Member Briefing September 27, 2022
Oil Prices Plummet as Dollar Soars And Global Recession Fears Grow
Oil prices continued to plummet on Monday, plunging to their lowest levels since January. Multiple factors have contributed to declining oil prices. As well as the dollar’s strong performance, soaring inflation rates and fears of a global economic downturn have dampened demand. Ongoing strict Covid curbs in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, has also pushed demand down. The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused energy prices to skyrocket, has served to buffer oil prices against recession fears, though these fears now appear to be the key force driving the market.
The Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. dollar’s value against six other major currencies, hit a 20-year high on Wednesday and buyers using other currencies will have to spend more to buy the same dollar amount of crude oil.
War in Ukraine Headlines
- Ukraine and Russia: The Latest News – The Guardian
- Russia’s War in Ukraine to Cost Global Economy $2.8 Trillion, OECD Says - WSJ
- Photos: Daily Life in Ukraine During Times of War – US News
- UK Announces Sanctions on 92 Russian Officials, Entities Over Referendums in Ukraine – The Hill
- U.S. Funding Bill Includes More Than $12B on Ukraine – US News
- Attacks Mount in Russia After Putin Troop Mobilization – The Hill
- Russian Neighbors—Now Including Finland—Close Borders To Those Fleeing Putin’s Draft - Forbes
- Russian Military-Recruitment Centers Attacked Amid Mobilization Pushback - WSJ
- The Russian Air Force Loses Up To Four Planes In One Day As Ukrainian Air-Defenses Advance - Forbes
- Swastika-Wearing Ex-Pupil Kills 15 in Russian School Shooting - Reuters
- Map – Tracking Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine – Live Universal Awareness Map
Shutdown Threat Grows as Lawmakers Struggle to Reach Final Deal
Lawmakers on both sides have been pressing for a short-term funding bill, often referred to as a continuing resolution (CR), that would keep the government funded at current levels until after the midterm elections and buy time for a larger deal on government spending for fiscal 2023. But Congress has less than a week to pass the stopgap funding measure or risk its first shutdown in years, and lawmakers still have several hurdles to cross before they can clear the finish line. The government will shut down on Oct. 1 without a new spending measure.
Most expect that Congress will find a way to pass a short-term measure before midnight Friday, as it is not in either party’s interest to be blamed for a shutdown weeks before the midterm elections. One of the biggest holdups to passage is an ongoing push by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key centrist, and Democratic leadership to use the must-pass bill as a vehicle for changes to the country’s permitting process for energy projects.
Rents Drop for First Time in Two Years After Climbing to Records
August apartment asking rents nationally fell 0.1% from July, according to a report from property data company CoStar Group. It was the first monthly decline in rent since December 2020, the company said. Other surveys also showed rent declines of various degrees. Apartment-listing website Rent.com showed a 2.8% decrease in rent for one-bedroom apartments during the same month. A third measure, by the listings website Realtor.com, also noted a slight monthly decline in rent this August.
Last month’s rent declines are modest compared with the 23% overall increase in rent since August 2020, according to Realtor.com, and there is no guarantee that rents won’t move up again. As more households feel priced out of the sales market because of rising mortgage rates and near-record sales prices, overall demand for rentals is unlikely to fall drastically, said Orphe Divounguy, an economist at Zillow Group. Yet many economists say the rental market is likely to see more declines in the coming months. Prices typically dip during the fall and winter.
US COVID – Five Things About COVID We Still Don’t Understand at Our Peril
Since a new coronavirus launched the global pandemic that has now killed more than 6.5 million people — 16 percent of them in the United States alone ― scientists in record numbers have devoted themselves full time to unraveling its mysteries. In less than three years, researchers have published more than 200,000 studies about the virus and covid-19. That is four times the number of scientific papers written on influenza in the past century and more than 10 times the number written
Still, the virus has kept many of its secrets, from how it mutates so rapidly to why it kills some while leaving others largely unscathed — mysteries that if solved might arm the world’s scientists with new strategies to curb its spread and guard against the next pandemic. Here are some of the most pressing questions they are trying to answer.
GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy Rolls Out ‘Commitment to America’ for Midterms
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) laid out his vision for the Republicans if they win control of the House in the midterms, targeting Democrats’ plans to expand the Internal Revenue Service while also emphasizing cutting crime, lowering prices and giving parents more influence over their schools.
The House GOP commitment has four main themes: building a strong economy focused on fighting inflation and curbing costs; a safe nation which focuses on reducing crime and securing the border; a freedom-themed category related to schools and confronting big tech; and a focus on accountable government, a nod to planned scrutiny of Biden administration officials.
Pollsters Fear They’re Blowing it Again in 2022
Once again, polls over the past two months are showing Democrats running stronger than once expected in a number of critical midterm races. It’s left some wondering whether the rosy results are setting the stage for another potential polling failure that dashes Democratic hopes of retaining control of Congress. Since Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory, pre-election polls have consistently understated support for Republican candidates, compared to the votes ultimately cast.
Celinda Lake, a prominent Democratic pollster, told POLITICO that her firm, Lake Research Partners, is working hard to get the right balance of voters in its samples — but that a certain segment of Trump voters is increasingly elusive, especially as the former president’s exploits have preoccupied the headlines lately. Marist and Siena are among the pollsters trying to make adjustments.
COVID-19 Infections Increase Risk of Long-Term Brain Problems
Those who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus are at increased risk of developing a range of neurological conditions in the first year after the infection, new research shows. Such complications include strokes, cognitive and memory problems, depression, anxiety and migraine headaches, according to a comprehensive analysis of federal health data by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care system.
Additionally, the post-COVID brain is associated with movement disorders, from tremors and involuntary muscle contractions to epileptic seizures, hearing and vision abnormalities, and balance and coordination difficulties as well as other symptoms similar to what is experienced with Parkinson’s disease. The findings are published Sept. 22 in Nature Medicine.
Pfizer Asks FDA to Authorize New COVID Booster for Children
Pfizer on Monday announced it has submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking authorization of its bivalent COVID-19 booster shot for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Pfizer said it has requested authorization of a 10 microgram dose of its omicron-specific booster for that age group. Pfizer’s bivalent boosters are currently only authorized for use in those 12 and older.
Unlike previously authorized doses, the FDA did not wait for full human clinical trials to be completed on the bivalent boosters before giving them the green light, instead going off of animal data, as is the case with annual flu shots. Health experts and researchers have largely said the shot should still be considered safe, owing to the numerous findings from throughout the pandemic that have demonstrated the vaccine’s safety.
Contrarian Economist Larry Summers’ Prediction for What’s Next.
Larry Summers occupies a unique position in the political economy of the U.S. He’s unique in his profession for having risen to a cabinet post—Treasury Secretary—as well as the presidency of Harvard University. Along the way, he developed a reputation for truth-telling that hasn’t always served him well. Most recently, Summers alienated Democrats after the 2020 election by publicly warning another round of COVID relief checks could be inflationary. And he was among the strongest critics of the notion, favored by the administration and the Fed, that the inflation that resulted was temporary. His central insight: putting checks in peoples’ pockets will fuel inflation, but spending government money on physical infrastructure, social infrastructure or energy transformation need not.
When Larry Summers speaks about the economy, you should listen. He did so recently with Fortune’s Shawn Tully, who visited him at his home for a deep dive into his current view on the economy. But brace yourself. His bottom line: rooting out inflation won’t be quick and it won’t be easy.
Read more at Fortune
Hurricane Ian Forecast to Explosively Strengthen Into Cat 4 Storm in Gulf
Due to the potential for rapid intensification, as well as a host of other factors, forecasters have rated Ian a 3 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes and a 4 on the scale for the northwest Caribbean. As of 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Ian had sustained winds of up to 85 mph and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. Ian was located about 195 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba and 325 miles south-southwest of Key West, Florida. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35 miles from the storm's center, while tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles.
