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Coronavirus Economic Indicators on China Worse Than the Great Recession

Source: IMF, 2020 Note: The x-axis shows the months elapsed since the indicated event, t=0 the initial impact month. GFC refers to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08.

Initial economic indicators on China following the outbreak of the coronavirus reveal a greater fallout than past comparable disruptions, such as the Great Recession and the H1N1 virus.

Manufacturing in China took a sharp dive in the first month following initial impact, much more severe than manufacturing setbacks experienced in the second month of the Great Recession. The dive is owed to global manufacturers suspending part or all of their operations in China in an attempt to contain the virus. Services similarly contracted, noting the impact of social distancing and discouraged public interactions.

The IMF figures come as China prepares to rebound from the coronavirus, with authorities continuing to report a drop in new infections. Should China successfully contain the virus, even as it spreads to other countries, it will offer some reprieve to manufacturers. The tech industry has indicated it could resume manufacturing operations in the world’s second-largest economy by the end of March.

The Most Expensive Cities in the World

Rising global inflation is widening the gap between salary increases and costs of living worldwide, leading to a loss of purchasing power for employees. As companies look to entice new and remote workers, which cities are most likely to attract and retain top talent?

The cities with the lowest cost of living and the highest quality of life are Vancouver, Toronto, Stockholm, Lisbon, and Frankfurt, according to Mercer’s recent Quality of Living Survey 2021-2022. The city with the highest cost of living is Hong Kong, followed by four cities in Switzerland: Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Bern. Tel Aviv ranked sixth, with New York City coming in seventh place. 

Cities with a higher cost of living did not necessarily have a higher quality of life: Hong Kong, for example, scored lower on quality of living than other locations. Cost of living was measured by comparing 200 expenses like food, housing, household goods, and more. Quality of life was measured by housing affordability, safety, education, eco-friendliness, and other factors.

Heatwave Grips Western US

The U.S. West Coast has endured record-breaking high temperatures in September as a heat dome trapped hot air over the region. On September 7, more than 61 million people were under extreme heat advisories in California, western Arizona, and southern Nevada. The heatwave fueled wildfires and stressed the power grid, as temperatures reached triple digits throughout the region before Tropical Storm Kay brought relief over the weekend. 

NASA scientists studying Southern California heat waves found that they are becoming more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting. “If you look at the sheer magnitude of all-time high temperatures that were set — in any month, in any year — this heatwave is definitely unique,” Brian Kahn, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told NASA’s Earth Observatory

Extreme heat is becoming more common across the world, as climate change intensifies weather patterns. This summer alone, heatwaves rippled through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world has until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions by 43%, or the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach.

U.S. Housing Sales Plummet to Two-Year Low

Housing sales in the U.S. have sunk to their lowest point since May 2020, declining by 5.9% in July. This is the sixth consecutive month that sales have declined, reflecting the impact of rising mortgage and interest rates. This is the first U.S. housing downturn since the Great Financial Crisis in 2007-2008.

Some experts project that housing sales may soon stabilize, as the mortgage rate falls from 6% in June to 5%. “Home sales may soon stabilize since mortgage rates have fallen to near 5%, thereby giving an additional boost of purchasing power to home buyers,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in Trading Economics.

But researchers at Goldman Sachs project that the housing market downturn will continue into 2023. They predict that this year, new home sales will drop by 22%, existing home sales by 17%, and housing GDP by 8.9%. Despite the downturn, housing prices are expected to remain high due to inflation and a limited inventory of homes.

UK Prime Minister Caps Energy Bills As Costs Skyrocket

Source: The Economist

The United Kingdom’s new prime minister Liz Truss is under pressure to ease energy costs, as natural gas prices skyrocket and winter approaches, reports The Economist

On August 26, energy regulator Ofgem reset its energy price cap, raising the average household’s monthly energy bills from 164 pounds ($194) to 296 pounds ($340), starting in October. Forecasts from Cornwall Insight consultancy group predict that without government intervention, energy bills will rise to 449 pounds ($516) in January and 551 pounds ($633) in April. Without government support, experts estimate that energy bills will make up 14% of the poorest fifth of households’ spending — double the amount before the pandemic. Middle-income households will also face steep prices, with 9-10% of their spending consumed by energy costs.

In response, Prime Minister Truss announced that energy bills will be capped for all households at 2,500 pounds ($2,874) a year — about $240 a month — until 2024. Businesses will also benefit from the price cap, though for a shorter period of six months.

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