number of outside groups, including a bipartisan coalition of former IRS commissioners, had projected that the investment would return $400 billion in increased tax revenue over a decade. But CBO only estimated a $207 billion return.

“CBO is notoriously cautious about predicting revenue increases from IRS enforcement,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies program.

“Estimating revenues from enforcement is an art not a science,” Galston said. “Bottom line, nobody knows for sure.”

It was that uncertainty, and the generally accepted understanding that CBO is very cautious about estimating tax revenue, that gave all but one of the moderate Democrats the wiggle room they needed to throw their support behind the bill.

“They took the position, after the CBO score came out, that it was good enough,” said Galston. “It enabled them to make a good faith claim that the bill was completely paid for.”

Republicans disagree

Not surprisingly, Republicans in the House chose to take a much more literal reading of the CBO’s analysis, and slammed the Democrats for passing a bill that will add to the national debt. 

“This is the single most reckless and irresponsible spending in the history of this country,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy declared.

McCarthy’s comment came during a marathon speech that stretched for more than eight hours, ending shortly before 6 a.m. on Friday. The overnight monologue took advantage of a loophole in House rules that allows the leader of either of the parties to take unlimited floor time, and forced Democrats to delay a vote they had hoped to take on Thursday.

CBO’s sway in the Senate unclear

The CBO score may have been enough to convince moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the bill, but the problems it faces in the Senate go deeper than the legislation’s effect on the federal deficit.

The Democrats have only 50 votes in the 100-seat Senate, and must rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast a vote in the event of a tie. That means Democrats cannot afford to lose any votes on the bill.

The most prominent member of the party likely to break from the pack is West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has been publicly skeptical of specific parts of the bill, and has been more generally concerned that an increase in government spending will lead to further increases in inflation.

Manchin’s constituents tend to be older and more likely than most Americans to be on a fixed income. That makes them especially vulnerable to price inflation, which was recently measured at an annual rate of 6.2%, the highest in more than 30 years.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 19th, 2021 by Vbiz

For weeks, governments and policymakers across the world have been suggesting the recent spikes in consumer and energy prices are transitory and rising inflation will ease, once pandemic-related chain-supply disruptions and labor shortages are resolved and the global economy reboots.

But recent figures suggest inflation may persist for some time, prompting worries about an explosive cost-of-living crisis, which could roil the domestic politics of countries and disrupt the electoral plans of incumbent parties and their leaders.

Central bankers have been saying the price increases of goods, rent, food and energy are one-offs, the consequences of economies struggling to recover from the induced coma of COVID-19 lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. But new data on inflation from around the world have exceeded forecasts, and central bankers are now being criticized for failing to act to restrain surging prices.

Bank of England stands pat

Central banks are coming under mounting pressure to raise interest rates but are nervous about acting too hastily and reversing recovery by reducing stimulus measures. The Bank of England earlier this month decided not to raise interest rates despite its governor, Andrew Bailey, earlier saying bankers “will have to act and must do so if we see a risk, particularly to medium-term inflation and to medium-term inflation expectations.”

Recent figures show inflation in Britain has now jumped to its highest level in nearly a decade, with the consumer price index climbing 4.2% in October from a year earlier. The Bank of England has an official inflation target of 2%. The bank’s decision not to raise its key rate, leaving it at 0.1%, confounded the financial markets and sent the pound plunging in value, and the inaction is still being criticized by many economic commentators.

They include Neil Wilson of Markets.com, who says the governor’s “credibility is at stake.”

Likewise, in the United States, the Federal Reserve is coming under fire over rising inflation. Earlier this week, Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz and an influential commentator, said he thought America’s central bank was losing credibility over its long-standing view that inflation is transitory.

“I think the Fed is losing credibility. I’ve argued that it is really important to re-establish a credible voice on inflation and this has massive institutional, political and social implications,” he said.

El-Erian told CNBC-TV the Federal Reserve’s inflation stance risked undermining President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, warning that policymakers should not forget that those on low incomes are the hardest hit by rising consumer prices.

In the US

The rapid increase in household living costs already is being felt by Americans.

According to a series of opinion polls conducted by the pollster YouGov for The Economist magazine, 46% of Americans said they believed the state of the economy was “getting worse,” with only 19% saying it was “getting better.”

In the U.S., the consumer price index rose 6.2% in the 12 months ending in October, the highest rate in three decades. Americans said rising wages were not keeping up with rapidly increasing prices. Fifty-six percent of the respondents to YouGov said they were having trouble affording fuel, 48% could not easily pay their rent or mortgages and 45% said they were struggling to feed their families.

Some member states of the European Union also are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

Romania reported in October an annual inflation rate of 6.5%, the highest increase in consumer prices among EU member states in southeast Europe, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. Eurozone inflation is running at 4.1%, more than double the European Central Bank’s target.

Increases seen as transitory

This week, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde conceded that Eurozone inflation likely would remain elevated for longer than had been expected. She remained wedded to the idea that price increases were likely transitory, and she was still forecasting inflation would drop below the bank’s 2% target in the medium term.