With the looming threat of Ian to the U.S., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a pre-landfall state of emergency for the entire state on Saturday afternoon and urged residents to be prepared for Ian's impacts. DeSantis also stated Sunday that he has activated the National Guard to help with the landfall, as well as power crews to aid with power renewal post-storm.
Canada Ending All COVID-19 Restrictions at Border as of Oct. 1
Starting Saturday, international travelers will be able to enter Canada without providing proof of vaccination, taking a pre-arrival test or undergoing quarantine, according to a government release. Compulsory masking on domestic planes and trains will also end, as will a longstanding requirement to share health information with the Canadian government via its ArriveCAN application prior to entry.
The government cited high vaccination rates, low hospitalization and death rates and the availability of booster vaccinations, including the new bivalent booster targeted at the omicron variant, as reasons for the eased restrictions.
Hard Right Giorgia Meloni Wins Voting in Italy - Aims for Rare Political Stability
The right-wing alliance that won Italy's national election will usher in a rare era of political stability to tackle an array of problems besieging the euro zone's third largest economy, one of its senior figures said on Monday. Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy's first woman prime minister at the head of its most right-wing government since World War Two after leading the conservative alliance to triumph at Sunday's election.
The result is the latest success for the right in Europe after a breakthrough for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in an election this month and advances made by the National Rally in France in June. Meloni plays down her party's post-fascist roots and portrays it as a mainstream group like Britain's Conservatives. She has pledged to back Western policy on Ukraine and not take risks with Italy's fragile finances.
With Salary Budgets at a 20-Year High, What HR Needs to Know
A new survey from WorldatWork reveals that salary increase budgets reached their highest level in 20 years. In the U.S., they rose to an average of 4.1% in 2022 with a 3.8% median and are projected to again be at a 4.1% average in 2023. The more than 2,000 organizations represented in the survey cover nearly 14 million employees from 19 countries.
This year’s findings heighten a trend that survey authors had already been seeing. In 2021, U.S. respondents projected that the following year’s total salary increase budgets would rise modestly from a 3% average to 3.3%, while the median increase was predicted to stay the same at 3%. The survey also shed light on how raises are being doled out. The average time between increases across all employee categories mirrored the historical average of 12 months, with executives’ average at a slightly greater 12.3-month average. Meanwhile, on average, participating organizations reported awarding at least some base salary increases (e.g. general increase/COLA, merit increase) to 88% of employees in 2022.
UAW Will Seek 'Card Check' Authorization at GM's U.S. Joint-Venture Battery Plants
The UAW will seek a speedier recognition from General Motors that does not require a vote to represent hourly workers in the automaker's growing stable of U.S. joint-venture battery plants, the union said on Friday.
UAW President Ray Curry, speaking at an event in Toledo, Ohio, where GM announced it will invest $760 million, said the union will seek "card check" authorization that bypasses a secret ballot vote. Under that process, a majority of plant hourly workers could simply sign cards supporting the union, and once certified an election would not be necessary.
Bullseye – NASA’s Dart Successfully Crashes Into Asteroid in ‘Planetary Defense Test’
A NASA spacecraft has intentionally slammed into an asteroid in humanity’s first test of planetary defense. The impact occurred at 7:15 p.m. ET greeted by cheers from the mission team in Laurel, Maryland. The DART mission, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, launched 10 months ago. While the asteroid, Dimorphos, was not at risk of impacting Earth, this demonstration could determine how to deflect space rocks that could pose a threat to Earth in the future.
“We’re embarking on a new era of humankind, an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous, hazardous asteroid impact,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “What an amazing thing. We’ve never had that capability before.” The goal of the spacecraft, in addition to impact, is to affect the motion of an asteroid in space, but it will take time for scientists to determine if the asteroid’s orbit changed.