Economical event packages

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Without access to the canal, there will be more demand for ground transportation within the United States. This will include rail and trucking. As for goods coming from China, they could be delivered to West Coast ports for ground transportation to the rest of the United States.

Or they could go around South America. Finally, energy products are exported from ports in New Orleans and Houston to Asia. Without the Panama Canal, they might travel across the Atlantic, around Africa, and toward Asia.

Either way, these alternative routes would likely cause delays, add to costs, and possibly lead to inadequate capacity. The irony is that, earlier in this century, a massive investment was made in widening the Panama Canal to accommodate the latest large container ships and tankers.

Now, it appears that this investment might not pay off. As a resident of Los Angeles, I recall considerable concern that the widening of the canal would divert ships from the very large and economically important ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Now, there will likely be a significant increase in demand for port facilities in southern California. Even US online sellers such as Amazon allow Chinese companies to sell goods through their websites.

Thus, the majority of packages entering the United States using this loophole now come from China. It is estimated that the number of packages might have been about one billion in There are calls in the US Congress for closing this loophole.

That could be problematic given the vast investment that has been made in existing and highly efficient supply chains in China. On the other hand, higher tariffs will create a big incentive to boost shipments of inputs to Southeast Asia for final assembly, thereby evading tariffs while supplying products to the United States.

What is happening? The shift in trade patterns reflects changes in supply chain design. Many global companies, fearful of supply chain disruption due to geopolitical tensions, are diversifying their supply chains away from China.

Indeed, inbound foreign direct investment FDI into China fell sharply last year. FDI in Southeast Asia and India increased.

The result is a shift in trade. Still, many of the products exported from Southeast Asia and India to the United States are made with inputs that come from China. It is simply shifting. Also, exports from other Asian countries are shifting.

For example, exports from Japan and South Korea to China have fallen. As a result, the United States has become the biggest destination for Japanese exports for the first time in four years.

And South Korean exports to the United States are now larger than Korean exports to China for the first time in 20 years. For China, trade with the United States, Europe, and Japan is now of lesser importance than previously.

Going forward, it is likely that this trend will continue and possibly accelerate, depending on the trade policies of the United States, Europe, and Japan. The outcome of the US election could have a big impact on US trade policy. In the case of China, it is probably a bit of both. Deflation is worrisome in that it boosts real interest rates, increases the real value of debts, discourages consumers from spending, and hurts business confidence.

The cure for deflation is often to boost money supply growth through easier monetary policy. That is, by cutting interest rates. Yet this has not prevented deflation. Some analysts suggest that China is suffering from a liquidity trap in which lower interest rates are ignored as consumers and businesses continue to hoard cash.

Instead, many people suggest that fiscal stimulus is needed to boost demand. That would entail increased government expenditure, especially with the goal of boosting consumer demand.

Yet given the high level of local government debt in China, the government in Beijing might be reluctant to boost its own deficit. It might fear that it will be called upon to support troubled local governments, thereby boosting the deficit.

Meanwhile, the government has dismissed worries about persistent deflation. It says that the current situation has much to do with volatile food prices and that higher inflation will return in On the other hand, critics worry that the persistent crisis in the property market, combined with a lack of confidence that growth will accelerate, suggest that deflation or low inflation will likely persist absent a dramatic change in fiscal policy.

As for fiscal policy, it is not moving in an expansionary direction. In , , and , government spending as a share of GDP declined from the previous year. This partly had to do with reduced revenue due to the property crisis.

Local government revenue is down sharply, putting pressure on the central government. The weakness of the consumer sector is a concern to the government, which has called on employers to boost wages.

Although Japanese inflation is now relatively high compared to the last 40 years, there is a widespread view that it reflects supply problems rather than excess demand. Plus, inflation is already abating. As such, an acceleration in wages is not seen as necessarily inflationary.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan BOJ is now expected to tighten monetary policy sometime soon. That, in turn, will likely lead to a rise in the value of the yen, thereby reducing import prices and suppressing inflation.

Meanwhile, a government report says that Japan will require 6. Although the government has taken various steps to encourage people to have more babies, and provided incentives for boosting female labor force participation, it has failed to reduce the shortage of labor.

Thus, immigration is now widely seen as the solution. About one-quarter of foreign workers are from Vietnam, the largest group. Plus, foreign workers are not encouraged to stay and become Japanese citizens. Japan has long prided itself on cultural homogeneity.

