Weekly Economic Update, September 20, 2021

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Mid September and the Baseball season is winding down.  I can’t remember the last time the pennant races were this un-competitive.  The goal a few years ago when the wild card inclusion was implemented, was to increase the interest over a number of cities and teams when, in the case like this year, the races seemed to wrap up early.  The American League is all but wrapped up, Tampa Bay, the White Sox and Houston are pretty much a lock on the division championships.  On the Wild Card races it is Boston and Toronto leading, with the Yankees right in the hunt.  On the slim to none category we have two West coast teams, Oakland and Seattle.  As it stands, as long as you are an American League East fan you are doing well, the rest of the nation….oh well.

The National League is slightly tighter.  The Phillies and the Braves continue to duke it out while the Dodgers and the Giants are a whisker apart.  One of those two clubs will be the NL Wild Card team with the second position going to one of four teams that are 2.5 games apart, The Cards, Padres, Reds or Phillies. 

Supply chain issues continue to vex just about everyone.  Part of it is factories impacted by absences due to covid outbreaks.  Finding trained, willing to work staff for the right price compounds the problem.  Lastly is supply channels.  There are currently 60 ships offshore waiting to unload at the Los Angeles Port, that equates to 13 weeks delay for the last ship right now.  As Asia starts to ramp up production and increases the shipping to the US, this bottleneck is only expected to worsen.  The mantra right now is start your Christmas shopping early, otherwise Johnny gets to open an empty box Christmas Morning with a note from Santa saying his new toy will be here shortly, after the ship docks, the container is unloaded, waits for a train, then when delivered locally, waits for a truck to deliver it to the store.  Each mode is backed up, so Johnny might not see his Christmas Present until well after his June Birthday.

Consumer prices, core prices for August, less food and energy, only rose .1%.  This was impacted by a couple of items and may not be the good news it was thought to be.  The indexes for household operations, housing, new vehicles, recreation and medical care all rose.  These are larger areas of the true consumers budget.  Airline fares, used vehicles and vehicle insurance fell by wider margins, pulling the overall index to that .1% level.  These are areas that are less impactful on the household budget.  If you were scratching your head over the low number, you were not alone.

The New York Empire State Manufacturing Index nearly doubled the level from August, moving from 18 to 34 for September. In July the number was 43.  It appears that New York manufacturing is doing well and will continue to do so. August was an aberration.  New orders, shipments, production levels as well as employment increases all reflect a very strong and sustainable progression over the coming months.

The balanced market of supply and demand for oil and gasoline was upended this past week.  Production levels of both oil and gasoline dropped leaving supply levels declining.  Demand continues to move higher as more people continue to return to work.  It appears that higher gas prices will be with us through the winter at this point.  Many of the refineries will be switching over to winter blends which will compound the supply declines.  Winter blends are also more expensive to produce. 

Retail sales caught everyone off guard.  Overall sales grew .7%, a full 2.5% increase over last month.  Good and bad news here.  The non-store retailers grew by 5.3% taking another nail and pounding it in the coffin of brick and mortar operations.  The housing market boom is carrying the furniture and appliance sales higher.  Another point of bad news here is related to the food industry.  Consumers are concerned about covid spread, frustrated with higher prices and/or just plain done with the uncertainty of whether a restaurant is open or not due to staffing issues.  An unreliable work force is often the reason that those seeking to eat out are finding places closed when they should be open.  As people find other alternatives, sales decline and restaurant’s are laying off staff in droves.  The whole food service industry model is under a great deal of stress and may not survive as we have known it in the past.

Have a great week.

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