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COVID-Hit Auto Industry to See Up to 30% Drop in Car Sales

Source: Oliver Wyman, Car Demand in Times of COVID-19

Global car sales will drop between 15-30% in 2020, as the automobile industry grapples with the economic fallout from the coronavirus. 

Car manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe have temporarily suspended production due to the pandemic, and with social distancing measures likely to remain in place until summer, sales are unlikely to rebound anytime soon. Consumers have already indicated they’re holding off on big purchases, such as vehicles, until the coronavirus threat subsides. 

The double-digit drop in global car sales comes as the world enters a recession due to the coronavirus, with deep economic pain ahead before any expected recovery. The paralysis in consumer spending caused by stay-at-home measures has effectively ground the global economy to a halt. Automakers haven’t received the financial support from Congress they were seeking, but according to The Detroit News, they “will be able to qualify for loans that can become grants if they demonstrate they used the money for operations expenses.”

Coal Prices Soar As Winter Approaches

Source: Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Coal prices are skyrocketing around the world as countries brace themselves for winter amid an energy crisis. Demand for coal surged this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions caused natural gas and oil shortages worldwide.

The competition has driven coal prices to record highs: Europe’s benchmark coal futures rose to $320 a ton, about 90% higher than last year. Asian benchmark Australian Newcastle coal hit a record $431 a ton, and U.S. coal prices rose to $193 a ton. That’s roughly three times higher than the benchmarks in the second quarter of 2021. The EU’s ban on Russian coal went into effect last month, increasing the region’s reliance on imports from Indonesia and Australia.

China and India are the world’s largest coal consumers, accounting for 70% of global coal demand. And China has increased its reliance on coal this year as drought has reduced its hydroelectric power production. But Europe is one of the main drivers behind the current push for coal. High demand for coal power is expected to continue throughout the year, despite nearly 200 countries pledging to reduce their coal consumption at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The Dollar Is At Its Strongest Value in 20 Years

The U.S. dollar is at its strongest value relative to the Japanese yen and British pound since the 1980s and trading on par with the euro for the first time in nearly two decades. The driving force behind the rising strength of the dollar is U.S. monetary policy — as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to curtail inflation, it also pushes up the price of the dollar. The Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank have also raised interest rates, albeit less aggressively than the Fed. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also spurred an inflow of capital into the U.S., raising demand for dollars as global investors consider the U.S. a safer haven than Europe, the U.K. or Japan. The U.S. economy has recovered from the pandemic more quickly compared to other countries; its GDP is now 15.6% higher than the third quarter of 2019. In comparison, the eurozone’s GDP grew by 8.3% and Japan’s declined by 3.6%, over the same period.

The strength of the dollar will help U.S. inflation as it lowers the cost of imports. But it also has drawbacks, as American products become more expensive in international markets and emerging economies like China and India pay a higher dollar price for commodity imports.

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.

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