Thus, a more diverse population is likely seen by some as disruptive. On the other hand, absent immigration, Japan could see a sharp decline in population and serious fiscal headaches in the years to come.

The US government provides two reports on the job market: one based on a survey of establishments; the other based on a survey of households. It indicates that, in January, , nonfarm jobs were created, including , in the private sector. It was the strongest job growth since January In addition, the December numbers were upwardly revised, indicating December job growth of , By industry, employment grew 23, in manufacturing, 45, in retailing, 15, in transportation and warehousing, 8, in financial services, 74, in professional and business services, 70, in health care, 11, in leisure and hospitality, and 36, in government.

The rise in professional and business services was almost entirely full-time permanent jobs, with only very modest growth for temporary services. The establishment survey also reported that average hourly earnings were up 4. Earnings were up 0. The acceleration in wage growth reflects the tightness of the job market.

In addition to the report on average hourly earnings, an excellent measure of the cost of employing workers is the employment cost index ECI. It measures changes in the cost of compensation, breaking it down by wages and benefits. The latest index indicates that wage inflation remains too high for comfort but is decelerating.

Specifically, the ECI increased 4. This included a 4. However, the ECI increased 0. Hence, it appears that compensation inflation started to decelerate in the last quarter. Moreover, since there has been a very sharp deceleration in health benefit inflation in the private sector, now only 1.

The slow rise in the cost of health benefits for private sector workers is notable given that health costs had previously been rising very rapidly.

If continued, this bodes well for reducing overall compensation inflation. With wages rising faster than inflation, workers are now seeing a real inflation-adjusted increase in wages. On the one hand, this boosts consumer purchasing power, enabling continued growth in consumer spending.

On the other hand, the rise in real wages is a concern for the Federal Reserve as it indicates that labor markets are contributing to inflation.

The Fed has indicated that a tight monetary policy is needed to loosen the job market and thereby suppress wage pressure. So far, this is not happening.

Based on the latest earnings data, investors no longer expect the Fed to cut rates in the next few months. Hence, bond yields increased after the employment report was released, with the yield on the year bond up 19 basis points in one day. The value of the US dollar rose as investors now expect the interest-rate gap between the US and other countries to either widen or stay high.

In December, the job openings rate the share of available jobs that are unfilled was 5. Moreover, the number of job openings increased from 8. Although the job openings rate is down sharply from the historic peak of 7.

Moreover, if one excludes the post-pandemic period , the current job openings rate is the highest on record. In other words, the job market remains tight and is not getting any looser—despite persistent tight monetary policy on the part of the Fed.

Instead, the job market remains tight. Meanwhile, the job openings rate varies considerably by industry. The highest job openings rates are in health care and social assistance 7. The lowest rates are in state and local education 2. Finally, the government also publishes the quits rate, which is the share of jobs that people voluntarily leave each month.

Recall that, in , there was much talk about the so-called great resignation in which people were quick to voluntarily exit jobs. That has changed. Participation is back up, close to the pre-pandemic level.

Moreover, since mid the quits rate has been falling and is now at a level consistent with the pre-pandemic era. Specifically, the quits rate in December was 2. Evidently people still want to work. Powell said these things right after the Fed announced that it is holding the benchmark Federal Funds interest rate steady.

The rate is set between 5. The decision of the committee was unanimous. It seems more likely that the Fed will wait at least until the second half of this year before acting. In the fourth quarter, labor productivity output per hour worked increased at a 3.

Productivity was up 2. Surprisingly, productivity grew faster in service industries than in manufacturing, the opposite of the historical pattern. Moreover, unit labor costs the labor cost of producing an additional unit of output grew only 0. This is all good news.

Some people point to generative AI as likely to boost productivity. That is probably true, but not necessarily in the next year or two. Investment in AI is a longer-term phenomenon that will most likely bear fruit over a period of years. Indeed, Fed Chairman Powell dismissed the idea that generative AI will boost productivity in the short term.

The European Union EU reported that, in January, consumer prices were up 2. When volatile food and energy prices are excluded, core prices were up 3. Core prices were down 0. So far, these are terrific numbers.

This Week's Major U.S. Economic Reports & Fed Speakers ; am, Core CPI year over year ; WEDNESDAY, FEB. 14 ; am, Chicago Fed Missing Almost everyone subscribes to something: Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, NY Times, season tickets to sporting events


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