“We still see inflation moderating in the next year, but it will take longer to decline than originally expected,” she told lawmakers at the European Parliament.

Some economists in Europe, however, question her optimism. They say the pandemic is far from over, pointing to a fourth wave prompting rising cases across much of the continent and the prospect of a return of economically damaging retractions. Germany has declared a state of emergency and Austria has announced a full lockdown to begin Monday, becoming the first European country to go back under a full lockdown and the first to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.

Germany’s coronavirus situation is so grave that a lockdown, including for the vaccinated, cannot be ruled out, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday.

“We are in a national emergency,” he told a news conference.

The path back to normality is now again murky for Europe, and economists say the impact of a fourth wave of the coronavirus on household budgets is going to be significant — this at a time when the price of almost everything is going through the roof.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 18th, 2021 by Vbiz

In its annual report on the status of global trade, the World Trade Organization finds that the increasing interconnectedness of the world’s economies is a double-edged sword. 

While this globalization makes individual countries more vulnerable to short-term shocks, the WTO says, it also allows them to recover far more quickly than they would have in the past. 

The report finds, among other things, that global trade in merchandise, after plummeting sharply in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, has already rebounded to above pre-pandemic levels. By the middle of 2022, trade volumes will have caught up with the pre-pandemic trend, meaning that the amount of goods being bought and sold internationally will be at the same level that economists would have predicted if there had been no pandemic at all. 

In a foreword to the report, WTO Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic is an example of both the challenges and the benefits of increased globalization. 

“The deep interconnections of travel, trade and financial flows that characterize our era allowed the novel coronavirus and its associated economic shocks to spread around the world in a matter of weeks. Earlier pandemics took months, even years, to go global,” she wrote.

“Yet, globalization was also at the heart of why this virus was met with vaccines in record time. Scientists were able to share ideas and technology across borders, backed by public and private funding for research and development,” she wrote. “As the new vaccines proved to be safe and effective, supply chains cutting across hundreds of sites in a dozen or more countries came together to provide the specialized inputs and capital goods needed for vaccine production on a large scale — all within a year.” 

Shortages in the US 

Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Cato Institute and a frequent writer on trade issues, told VOA that the WTO’s analysis holds up to scrutiny. 

“We’ve seen this play out during the pandemic,” Lincicome said. “Companies that were more domestically oriented really didn’t end up better off than more globally diversified companies.” 

In the United States, he said, some of the most significant shortages and price increases involved goods the United States largely produces on its own, like pickup trucks and food. 

“Pickup trucks were in higher shortage last year than sedans, and we import more sedans,” he said. “If you look at food production this year, most of our food production is domestic. But some of the biggest shortages and price hikes we’re seeing are on food.” 

Interconnectedness tied to stability 

The report also found that the more diversified a country’s trading relationships were with the rest of the world, the less likely they were to experience significant economic volatility. 

Drawing on data collected by the International Monetary Fund, the authors established that countries with high levels of trade diversification in 2008 were likely to suffer far less volatility, measured as deviation from average annual Gross Domestic Product, over the 10-year period ending in 2018. 

“Trade allows a country to diversify its sources of demand and supply, thereby reducing the country’s exposure to country-specific demand and supply shocks,” the report finds. “For example, when a country has multiple trading partners, a domestic recession or a recession in any one of its trading partners translates into a smaller demand shock for its producers than when trade is more limited.” 

‘Reshoring’ production may not be helpful 

The report also warns against the temptation of “reshoring,” that is, the effort some countries are making to become self-sufficient in key industries.

Especially in the early months of the pandemic, there were calls in many countries, including the United States, to reduce reliance on foreign suppliers for critical medical equipment, personal protective gear and vaccine components. 

In another example, former President Donald Trump placed tariffs on foreign-made steel in an effort to force the return of steel production to the United States, saying it was necessary for national security to be self-sufficient in the production of the metal.

Trump’s effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and if the report is correct, that may be reason for U.S. companies that use steel to be grateful. 

“Restricting trade and promoting national self-sufficiency almost inevitably render national economies less efficient in the long run, as such policies ultimately drive up prices of goods and services and restrict access to products, components and technologies,” the report warns. 

Lincicome said the ultimate goal of the WTO in dissuading countries from reshoring production is to maintain healthy economic ties across borders.

“The WTO is responding to a pretty significant threat from certain policymakers, whose knee-jerk response to the pandemic is to employ more protectionism,” he said. “In terms of economics, that’s a bad idea. But also, I think in terms of geopolitics, the more that countries turn inward, the more likelihood there is for there to be some sort of future tensions.” 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 18th, 2021 by Vbiz

María Ribeiro da Silva, 64, spent a hot afternoon hawking a new contraption to acquaintances and friends who passed by her small grocery store on the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and home to more than 12 million people.

Everyone who passed by received the same invitation from her: “Come, come and see my stove. It’s beautiful. I made it.”

Each guest received the same explanation: “I built a real wood fire oven, with a chimney and everything. No more smoke, no more heat.”

