Luxury Car Sales Surge Amid Global Supply Chain Disruptions and Surging Inflation

blue Rolls Royce at a dealership

Luxury car sales surged in 2021 while mainstream car companies struggled amid global supply chain disruptions and soaring inflation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Luxury car brands, including Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and BMW, all reported record sales in 2021, the WSJ reported. Reduced international travel reportedly encouraged high-end car users to boost their vehicle purchases.

Meanwhile, the auto industry was crushed by supply chain bottlenecks and worsening chip shortages causing companies to curb production, the WSJ reported.

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Commentary: Five Facts About the U.S. Truck Driver Shortage

The Big Insight: Regulatory changes could help alleviate a trucker shortage making our supply chain problems worse.

There are many causes of the ongoing supply chain slowdowns impacting the U.S., but one of them is a shortage of truckers, who move the bulk of goods to stores and consumers. Many jobs are being posted, but onerous certification and age requirements are preventing some of them from being filled.

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Fertilizer Shortage Could Impact Crop Yields over the Next Year

Blue tractor in a field, fertilizing the land

Experts are warning that the dual energy and supply chain crises could serve to significantly disrupt global crop production, potentially disrupting food supplies for poorer consumers in particular.

Those ongoing crises are helping to temporarily decrease the global supply of fertilizer, a critical component in much of world agriculture and one that allows farmers to grow considerable quantities of crops in much of the world’s soils.

The fertilizer shortage is “impacting food prices all over the world and it hits the wallets of many people,” Yara International Director Svein Tore Holsether told the BBC this week.

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Inflation Increases at Record Rate for Second Month in a Row

Woman shopping

The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures inflation at the wholesale level, rose 8.6% year-over-year as of October, growing at a record rate for a second straight month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Thursday.

BLS reported Thursday that the PPI, which measures inflation before it hits consumers, grew 0.6% in October, in line with Dow Jones estimates, highlighting that inflationary pressure is still strong.

Over 60% of the month-over-month increase in producer prices resulted from a 1.2% spike in the price of goods rather than services, BLS reported. Goods prices rose 1.2% in October compared to a 0.2% increase in the cost of services.

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Big Tech Companies Apple and Amazon Warn of Worsening Supply Chain Crisis

A ship arriving at the Hamburg harbor.

On Thursday, two of the biggest tech companies in the world posted earnings that fell below market expectations, attributed to the ongoing supply chain crisis that is paralyzing the American economy, according to CNN.

For the third quarter of 2021, Amazon’s net sales amounted to around $110.8 billion, which was a 15 percent increase from the previous year; however, this ultimately fell below market analyst predictions of about $111.6 billion. Amazon’s overall net income for the same period decreased from the same period in 2020 to about $3.2 billion, when predictions estimated around $4.6 billion.

Apple’s sales during the same quarter were $83.4 billion, with iPhone sales at $38.9 billion; both were lower than original projections.

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U.S. Consumer Spending Grew Slowly in September amid High COVID-19 Cases, Supply Chain Problems and Rising Inflation

U.S. consumer spending growth slowed in September, and income dropped due to high COVID-19 cases, supply shortages, rising inflation, and ending unemployment benefits.

Consumer spending increased 0.6% in September, down from a 1% jump in August, the Commerce Department announced Friday. Personal income fell 1% in September, driven by a 72% drop in unemployment insurance benefits that offset a 0.7% spike in wages and benefits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Economists polled by Reuters projected a 0.5% in consumer spending. Delta variant cases peaked in the middle of September, and the continued supply chain backups have caused shortages and rising prices, making it harder for consumers to purchase their desired goods, the WSJ reported.

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The Supply Chain Crisis Could Threaten Rural America’s Internet Access

The telecommunications industry, like other sectors, is suffering from ongoing supply chain chaos, with equipment delays and heightened costs endangering efforts to bring internet access to rural America.

AT&T announced in August that it would miss its target of supplying internet to 3 million new homes, citing supply chain disruptions, while smaller providers and contractors are reporting widespread shortages impacting their ability to complete jobs. The problem is exacerbated by the ongoing semiconductor shortage, causing long lead times, or the time it takes for products to arrive after an order is placed, for broadband equipment requiring a computer chip  like modems and routers.

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Russian Hackers Behind SolarWinds Attack Are Targeting the Supply Chain, Microsoft Says

silhouette of person with hoodie on

The same group of Russian hackers behind the December 2020 SolarWinds attack are targeting companies in the U.S. technology supply chain, according to a Monday report released by Microsoft.

Russian hacking group Nobelium is targeting cloud infrastructure companies and information technology software resellers in an attempt to gain access to these companies’ customers, according to Microsoft’s research. Microsoft believes Nobelium to be the same group responsible for the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 that affected multiple Cabinet-level agencies, federal contractors and critical infrastructure companies.

“This recent activity is another indicator that Russia is trying to gain long-term, systematic access to a variety of points in the technology supply chain and establish a mechanism for surveilling – now or in the future – targets of interest to the Russian government,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security and trust, wrote in the report.

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Cargo Companies Warn That Vaccine Mandates Could Worsen Supply Chain Crisis

Several cargo boxes on a ship in the ocean

A trade association representing all of the major cargo companies in the United States is warning that if Joe Biden actively purses more vaccine mandates, it could further disrupt an already-weakened supply chain, according to Politico.

Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association (CAA) sent a letter to the Biden Administration expressing concern over an upcoming December 8th deadline.

“We have significant concerns with the employer mandates announced on September 9th, 2021,” Alterman said, “and the ability of industry members to implement the required employee vaccinations by December 8th, 2021.”

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The U.S. Is Running Out of Warehouse Space, Intensifying Supply Chain Bottlenecks and Adding to Inflation

Man in blue polo and jeans working on a warehouse on his laptop

Available warehouse space near significant distribution hubs fell to historic lows in the third quarter of 2021, placing even more pressure on supply chain bottlenecks and increasing inflation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Demand for industrial real estate in the third quarter outpaced supply by 41 million square feet, increasing the vacancy rate to 3.6%, down 0.7% from Q3 2020 and marking the lowest level since 2002, according to data from CBRE, the WSJ reported.

Warehouses near the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports in California, some of the most important distribution points of entry in the country, reached a vacancy rate of 1% in Q3 this year, according to the WSJ. During the same quarter in 2020, the vacancy rate was 2.3%.

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Expect Inflation, Supply Shortages to Last Well into 2022, Economists Say

High inflation will last well into 2022, economists say, indicating that supply chain bottlenecks will keep increasing prices and curbing production.

Experts expect to see average inflation of 5.25% in December, slightly down from the current maximum predicted 5.4% figure, according to The Wall Street Journal. If inflation stays around its current level, Americans will experience the longest period during which inflation has stayed above 5% since 1991.

“It’s a perfect storm: supply-chain bottlenecks, tight labor markets, ultra-easy monetary and fiscal policies,” Michael Moran, Daiwa Capital Markets America’s chief economist, told the WSJ.

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Commentary: Solving the Supply Chain Problem Requires Less Government, Not More

During the latter part of the 20th Century, Americans became accustomed to hearing stories of shortages of basic items in the Soviet Union.  The metaphor of “waiting in line for bread” came to signify anything where a state-managed effort led to the inefficient and ineffective distribution of consumer goods and services.  The state-generated supply chain problems were the butt of jokes for comedians everywhere.

Well, “bread lines” have now officially arrived in America and nobody is laughing.  The middle class and the poor have especially lost their sense of humor over the supply chain disruptions that have led to shortages and higher prices being found everywhere from the grocery store shelves to the provision of medical supplies.  Nothing is funny about shelves, wallets, and medicine cabinets all emptying out simultaneously.

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Holiday Blues: Economic Challenges Threaten Season with Delays, Shortages and Price Hikes

A series of economic struggles that have grown increasingly worse this year will likely have a significant impact on the holiday season, many economic experts predict.

After President Joe Biden gave remarks from the White House this week, one reporter called out, “Will Christmas presents arrive on time, sir?” The president did not respond to that question or the flurry of others as he walked away from the podium.

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Retail Sales Beat Expectations Amid Surging Inflation

Woman shopping in a department store

U.S. retail sales increased in September, beating expectations amid growing inflation and supply chain disruptions, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday.

Retail sales increased 0.7% in September, beating experts’ estimates of 0.2%, according to the Census Bureau report.  The number rose 0.8%, excluding auto sales, beating the 0.5% forecast.

Sales were up 13.9% compared to September 2020, and they increased 15.6% compared to September 2020, excluding auto sales, according to the Census Bureau.

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Inflation Rises Again as COVID Recovery Slows and Supply Chains Remain in Chaos

The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% in September, bringing the key inflation indicator’s year-over-year increase to 5.4%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Wednesday.

The year-over-year 5.4% inflation figure is an increase from August’s 5.3%, and September’s figure represents the highest year-over-year inflation increase since January 1991, according to CNBC. The 5.4% increase in the CPI is slightly above the 5.3% economists estimated.

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IMF Expects Less Economic Growth from U.S. Amid Supply Chain Chaos

The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast for 2021 on Tuesday, citing supply chain disruptions and pandemic-related health concerns.

In the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook report, released Tuesday, the IMF’s economists share anticipations for global economic growth measuring 5.9% in 2021, a downgrade from their 6% projection in July.

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Groups Warn of Supply Chain System Collapse, as California Ports Face Record Backlogs

Seaport

The International Chamber of Shipping, a coalition of truck drivers, seafarers, and airline workers, recently warned heads of state at the United Nations General Assembly that if restrictive COVID policies don’t change and freedom of movement isn’t restored to transportation workers, a supply-chain collapse is imminent.

Industry leaders representing some 65 million transport workers asked the United Nations and heads of government to “take meaningful and swift action to resolve the crisis now.”

“Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years’ worth of strain on transport workers take their toll,” they wrote in an open letter signed by the International Air Transport Association, the International Road Transport Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

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Construction Industry Experiences Slowdown as Labor, Supply Shortages Wreak Havoc

The construction industry is struggling to recover from the pandemic due to difficulties hiring workers and severe supply chain shortfalls, a report found.

Construction contractors project revenue to remain stagnant and below pre-pandemic levels over the next 12 months even as the economy-wide recovery continues, according to the report published Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While the Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI), which the Chamber measures on a quarterly basis, ticked up one point, it remained eight points below its early 2020 figure.

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