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The Great Commodity Bounceback

Source: World Bank

Most global commodity prices were higher than their pre-pandemic levels during the first quarter of 2021. Metal prices are expected to continue their upward trend, rising by 30% during 2021, according to the World Bank. This jump in commodity prices parallels the rise in global economic activity, the impact of stimulus bills and changes in supply factors.  

The crude oil industry saw a record-fast recovery after a price and demand collapse in 2020. The predicted average cost of crude oil for this year is $56 per barrel —  about one-third higher than its cost in 2020. Natural gas prices also rose by one-third as a result of increased demand during the winter season.

The World Bank expects that price levels will “remain close to current levels throughout the year” driven by “global economic rebound and improved growth prospects.” The report notes that all commodity markets heavily depend on how long the economic implications from the pandemic last and how well the risk is managed by governments.

Public Views of US Business Sectors Are Plummeting

Americans rated U.S. business industries at their lowest points since 2011 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average record-low, according to Gallup, was during the 2008 Great Recession at 34% — just five percentage points lower than the current average of 39%.

Of the 25 industries ranked, the federal government, the most negatively rated industry since 2014, was again viewed the most negatively by the American public at 31%, followed by the oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries. This year, Americans rated a mere four industries positively — farming and agriculture at 59%, restaurants at 58%, the grocery industry at 54% and the computer industry at 51%. In the past three years, farming and agriculture and the restaurant industry were the top-ranked sectors.

Public sentiment toward certain sectors is related to how they responded to the pandemic, states Gallup. However, as a whole, the public has trusted businesses more than other institutions during the pandemic.

China Is Dominating E-Commerce Activity

Source: Statista Digital Market Outlook

Global e-commerce sales are expected to increase by nearly 50% by 2050. Most of this growth will come from Asia — the region expects a 51% increase in e-commerce activity — and predominantly from China, according to Statista

The Chinese e-commerce market rose notably faster compared to the rest of the world — even prior to COVID-19 — driven by high-speed internet and smartphones, high consumer confidence in online shopping and a larger variety in e-commerce and payment platforms. The pandemic did, however, speed the region’s adoption of e-commerce: It registered $1.3 trillion in sales last year. By 2025, sales will grow to nearly $2 trillion, indicating that “almost every second e-commerce dollar could be spent in China.” 

The pandemic has significantly impacted consumer trends across the world, especially related to online shopping. To keep up with this market trend, large retailers are accelerating their investments in e-commerce to ensure their survival both during and after the pandemic.

Net-Zero-Aligned Investments Increase Nearly Fivefold in 6 Months

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today

In order to facilitate the global transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 and reduce the risks climate change poses to their investments, investors are setting commitments to steer their portfolios to net-zero emissions. With COP26 approaching, the first half of 2021 has seen rapid growth in the number and value of assets under management (AUM) aligned with the net-zero goal.

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today, representing around 36% of global AUM. The Initiative has joined with the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance and Net-Zero Banking Alliance to form the Glasgow Alliance for Net Zero, with over $70 trillion of assets between them.

As more investors align their portfolios with net-zero targets, companies will face mounting investor pressure to adopt credible net-zero transition plans and improve their disclosures of emissions and climate risks.

Lower-Income Households Are At Risk of the ‘Homework Gap’

Source: Pew Research Center

Remote learning during the pandemic exposed the already fragile technological gap among income groups — 46% of lower-income families report having at least one problem related to the “homework gap.” Pew Research identifies this gap as “school-age children lacking the connectivity they need to complete schoolwork at home.”

Ninety percent of Americans state in a Pew Research report that the internet has been essential during COVID-19; however, about a quarter of home broadband users and smartphone owners cite affordability as a key concern as the pandemic continues. 

Over 60% of Americans believe that the government should take responsibility and ensure fair access to high-speed internet. And, as COVID-19 continues to expose the digital divide, more U.S. adults are in favor of schools providing digital technology for online learning than they were in April 2020. 

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