It had been almost 50 years since Ribeiro da Silva cooked with firewood. Since she arrived in São Paulo in 1974, fleeing drought, hunger and poverty in the impoverished northeast region of Brazil, she has only cooked with gas.

“I spent my childhood using firewood. We didn’t have gas. We didn’t have the money to have a real stove. But since I arrived in Sao Paulo … wood was in the past,” she told VOA. 

But with the Brazilian economy worsening, and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poorest parts of the population, firewood has become the only option for millions of families like Ribeiro da Silvas’. 

It was a slow and gradual process for Ribeiro da Silva. First, firewood was only used in extreme cases when the gas ran out and there was not enough money to replace it. But when she lost her job as a cleaner at a company in downtown São Paulo six months ago, firewood became the primary fuel to cook food.

“Now, I only use the gas stove for simple things like making coffee or heating the food I cooked on firewood. I don’t have any more money to buy gas. The price is too high. It’s impossible,” she said. 

Skyrocketing fuel prices

According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, at least 25% of the Brazilian population is using wood as their primary cooking source.

This was before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to the pandemic, the Brazilian Statistical Institute stopped carrying out quarterly in-person surveys, so we don’t have data for 2020 and 2021,” said Adriana Gioda, a professor in the department of chemistry at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and a leading researcher on firewood consumption by Brazilian families. 

“But since 2016, when the federal government cut subsidies for residential gas and tied the fuel price policy to the international prices, there has been a steady growth in the use of firewood to make food,” she told VOA. 

Fuel prices have been rising steadily over the past five years but have skyrocketed since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019. He promised not to interfere with the country’s state oil company and allow fuel prices to follow the international market.

This year alone, the price of residential gas rose by an average of 35%. Liquefied petroleum gas is the primary fuel for food production in Brazil, and its cost is linked directly to the price of the oil barrels.

‘Back in time’ 

“In the interior of Brazil, in rural and more isolated areas, using firewood is a tradition. But what impressed us most is that the use of wood is advancing precisely in the most urban areas, in large Brazilian cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo,” Gioda said. 

And it is rising in areas such as Jardim Marajoara, a poor neighborhood of migrants from the northeast region of Brazil on Sao Paulo’s outskirts, where Ribeiro da Silva lives. It is in these regions that the poorest and those most affected by the economic crisis are concentrated.

Juarez Viana, a bus driver who also lost his job during the pandemic, has turned to firewood to cook. He, like Ribeiro da Silva, lives in a suburb of São Paulo that is sprawling into the last green areas of the city. Once a week, he crosses the street and enters a small forest to fetch wood.

“It’s hard work, and it seems like I’ve gone back in time,” said Viana, who is also a migrant from the Brazilian northeast. At 49, he remembers cooking with wood as a child. “But it’s worth it. We do not have more money to buy gas. The price is out of control. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“We are going back in time, going back at least half a century,” said pulmonologist Elie Fiss, a research director at Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz. “Since the 1960s, we no longer saw respiratory problems related to the use of firewood for cooking. But with so many people going back to the firewood, this is a problem that will soon return to hospitals.”

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 18th, 2021 by Vbiz

Marco Metzler of Switzerland gets 2,000 new followers a day on LinkedIn, all watching to see what will happen to his money. Metzler invested $50,000 last month in the offshore bonds of real estate developer China Evergrande Group to see if he would get any returns. The former Fitch Ratings analyst is not expecting much. He’s out to prove a point about China’s troubled property sector by chronicling the fate of his investment on social media. 

“I was concerned about what was going on, and from my past I’m able to read rating reports and also to see what’s going on in the world in economics, and I felt obligated to speak out to the world and to warn about that situation,” Metzler told VOA. “We didn’t invest to get the money back, so I’m fully aware this will be lost.” 

Evergrande has struggled since last year, when the Chinese government began clamping down on the country’s property sector to rein in excessive debt and cap speculation.

Towering apartment blocks today extend far into the suburbs of major Chinese cities, but many flats are unoccupied, owned instead by absentee speculators and their banks. Evergrande Group, one of China’s biggest property developers by revenue, is now selling assets and may be staring down a massive restructuring to ease debt. 

Companies or governments that invest in offshore bonds, and individuals who trade stocks listed outside mainland China and its $15.42 trillion economy, are coming to terms — albeit more quietly than Metzler — with the Chinese property crisis of 2021. These troubles are threatening bond returns, lowering some stock prices and could erode at least a quarter of the world’s second largest economy. 

“I don’t think anyone debates the importance of the real estate market on the Chinese economy,” said James Macdonald, head of the property services firm Savills Research in Shanghai, who estimates real estate at 25% to 30% of China’s economy. 

“If we do see a significant slowdown in the real estate market, it will have an impact in terms of domestic economic growth rates, and that could have a knock-on effect in terms of global economy,” Macdonald said. 

As many analysts have noted, any major economic shocks that hit China, a country closely tied to the global manufacturing supply chain, and whose massive consumer base importers and exporters rely on, are inevitably felt around the world. 

