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Wildfire Costs Soared for Insurers in 2017 and 2018

Within the past few years, the costs of insured losses due to wildfires have ballooned. Between 2010 and 2016, wildfires cost insurers a little over $1 billion per year. In 2017 and 2018, that figure jumped to more than $15 billion. “This is well beyond the bounds of historical variability,” caution the authors of The Burning Issue: Managing Wildfire Risk, a new report from Marsh McLennan Insights.

Wildfires cause direct damage to property, infrastructure and business operations within the impacted regions; they can also lead to indirect long-term damage to public health and the environment. “Until recently, wildfire losses were considered by reinsurers to be low and predictable in the context of overall catastrophe losses,” write the report’s authors. “This view may need to change.”

Over Half of the World’s Car Buyers Want Electric

Source: Axios

More than half of car buyers around the world want to go electric, according to new research on consumer habits. Fifty-two percent of people looking to buy a car said they want their next car to be an electric vehicle — the first time the number has exceeded 50%.

Italy has the most consumer interest in electric vehicles (73%), followed by China (69%) and South Korea (63%). Australia (38%) and the U.S. (29%) are the least interested in electric vehicles out of the 18 countries surveyed. The vast majority of people, 88%, said they are willing to pay more for an electric car.

The survey shows that the world may have reached a tipping point when it comes to electric vehicles, which could help reduce global warming. The interest in EVs has risen rapidly — 22 percentage points — over the last two years, driven primarily by concerns over climate change or government penalties on gas-powered vehicles. Fossil fuel emissions from automobiles and other vehicles are a significant contributor to global warming.

100 Best and Worst US Companies

Source: The Harris Poll

In a poll ranking the most visible U.S. companies by reputation, brands that Americans considered good employers were also ranked the best companies overall, reveals a new Axios Harris Poll 100. The poll surveyed over 33,000 U.S. adults between March and April of this year to determine which companies “excel or falter in society.” 

Among the top 10 most reputable companies were three grocery chains, two car manufacturers, and big brands like Patagonia, Amazon, and Samsung. Seven out of the top 10 companies ranked highly in culture, meaning Americans considered them good places to work. Companies like Trader Joe’s and Patagonia also performed well across demographics, ranking highly regardless of age or political party. Companies that Americans consider the least reputable include Twitter, Wish.com, and the Trump Organization.

Political or public scandals also affected how companies performed year over year. Disney dropped sharply in the rankings, likely in reaction to its initial silence—followed by its public stance against—Florida’s anti-LGBTQ legislation. “The findings suggest that companies that are slow to respond to political crises, or do it inconsistently, suffer the most in terms of consumer reception and trust,” reported Axios.

The U.S. May Be Headed for a Recession

Rising inflation and recent dips in U.S. stock markets have caused some experts to forecast a recession for the U.S., reports Investment Monitor

The U.S. economy shrank by 1.4% in the first quarter of this year, and rapidly rising interest rates have prompted concern that an economic downturn is around the corner. But banks are divided over the likelihood of a recession: Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank expect a recession this year, while Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and the New York Reserve put the odds of a downturn at 25% or lower. 

Decades-high inflation has reduced consumer confidence to its lowest point since 2011, with the majority of Americans (52%) reporting that they’re in greater financial distress now than last year. U.S. businesses also report lower confidence in the future, with over a quarter of business owners (29%) expecting a decrease in business activity.

Global Supply Chain Woes Grow

Global supply chain disruptions are growing worse as the crisis in Ukraine continues and a new wave of the Omicron variant sweeps China, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index. In April 2022, supply chain pressures increased for the first time since December 2021.

China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy put the greatest pressure on supply chains in April, as lockdown measures in major cities cause shipping, air freight, and trucking delays and freight backlogs worldwide. European delivery times were also delayed, as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine disrupt trade routes through both countries. Increasing airfreight costs from the U.S. to Asia, due in part to a surge in jet fuel prices, were also a factor.  

From December 2021 to March 2022, the NY Fed reported an overall easing of pressures on supply chains, though they remained at historically high levels. Last month’s data and the likelihood of future geopolitical tensions are likely to increase supply chain pressures in the near term.

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