Member Briefing November 27, 2023
Commerce Department: Manufactured Goods Orders Fell Sharply in October
Orders for manufactured goods produced in the United States fell sharply in October, dragged down by a steep decline in transportation equipment orders, reversing an overall increase in September. New orders for durable goods declined by 5.4% in October from a month earlier to $279.4 billion, according to revised Commerce Department data. This was worse than the median forecast among economists surveyed by MarketWatch of a 3.4% decline. "Companies continue to face headwinds from higher borrowing costs and tighter credit conditions that could weigh on activity."" High Frequency Economics Chief U.S. economist Rubeela Farooqi wrote in a note to clients. She added that
New orders for transportation equipment declined by 14.8%. Excluding transportation, new orders were flat in October. At the same time, orders for civilian aircraft fell sharply by 49.6% -- "Swings in civilian aircraft orders tell us little about the evolving path of overall business investment," economists at Pantheon Macroeconomics wrote in an investor note ahead of the data release.
War in Israel Headlines
- Israel and Hamas: The Latest News – The Guardian
- A Brutal Battle for Southern Gaza Beckons After the Truce Ends – The Economist
- Hamas Releases First Group of Hostages in Gaza Cease-Fire Deal With Israel - WSJ
- West Bank Crowds Celebrate as Bus Carries Freed Palestinian Prisoners Arrives- BBC
- What is the Humanitarian Situation in Besieged Gaza? – Reuters
- Young Girl Thought to be Dead Freed in Hostage Release – The Hill
- Israeli-Linked Chemical Tanker Seized in Gulf of Aden, US Official, Vessel Company Say – Reuters
- Palestinian-Americans Struggle With Survivors' Guilt - BBC
- Egypt President Says Future Palestinian State Could be Demilitarized - Reuters
- Interactive Map- Israel’s Operation in Gaza – Institute for the Study of War
- Map – Tracking Hamas’ Attack on Israel – Live Universal Awareness Map
War in Ukraine Headlines
- Ukraine and Russia: The Latest News – The Guardian
- Russian Actress Killed in Ukrainian Strike on Event for Troops - BBC
- Fierce Row Erupts Over Ukraine’s 2024 Election - BBC
- Russia Downs Drones Over Moscow in Ukrainian Retaliatory Strike - Bloomberg
- Ukrainian Attack Cuts Power to Some Russian-Occupied Areas - NYT
- Russia Launches its Largest Drone Attack on Ukraine Since Start of Invasion - CBS
- Finland Shuts More Russia Border Points, Says Asylum Inflow Must Stop – NBC
- Republicans Want to Pair Border Security With Aid for Ukraine - AP
- Chinese Car Sales Boom in Russia Levels Off Amid Shaky Local Recovery - Reuters
- Interactive Map: Assessed Control of Terrain in Ukraine – Institute for the Study of War
- Map – Tracking Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine – Live Universal Awareness Map
Resistance is Futile: 4 Ways to Minimize the Impact of Cyber Monday Shopping At Work
Over half of U.S. workers will shop online while on the job this Cyber Monday. Once an activity only those with desk jobs could get away with, experts point to the ease in which retailers have now made shopping from smartphones as one of the primary drivers of this dramatic increase in online shopping while at work. And while most workers will browse during their lunch breaks, a surprising number will shop all day long, with 44% admitting that their productivity suffers as they surf for the best deals.
So, what can be done about this workplace productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. In fact, in a separate survey also conducted by Robert Half, 77% of technology leaders said their firms allow "workshopping", but more than half of these same respondents (52%) indicated a preference for employees to not shop from work. So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.
China Offers Visa-Free Entry for Citizens of France, Germany, Italy
China will temporarily exempt citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia from needing visas to visit the world's second-largest economy in a bid to give a boost to post-pandemic tourism. From Dec. 1 to Nov. 30 next year, citizens of those countries entering China for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, or transiting for no more than 15 days, will not need a visa, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
China has been taking steps in recent months - including restoring international flight routes - to revive its tourism sector following three years of strict COVID-19 measures that largely shut its borders to the outside world. The government is also looking to re-establish its image around the world after clashing with many Western countries on various issues including COVID, human rights, Taiwan and trade.
COVID 19 News - The COVID Variants the WHO is Watching Closely
While the height of the pandemic may be over, the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to mutate with multiple variants circulating in every country. Yet despite this, testing and surveillance have decreased, with experts urging people to keep taking the threat of this disease seriously. "The world has moved on from COVID, and in many respects, that's good because people are able to stay protected and keep themselves safe, but this virus has not gone anywhere. It's circulating. It's changing, it's killing, and we have to keep up," Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical lead at the World Health Organization (WHO), told Euronews Next.
One sublineage, EG.5, also nicknamed Eris, currently represents more than half of the COVID-19 variants circulating globally. It was declared as a variant of interest by WHO back in August. Cases of EG.5 increased over the summer, but it was recently outpaced in the United States by a closely related subvariant called HV.1. This subvariant now accounts for 29 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in the US, according to the latest figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
NYS COVID Update
The Governor updated COVID data for the week ending November 24th.