Property crisis: Evergrande and beyond 

Evergrande is a bellwether firm that is more than $300 billion in debt. Hong Kong-listed shares in Evergrande have tumbled since February, though the developer averted default in October by paying interest on an overseas bond. 

Another Chinese development giant, Kaisa Group Holdings, faces limited funding access and uncertainty over refinancing a “significant amount” of U.S.-dollar bond payments into next year “in light of ongoing capital-market volatility,” Fitch said in an e-mailed news release last month. 

Smaller property developers are likely to rattle bond markets outside China because they are “less sound” than bigger ones, said Lillian Li, a vice president-senior credit officer at the Moody’s ratings service. 

“We see that the offshore bond market has actually shown larger volatility than the domestic market in front of these regulatory crackdowns, including in the property sector,” Li said. 

The Hang Seng Properties Index in Hong Kong, where foreigners are allowed to trade shares of Chinese companies, has lost about 1.2% year to date. 

Municipal officials in some cities capped home purchase prices in September to deter speculators, further hobbling property momentum in China. The domestic property market could shrink by half a percent in 2022, Li said. Last month, prices for new as well as resale homes fell amid a fall in construction starts. 

What happens next 

Evergrande has offered its investors cash payment by installments as well as putting forth actual structures as repayment assets, the state-run China Daily news website says. 

Central government officials hope to contain property speculation and leave property for people to occupy, the official Xinhua News Agency reports. 

About $52 billion in Chinese property bonds will mature next year and $44 billion the following year, said Henry Chin, Asia Pacific research head with the real estate services firm CBRE. Other bond issuers will default, he forecasts. 

No offshore investors want the bonds now, said Liang Kuo-yuan, president of the Taipei-based Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute, though he believes Taiwanese insurers and pension funds have invested in the past. 

“Taiwan’s insurers more or less will buy high-yield and high-risk investment products, because the interest rates on policies they’ve sold in the past are too high,” Liang said. 

Evergrande was once seen as the epitome of a Chinese property mainland market, Liang added. China’s real estate sector, the world’s largest, grew briskly from 2010 to 2018, says investment bank J.P. Morgan. 

But not all is lost, some analysts say. 

Investors in private equity for distressed debt could get a lift from China’s property spillover if companies look for new ways to repay debt, said Chin of CBRE. Some stock-buying vehicles have made money, too. Shares of the TAO-Invesco China Real Estate exchange-traded fund of Chinese stocks including Evergrande, for example, has grown 65% year to date. 

But back in Switzerland, Metzler wrote on LinkedIn that Evergrande had “officially defaulted on overdue interest payments” and that his current company, DMSA, would file a bankruptcy case against the group. He calls China’s property market “a first domino” in a broader financial and economic crisis. 

“The old system needs to come down before a new system will be established,” he told VOA. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 17th, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S. President Joe Biden is headed Wednesday to the country’s auto-manufacturing hub in Detroit, Michigan, to promote the sale of all-electric vehicles in the future even as motorists are facing sharply higher gasoline prices to fuel the cars they almost uniformly drive now.

Biden, on a victory lap to highlight provisions of the trillion-dollar infrastructure package he championed and signed into law on Monday, plans to visit an electric vehicle assembly plant at General Motors, the biggest U.S. car maker that says it plans to go all-electric by 2035.

The president’s infrastructure package calls for construction of $7.5 billion worth of electric vehicle charging stations across the country — perhaps a half-million chargers — but Americans have been slow to embrace the purchase of electric vehicles. Last year, only 1.7% of vehicles sold in the U.S. were battery-powered, one-third of the Chinese market, and far behind world-leading Norway, where nearly three-fourths of vehicles sold are plug-in.

Ahead of his visit to Detroit, the White House said that with Biden’s approval of the infrastructure legislation, he “has sent a clear signal to the rest of the world that America can lead this race as we choose to build these electric vehicles and batteries in the United States and advance our national security by strengthening our domestic supply chains.”

The White House said the legislation will boost the creation of high-paying, union jobs, while two key Biden advisers, Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, said in an opinion column in the Detroit Free Press that the infrastructure legislation will help America regain its global competitiveness. 

“Nobody knows this better than Detroit, which has been at the heart of American industrial strategy in the past and now can again,” the Biden advisers said.

But currently, many more electric vehicles are sold in Europe and China because of financial incentives for consumers and government regulations. Surveys show there are about 1.3 million electric vehicles in use in the U.S. out of a world total of 7 million, but Biden has set a goal of 50% electric vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030.

For the moment, however, many U.S. motorists are concerned about spiraling gasoline prices they are paying at service stations, the highest since 2014. U.S. motorists are typically paying $3.30 a gallon (3.8 liters), $1.08 more than 12 months ago, pinching household budgets, along with higher food prices.

But some Republican opponents of Biden, even some who voted for the infrastructure package like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, have attacked Biden for being focused with electric vehicle technology at a time when Americans are faced with higher gasoline prices and natural gas price hikes to heat their homes in the winter months ahead.

