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Vietnam Records Highest Growth in Asia So Far This Year

Source: Natixis, Bloomberg

Note: Countries on x-axis as follows: Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China, Hong Kong

Vietnam GDP grew nearly 4% in Q1 2020 — representing the highest growth among all Asian countries. This is due in part to its swift response to the COVID-19 crisis and avoidance of a prolonged lockdown, according to a report from Natixis. Vietnam experienced zero reported deaths from COVID-19 and only minor supply chain disruption. The report’s authors even predict the country will be able to avoid a recession in 2020.

Although COVD-19 emphasized Vietnam’s resilience in a time of disruption, the country could encounter challenges in the long-term from its weak domestic capacity to access global value chains and its dependency on China to fuel its export operations, the report says. 

However, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), ratified in June 2020, represents a massive opportunity for Vietnam, with its exports to the EU growing 11% year-over-year, and will further boost the county’s presence as a leader among its Asian neighbors. The report’s authors expect this trade deal to secure Vietnam’s “status in Southeast Asia as a trade and investment friendly hub to the world.”

Americans Increasingly Doubt the US Housing Market

Source: Gallup

Over 70% of U.S. adults — a record high — expect their local housing prices to increase this year. In April 2020, just 40% of U.S. adults predicted a rise in home prices, according to Gallup. The previous record high of expectations was in 2005 — right before the 2008 economic crisis.

As we approach peak buying season this summer, only 53% of Americans believe that now is the right time to buy a house — a mere three-percentage point increase from last year’s record-low. Demand in the housing market surged during the pandemic, driven by cuts in interest rates and a renewed desire from people to invest in their home life during pandemic-related lockdowns. Yet, the supply of available housing could not keep up with demand, which has led to bidding wars — and houses selling for hundreds of thousands over value. 

85 Countries May Lack Vaccine Protection Through 2023

Source: Our World in Data

Note: COVID-19 doses administered by country income group

More than one billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, but only 0.31% have been administered in low-income countries. In comparison, high-income countries received more than 80% of administered vaccines to date, according to Our World in Data. On this trajectory, about 85 countries will not have vaccine coverage until 2023.

Africa has the slowest vaccination rate of all continents to date. The United Arab Emirates and Israel have administered the most vaccinations, followed by Bahrain and Mongolia. Low-income countries are relying on COVAX, an initiative that is facilitating equitable access to vaccines. 

The worldwide initiative pledged to make two billion vaccine doses available for delivery by the end of 2021. Over 90% of low-income countries asked COVAX for greater vaccination coverage to help protect against new variants. However, COVAX will need more investment and contributions from donor countries and the private sector to speed up vaccine distributions.

Global Food Prices Hit a 10-Year High

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization

Global food prices increased in May to 127.1 points indicating the biggest month-on-month gain in more than a decade. This is 5.8 points higher than in April and 36.1 points above prices recorded the same time last year, according to the FAO Food Price Index, a monthly tracker for changes in global food prices. 

In May, prices for oils, sugar and cereals surged — up 12.7 points, 6.8 points and 7.6 points from April, respectively. Cereal prices especially are on track to reach record highs — FAO is predicting an output of nearly 3 billion tons in 2021, a 1.9% increase from 2020. International maize prices rose the most by 8.8%, reaching 89.3% above their value last year; however, they fell toward the end of the month due to an improved production outlook in the U.S.

The pandemic caused major fluctuations in the food supply chain — from a shortage in workers to price increases in raw materials. As the world starts to reopen, demand from consumers is rebounding quicker than supply itself. As a result, in the past year, grocery bills in the U.S. rose by 7% to 10% compared to pre-COVID bills.

CEO Confidence at Highest Level Since 1976

Source: Conference Board

The level of CEO confidence rose to 82 points in Q2 of 2021 — a 9-point increase from Q1. This is the highest level recorded since 1976, when The Conference Board started measuring CEO confidence. 

In the second quarter, 88% of CEOs believed that economic conditions would improve over the next six months, while 94% of CEOs said that conditions are better compared to six months ago. CEOs are also more hopeful about the state of their own industries, with a 21% increase in optimism in Q2. Over half of CEOs expect to grow their workforce over the next year — up from 47% in Q1. 

The demand to hire has led to difficulty in finding qualified workers. “For CEOs, the challenge is no longer staying afloat, but keeping pace — in particular, with a likely resurgence of the labor shortages experienced before the pandemic,” said vice chairman Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. of The Conference Board. Vaccine distribution is pushing the U.S. economy to pre-pandemic levels, but for businesses to succeed, they will need to consider new workforce demands

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