- Weekly: 55
- Total Reported to CDC: 81,065
- Average Daily Patients in Hospital statewide: 1,204
- Average Daily Patients in ICU Statewide: No Data
7 Day Average Cases per 100K population
- 9.7 positive cases per 100,00 population, Statewide
- 10.0 positive cases per 100,00 population, Mid-Hudson
The House GOP is Having a Hard Time Passing its Remaining Funding Bills
House conservatives are ramping up calls for the party to pass the remaining annual government funding bills as Republicans look to strengthen their hand ahead of spending talks with the Democratic-led Senate. The House has passed seven of the dozen full-year funding bills, clearing partisan fiscal 2024 spending plans for the Pentagon, departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, State, and a host of other agencies in recent months.
Leadership is having trouble locking down support for the five remaining bills as some conservatives press for a harder line on reducing spending, while moderates are wary of what could end up on the cutting room floor. With the narrow GOP majority, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) can afford to lose only a handful of votes on any given bill, leaving him trying to walk a tightrope to please both factions. Here are some of the sticking points threatening each remaining bill.
Nvidia Earnings: Record Quarterly Revenue, Profits For Second Straight Quarter
Nvidia brought in $18.1 billion in revenue for the three-month period ending Oct. 29, shattering last quarter’s record sales of $16.2 billion and coming in 206% above the same period last year. Profits also boomed, as Nvidia raked in $4.02 earnings per share and $9.2 billion in net income, similarly shattering the record $2.48 earnings per share and $6.2 billion profit set during the second quarter.
Largely driving Nvidia’s earnings growth was expansion in its AI-heavy datacenter unit, which brought in $14.5 billion of revenue last quarter, a year-over-year increase of 279%. The company said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to come in at about $20 billion, topping analyst estimates of $18 billion. The sole blemish in the earnings report: a cautionary note from Nvidia’s Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress warning about a “significant” decline in Nvidia datacenter sales to Chinese firms due to new U.S. regulations.
Britain's Finance Minister Announced Measures Aimed at Reviving the Economy
Britain's finance minister on Wednesday announced a raft of measures aimed at reviving the sluggish economy without upsetting markets, but a degree of caution over the outlook for borrowing and inflation rattled bonds and sterling. This was Hunt's second Autumn Statement since he replaced Kwasi Kwarteng, who was fired last year in the wake of a mini-budget packed with under-funded tax cuts that unleashed UK market turmoil.
Investors cautioned that tax breaks would not be sufficient to raise business investment while UK interest rates stayed high. "The country needs massive investment and the only way you are going to get that is if financing costs become much cheaper," said Leigh Himsworth, UK portfolio manager at Fidelity International. Hunt moved to make full expensing on investment permanent and also froze alcohol duties until August 1 2024. The budget failed to provide a bazooka that would give Britain's homebuilders a boost, instead introducing smaller measures to unlock bottlenecks in the planning system.
United Airlines Joins Growing eVTOL Market with Archer Aviation
Archer Aviation is one of the largest companies developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. eVTOLs use electricity to take off, fly, and land vertically. eVTOLs are more efficient than traditional planes because the lighter weight of the materials means that a single flight can accommodate more passengers or cargo. Commercial airlines are realizing the benefits of eVTOLs and are looking to get involved with the innovation. Airlines see eVTOLs as essential for meeting sustainability goals and facilitating transportation across urban areas. Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects the first eVTOLs to fly commercially in 2025, multiple airlines have already ordered them.
One such carrier is United Airlines, which has ordered $1 billion worth of Archer Aviation's eVTOL named "Midnight," with an option to purchase another $500 million of the same aircraft. Archer's eVTOLs can travel up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) and 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) on a single charge. United's CEO Scott Kirby highlighted how eVTOLs are a key part of the airline's goal to reduce carbon emissions.
U.S. Space Force Moves Ahead on Orbital Nuclear Power Reactors to Support Future Satellites, Space Stations
U.S. military space experts are developing the ability to use nuclear power generation in orbit to provide electricity for a variety of future space applications ranging from small satellite sensor payloads to large integrated satellites, and even space stations orbiting the moon, Earth, and beyond. U.S. Space Force, through the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicle Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is asking the defense contractors to design space nuclear power through the Joint Emergent Technology Supplying On-orbit Nuclear Power (JETSON) project.
The low power system can provide continuous power levels obtainable using space nuclear power may provide advantages over current solar electric power for mission payloads and spacecraft, and could enable a new generation of military small low-power applications, which will be a 1U design that consumes five Watts or less, with a propulsion system able to operate for one to two years. The JETSON High Power Mission Application program, meanwhile, will develop enabling technologies for high-power space nuclear generation for propulsion and power for future satellites and space stations.
Ford Scales Back Michigan EV Battery Plant
Ford Motor Co. is downsizing the scale of a lithium-iron phosphate battery project it announced earlier this year for a site in Marshall, Mich. “We are pleased to confirm we are moving ahead with the Marshall project, consistent with the Ford+ plan for growth and value creation. However, we are right-sizing as we balance investment, growth, and profitability,” according to the automaker’s announcement. “The facility will now create more than 1,700 good-paying American jobs to produce a planned capacity of approximately 20 GWh (gigawatt hours/year.)”