“The Biden administration doesn’t have any strategic plan to snap its fingers and turn our massive country into some green utopia overnight,” McConnell said Tuesday.

“They just want to throw boatloads of government money at things like solar panels and electric vehicles and hope it all works out,” said McConnell, one of 19 Republican senators who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, along with 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Biden wants to provide more incentives to push American motorists to buy electric vehicles, calling for a $7,500 tax credit for those who buy electric vehicles through 2026 as part of his $1.85 trillion social safety net legislation that the House is planning to vote on later this week.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 17th, 2021 by Vbiz

The World Health Organization says Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic. As Henry Ridgwell reports, the latest wave of infections is casting a shadow over recent signs that European economies were rebounding.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 17th, 2021 by Vbiz

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress Tuesday that she believed she would run out of maneuvering room to avoid the nation’s first-ever default soon after December 15. 

In a letter to congressional leaders, Yellen said that she believed Treasury could be left with insufficient resources to keep financing the government beyond December 15.

Yellen’s new date is 12 days later than the December 3 date she provided in a letter to Congress on October 18, after Congress had just passed a $480 billion increase in the debt limit days before as a stopgap measure. 

As she has done in the past, Yellen urged Congress to deal with the debt limit quickly to remove the possibility of a potential default on the nation’s obligations. 

“To ensure the full faith and credit of the United States, it is critical that Congress raise or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible,” Yellen wrote to congressional leaders. 

Yellen has repeatedly warned that failure to deal with the debt limit and allowing the government to default would be catastrophic and likely push the country into a recession. 

In her letter, Yellen said that the extra time reflected more up-to-date estimates of government revenues and spending and was impacted by the infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law Monday. That legislation requires the transfer by Treasury of $118 billion by December 15 into the Highway Trust Fund. 

Yellen said that while she had a “high degree of confidence she will be able to finance the U.S. government through Dec. 15” and complete the Highway Trust Fund transfer, there are scenarios where the government will be left with insufficient resources to finance operations beyond that date, she said. 

The need to raise or suspend the debt limit is just one of the budget issues facing Congress. Lawmakers must also approve a budget by December 3, when the current stopgap funding measures run out. Failure to do that would trigger a government shutdown. 

And Democrats are aiming to approve a $1.75 trillion measure to expand the social safety net and deal with climate change threats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she hopes the House can pass this measure, which Republicans oppose, this week. It must also pass the Senate. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 17th, 2021 by Vbiz

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are renewing a push to pass legislation that would boost U.S. competition with China, amid rising concerns about the global supply chain.     

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday the long-stalled U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) would be added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the massive annual defense spending bill that needs to be passed by the end of the year.   

“A generation ago we used to produce about a third of the world’s chip supply – now fewer than 12% are made in America while other countries have lapped us, particularly China. This hurts American workers, American consumers and American national security. We should pass USICA this year – and it’s a bipartisan bill – so we can strengthen domestic chip production,” Schumer said Tuesday in remarks on the Senate floor.   

The USICA passed the U.S. Senate by a 68-32 vote in June but has yet to receive a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the measure would provide $190 billion in funding aimed at addressing areas of competition with China, including semiconductor production, technology security and training for the U.S. workforce. The bill would also provide for automatic sanctions on Chinese companies committing intellectual theft or cyberattacks in the United States. 

Sources told Reuters this week that China is actively lobbying against the legislation, sending letters to U.S. executives urging them to lobby Congress to alter or drop those bills.   

In a statement released in June when the USICA passed the U.S. Senate, the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), said “The bill is full of Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice … It slanders China’s development path and its domestic and foreign policies.”   

The Biden administration has expressed support for the measures. But any version of the NDAA passed in the U.S. Senate would still have to be reconciled and passed in the U.S. House before heading to the White House to be signed into law.   

Addressing U.S. competition with China is one of the few areas of broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, although lawmakers differ on the approach. 

Following President Biden’s virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, ranking Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Jim Risch said in a statement, “While President Biden used this meeting to raise concerns regarding Beijing’s unfair trade and economic practices and the importance of transparency in global health, it’s past time for concrete results from Beijing. If President Xi actually wants a cooperative relationship with the United States, then he must stop threatening Taiwan.”   

Republican Senator Marco Rubio filed dozens of amendments to the NDAA addressing U.S. competition with China this week, including measures that would strengthen the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, provide funding for analysis of Chinese economic initiatives in developing African nations and clear the way for sanctions on Chinese individuals involved in reclaiming disputed areas in the South China Sea.   

There is strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate for another measure that would provide U.S. support for Taiwan’s admission into the Inter-American Development Bank as a non-borrowing member.   

“Despite Beijing’s reckless and hostile tactics to deny it participation on the world stage, Taiwan has proven a formative and effective partner across the Western hemisphere,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez in a bipartisan October 27 statement supporting the legislation.   

Earlier this week, six U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan as part of a congressional visit to the island whose status has proved to be a constant irritant in U.S.-Chinese relations. China condemned the use of an American military aircraft for the visit.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 16th, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S. retail sales surged in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, in a signal that at least at the start of the annual holiday shopping season, consumers were not scared off by sharply increasing prices.

Retail sales increased 1.7% last month, more than twice the advance of eight-tenths of a percent in September. Sales have now increased three straight months.

Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, touted the favorable report, saying, “In short, families have seen an increase in real disposable income, and stores and restaurants have the supplies to drive this recovery.”

He said that the retail sales report showed “that even as we work to address the real challenge that elevated inflation from supply chain bottlenecks poses for Americans’ pocketbooks and outlook, the economy is making progress.”

With U.S. consumer price inflation at a three-decade high, it is an open question whether robust consumer spending will continue during the holiday shopping season through the end of 2021.

The government reported last week that consumer prices increased at an annualized rate of 6.2% in October, with sharply higher prices for gasoline and food affecting consumers the most.

The Commerce Department said that October spending was up 4% at online retailers, along with big gains at electronics, appliance and hardware stores. Gas price increases pushed up the sales total at service stations by 3.9% while vehicles sales revenue increased 1.8%.

Aside from higher prices, U.S. consumers are facing shortages of many items they may want to buy.  

Several dozen container ships filled with consumer goods from Asia are anchored off the U.S. Pacific coast waiting for docking and unloading at California ports, a supply chain snarl that government officials are gradually unraveling but are far from fully resolving.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 16th, 2021 by Vbiz

Rising inflation in the U.S. may be putting the brakes on Democrats’ effort to push President Joe Biden’s signature package of climate and social spending measures through Congress before the end of the year, even though it’s not clear that the measures would add to rising prices. 

House Democrats are pushing for a vote on the package, known as the Build Back Better Act, in an effort to move it forward in advance of the Thanksgiving recess next week. Democratic leaders had hoped to secure a vote on the bill last week, but more moderate Democrats demanded a delay until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could complete its analysis of the bill’s expected effects on the federal budget. 

On Monday, the CBO said that its analysis would be completed by Friday of this week, clearing the way for a vote, so long as the agency finds that the bill fully offsets its spending with increased revenues, as Democrats have promised. 

Biden expressed hope Monday during a signing ceremony for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that the bill would pass.

“I’m confident that the House will pass this bill, and then we’re going to have to pass it in the Senate,” he said in remarks delivered on the White House lawn. “It is fully paid for, it will reduce the deficit over the long term, according to leading economists … and again, no one earning less than $400,000 will pay a single penny more in federal taxes. Together, with the infrastructure bill, millions of lives will change for the better.” 

However, the bill may be facing trouble in the Senate, where West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, both moderate Democrats, have expressed reservations about the $1.75 trillion package because they fear it might exacerbate price increases. 

If either of them were to vote against it, the package would fail, because the Democrats control only 50 of the 100 votes in the Senate and have to count on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote in the case of a tie. 

Last week, after the Labor Department announced that inflation for the fiscal year ending in October had reached a 30-year high of 6.2%, Manchin tweeted out a message that many in Washington read as a warning to his fellow Democrats. 

“By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not ‘transitory’ and is instead getting worse,” he wrote. “From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.” 

However, it is far from clear that the Build Back Better agenda would be inflationary, despite Manchin’s and Sinema’s concerns or the assertions of Republicans in Congress. 

The bill would dedicate $555 billion to addressing climate change – money that would be spread out over a decade. It would also provide universal pre-K child care, paid family and medical leave, financial benefits to families with young children, and more. It would be paid for, among other things, by a 15% minimum tax on business profits. 

“Republicans are saying it’s highly inflationary in and of itself, and I don’t buy that,” Joseph E. Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told VOA. “It’s not that big, when you think about how it’s spread out, and there are some tax increases that go along with it.” 

The White House has been touting a letter from 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists that said that the inflationary effects of the bill would be “negligible” over the medium term. However, the letter omitted the potential for near-term inflationary effects and was based on an early version of the bill in which tax increases figured much more prominently than they do in the current, smaller version. 

To some, the picture is less clear. 

“There are elements in the bill that I think should tend to relieve inflationary pressures, and there are elements in the bill that I think should tend to worsen inflationary pressures,” Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told VOA. “Analytically, I think it’s ambiguous, which is more powerful.” 

Goldwein said that he thinks the inflationary pressures might be marginally stronger but said, “I don’t think the bill is going to have a substantial effect either way. There’s a risk, because we are in a very high-inflation environment, and sometimes that last log you put in the fire is the one that causes it to spread. … But when you look at it as a whole, I don’t think it’s going to tend to push inflation up or down very much.” 

Biden has actually gone so far as to hint that the bill would help to improve the current high inflation being experienced by Americans.

Last week, for example, the president tweeted, “Congress has a tool at its disposal to lower costs for families right away: The Build Back Better Act. All we’ve got to do is pass it.” 

However, this is a bit of a two-step by the president. To the extent that the Build Back Better Act might reduce costs for American consumers, it would be doing so by having the government absorb some of the cost of things like child care and prescription drugs, not by reducing inflation in the near term. 