Last month Ford reported it is reducing future investment in electric vehicle projects by $12 billion overall, compared with its previous announcements, and it has postponed construction of two other EV battery plants, one in Kentucky and another in Turkey. When announced in February, BlueOval Battery Park was to employ 2,500 workers and produce 35 GWh/year of LFP batteries, with a planned budget of $3.5 billion. Ford did not report a new investment cost, but a 40% reduction in the budget, proportional to the smaller capacity, suggests a project costing around $2 billion.
Oil Markets Remain Focused on OPEC+
The seesawing in oil prices seen over the past weeks has wound down as the market awaits the OPEC meeting, postponed from this week to November 30 and changed from an in-person summit to an online event. ICE Brent front-month futures have settled within a narrow frame of $81-83 per barrel the entire week, with the Thanksgiving holidays in the US keeping the main developments firmly focused on the Eurasian landscape. A better outlook for China’s property sector was offset by higher US inventories, so OPEC+ will be the trendsetter for the next weeks’ pricing direction.
OPEC Meets Online After Quota Spat. The upcoming meeting of OPEC+ has been postponed to November 30 amidst speculation that the renegotiation of African producers’ production quotas has been met with notable resistance whilst other members of the group defy calls to chip in with cuts.
Hudson Valley Private Employment Up 1.1% - Unemployment at 3.5%
The Hudson Valley's private sector job count grew by 8,600, or 1.1 percent, to 810,200 in the year ending October 2023. Gains were largest in private education and health services (+12,200), leisure and hospitality (+4,200) and other services (+200). The region’s private education and health services sector grew the fastest, up 5.8 percent – its strongest year-over-year October growth on record. Employment losses were focused in mining, logging and construction (-4,400). Manufacturing lost 500 jobs in October.
The October 2023 unemployment rate for the Hudson Valley Region is 3.5 percent. That is up from 3.2 percent in September 2023 and up from 2.6 percent in October 2022. In October 2023, there were 41,400 unemployed in the region, up from 37,800 in September 2023 and up from 30,700 in October 2022. Year-over-year in October 2023, labor force increased by 20,600 or 1.8 percent, to 1,187,000.
US Unemployment Claims Drop by 24,000, Another Sign of Labor Market Resilience
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, a sign that U.S. job market remains resilient despite higher interest rates. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that jobless claims dropped by 24,000 to 209,000. The previous week's total — 233,000 — had been the highest since August. The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell by 750 to 220,000.
The applications are viewed as a proxy for layoffs. They remain extraordinarily low by historical standards, signalling that most Americans enjoy unusual job security. Overall, 1.84 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits the week that ended Nov. 11, down by 22,000 from the week before. Hiring has slowed from the breakneck pace of 2021 and 2022 when the economy roared back from the COVID-19 recession. Employers added a record 606,000 jobs a month in 2021 and nearly 400,000 last year. So far in 2023, monthly hiring has averaged 239,000, but it's come in below 200,000 in three of the last five months.
Mercer: Health Benefit Costs to Increase 5.2% in 2024
The average per-employee cost of employer-sponsored health insurance rose by 5.2% in 2023 to reach $15,797, according to a report released on Nov. 17 by Mercer. The report, 2023 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, found cost increases were highest for employers with 50-499 employees, averaging 7.8%. They also reported a higher average per-employee cost for health insurance – $16,464 compared to $15,640 among larger employers with 500 or more employees.
In 2022, cost rose by 3.2%, well below general inflation, which averaged 8% that year. The survey shows employers project another sharp increase of 5.2% for 2024. Prescription drugs have been the fastest-growing component of health benefit cost for years, but in 2023 pharmacy benefit cost jumped 8.4%, following an increase of 6.4% last year. A spike in the utilization of certain therapies for treatment of diabetes and obesity – glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) drugs – has had a notable impact on costs.
All Electric or Hybrid? Tesla vs. Toyota Is the New Hot Battle in Cars
A year ago, the debate between EVs and hybrids looked settled. Now, Elon Musk’s vision for an electric-vehicle future is being challenged anew by Toyota TM 2.21%increase; green up pointing triangle and its re-energized hybrid plans. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, wants to make the world electric, targeting annual vehicle deliveries that would overtake Toyota to become the bestselling automaker before 2030. And while that goal is far off, he’s had some success—in the U.S., Tesla’s small lineup has already overtaken some of Toyota’s bestsellers.
A slowdown in EV sales growth in the U.S., however, is testing Musk’s gamble. At the same time, hybrid vehicles have seen a surge in buyers this year, in part because of the success of new offerings by Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus. “The buzz of electrification in the industry has somewhat mainstreamed hybrids,” David Christ, the head of the Toyota brand in North America, said during an interview. “It’s really had an awakening.” The pitch to customers for buying a hybrid is simple: Such cars are often cheaper than all-electric rivals and get some benefits of electrification with improved MPG compared with a traditional car without the headaches of having to charge like an EV.