According to Gagnon of the Peterson Institute, “I don’t see that it would have an effect on near-term inflation.” 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 15th, 2021 by Vbiz

China’s output of coal increased to its highest level since at least March 2015 after authorities gave permission for mine expansions to boost supply and ease record prices. Chinese coal imports from Russia surged in September, but one of its traditional suppliers — Australia — remains frozen out of the lucrative trade because of diplomatic tensions.

China — the world’s leading consumer of coal — has an energy shortage triggered by strong demand from its manufacturers, industry and households. 

The government in Beijing is determined to avoid more power cuts. 

Since July, China has approved expansions at more than 150 coal mines, according to the National Development and Reform Commission. Figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed domestic coal production exceeded 357 million tons in October, up from 334 million tons the previous month.

​Official customs data has also shown that China imported about 3.7 million tons of thermal coal from Russia — the main fuel for electricity generation — in September, up more than a quarter from August.

However, one of the world’s main coal producers — Australia — is noticeably absent from the list of nations shipping coal to China.

It was a prolific exporter of coal to China before an unofficial ban was imposed in late 2020 after Canberra supported calls for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, the disease first detected in China. Beijing interpreted the move as criticism of its handling of the virus, and a range of trade restrictions were brought in.

China does have long term plans to slash its use of coal and fossil fuels. 

Sam Geall from China Dialogue, an environmental policy group, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that China’s consumption of coal will oscillate to reflect domestic political necessities. 

“There is room for hedging over the next five years that can allow kind of increased coal build up that would then need to be kind of ramped down again after 2025, and that speaks to this issue of the kind of push and pull that we see in the Chinese power sector with the recent black-outs and so on. It is difficult to just immediately, you know, turn the juggernaut around and there is a push and pull between different forces and different imperatives, including, you know, social stability, employment (and) keeping the lights on,” said Geall.

The increase in China’s coal production comes as India, supported by Beijing and other coal-dependent developing nations, brokered a last-minute amendment at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. 

They managed to alter the final wording of the accord to “phase down” rather than “phase out” the use of coal. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 15th, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S. President Joe Biden is hosting a ceremony Monday at the White House where he will sign a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill that earned final passage in Congress after months of negotiations. 

The legislation calls for massive spending across the country to address crumbling roads and bridges, improve rail service and expand public transportation. 

The White House said Monday’s signing event would include governors and mayors from both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as leaders from labor unions and businesses.

The bill includes billions of dollars to address gaps in access to broadband internet, particularly for low-income households, rural areas and tribal communities. 

There are also programs to shore up the nation’s electricity grid, as well as its water and wastewater systems. Airports are also set to see improvements, and money is pledged for building electric vehicle charging stations and to purchase electric and hybrid school buses. 

The White House announced Sunday the selection of former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to oversee the infrastructure plan. 

Biden and some of his Cabinet secretaries have already been holding events to highlight the benefits of the package. After signing the bill Monday, he is scheduled to head to the state of New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge listed among those badly in need of repair. On Wednesday he has an event scheduled at an electric car plant in Michigan. 

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 15th, 2021 by Vbiz

Prices have gone up for a number of consumer products in the United States. President Joe Biden, whose poll numbers are slipping over concerns about how he is handling the economy, is pushing for the passage of his large social spending plan. Michelle Quinn reports.

Produced by: Mary Cieslak    

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 14th, 2021 by Vbiz

The top White House economic adviser on Sunday acknowledged the pain for Americans of sharply rising consumer prices, saying that President Joe Biden remains open to the possibility of tapping the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease spiraling gasoline prices that motorists are paying at service stations.

“There’s no doubt inflation is high right now,” Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show. “It’s affecting Americans’ pocketbooks. It’s affecting their outlook.”

U.S. consumer prices jumped at an annualized rate of 6.2% in October, the biggest increase since 1990, the government’s Labor Department reported last week.

Higher energy and food prices have affected consumers the most, with consumer spending accounting for 70% of the U.S. economy, the world’s biggest.

Fuel costs for motorists are up sharply over the last year, with motorists now paying $3.30 a gallon (3.8 liters), $1.08 more than a year ago, the highest average price since 2014. The cost of grocery bills has risen 5.3% over the last year, with beef prices increasing markedly, further pinching household budgets.

Deese offered no immediate solution for the higher consumer prices, but said economic forecasters expect the inflation rate to decrease in 2022.

He said “all options are on the table” to curb rising prices, including tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, where the U.S. currently has 612 million barrels of oil stored in four salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico coast. 

Some release of the reserve oil could be refined into gasoline for sale to motorists, which could in the short term ease gas prices at service station pumps. But U.S. presidents have only reluctantly tapped the reserve, instead holding it for use in the event of a possible true national emergency, such as a cutoff in Middle East and north Atlantic oil production.

The existing oil reserve is enough to replace more than half a year’s worth of U.S. crude net imports.

Deese said three things have to occur to improve U.S. economic growth and curb inflation.

”One, we have to finish the job on COVID,” he said, with more vaccinations to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes the illness. “We have to return to a sense of economic normalcy by getting more workplaces COVID-free; getting more kids vaccinated so more parents feel comfortable going to work.”

But Biden’s mandate that 84 million U.S. workers be vaccinated at workplaces with 100 or more employees has been at least temporarily blocked by a U.S. appellate court pending further court hearings.

Secondly, Deese said, “We’ve got to address the supply chain issue” of consumer goods arriving into the U.S. from Asia, with 83 container ships currently anchored off the Pacific Coast waiting for docking and unloading.

He said the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation Biden is signing Monday will help ease transportation bottlenecks in the U.S., but that construction work does not occur overnight.

Lastly, he called for congressional passage of Biden’s nearly $2 trillion social safety legislation to provide more financial, educational and health care assistance to all but the wealthiest American families. The House of Representatives is planning to vote on the measure this week, but its fate in the Senate remains uncertain.

Despite the immediate inflationary pressures on American consumers and Biden’s sharply declining voter approval standing, Deese said the economy has sharply improved since Biden took office last January.

“When the president took office, we were facing an all-out economic crisis,” Deese said. “Eighteen million people were collecting unemployment benefits. Three thousand people a day were dying of COVID. And because of the actions the president has taken, we’re now seeing an economic recovery that most people didn’t think was possible then.”

“Economic growth in America is outstripping any other developed country,” Deese said. “And the unemployment rate has come down to 4.6%; that’s about two years faster than experts projected.”

But with higher consumer prices, the Democratic president’s Republican political foes are focusing on American pocketbooks as congressional elections halfway through Biden’s four-year presidential term loom in November of next year.

One Republican critic, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, told ABC’s “This Week” show, he would never have believed Biden would preside over the biggest increase in consumer prices in three decades.

But Barrasso blamed what he characterized as Biden’s “almost irreversibly bad” federal government spending choices, both for infrastructure and the pending social safety legislation. 

The infrastructure legislation was approved with both Republican and Democratic support, but no Republicans have voiced support for the social safety net measure, forcing Democrats to attempt to pass it with their own votes.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

November 14th, 2021 by Vbiz

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature of homebuying in the United States, but one constant is that Black Americans do not have the same access to a home of their own.

Black purchasers made up just six percent of the total homebuyers this year — a figure that has changed little over the past two decades, a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report released Thursday said.

Pandemic dynamics have allowed many Americans to get caught up on student loans and build savings, since spending opportunities like travel and eating in restaurants were off limits.

As remote work became the norm, more buyers packed up and moved to be closer to family and friends rather than relocating for a job, according to NAR’s 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

However Black Americans are weighed down by student loan debt to a greater degree than their white counterparts, and less able to get help from family, the report said.

“Unfortunately, race hasn’t really changed much this year. We’re still seeing pretty consistent, low shares of minority homebuyers,” NAR’s Jessica Lautz told AFP in an interview.

While low interest rates made mortgages more accessible, the now-chronic shortage of homes for sale has driven prices higher and kept many first-time buyers out of the market, the data showed.

 

Even in the South, Blacks made up just nine percent of homebuyers in a region where their population in some states is more than double the 13 percent national average, the report said.

Prior NAR research shows white homeownership rates are 30 percentage points higher than those of Black buyers, who are more than twice as likely to have student loan debt and a higher amount, and are rejected for mortgages at more than twice the rate as white applicants.

And because they are less likely to own homes, they are not able to use proceeds from the sale of a home to finance a purchase.

Priced out

While the share of first-time buyers rose this year, it remains below the historic norm of 40 percent, said Lautz, NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights.

“We know that first-time homebuyers are struggling to enter into this housing market,” she said, adding they find it hard “to pull the money together and then to be able to compete with other buyers” who increasingly can pay all cash.

With historically low inventory — exacerbated by a shortage of workers and supply issues and tendency for builders to focus on large, expensive houses — sellers are getting full asking price and more for their homes, and a higher share of buyers can pay cash.

The median home price was $305,000, more than $30,000 higher than in 2020, according to the report.

President Joe Biden has made lowering home prices a plank of his Build Back Better bill under consideration in Congress, calling for $150 billion for “the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history.”

His plan would offer down payment assistance to help more buyers own their first home and build wealth, and focus on zoning reform to allow more construction.

 

Close to family

One of the biggest shifts during the pandemic has been the increase in demand for work-from-home opportunities as offices shut down.

“Home sellers are saying their number-one reason to sell is to get closer to friends and family,” Lautz said. “People really wanted their support system around them and needed it during the pandemic.”

Job relocation as the reason to move fell to seven percent from 11 percent.

She said she expects that trend to continue “as CEOs understand if they want to retain talent, they may need to allow more flexibility in working from home.”

Another trend is the dwindling share of homebuyers with children, which fell to 31 percent — the lowest on record, she said.

That shifts priorities, since those buyers will be less concerned about issues like schools or larger homes, which for cash-strapped buyers will “open up neighborhoods for them that would have been off limits if they had children in the home.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси