US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps
A man carries a Foot Locker bag as he walks down 34th Street on February 26, 2021 in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. (AP)
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Updated 27 February 2021

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps
  • Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging

WASHINGTON: Bouncing back from months of retrenchment, America’s consumers stepped up their spending by a solid 2.4 percent in January, the sharpest increase in seven months and a sign that the economy may be poised to sustain a recovery from the pandemic recession.
Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that personal incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, jumped 10 percent last month, the biggest gain in nine months, boosted by cash payments that most Americans received from the government.
The January spending increase followed two straight monthly spending drops that had raised concerns that consumers, who power most of the economy, were hunkered down, too anxious to travel, shop and spend. Last month’s sharp gain suggests that many people are growing more confident about spending, especially after receiving $600 checks that went to most adults last month in a federal economic aid package.
“The economy weakened late last year as the fiscal support faded and the pandemic intensified, but now it seems to be coming back to life,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
The government also reported Friday that inflation by a measure preferred by the Federal Reserve rose a moderate 0.3 percent in January. That left prices up just 1.5 percent over the past 12 months, well below the Fed’s 2 percent target.
Besides receiving cash payments, many Americans who have managed to keep their jobs have also been saving money for several months rather than spending. That could bode well for the economy later this year, once consumers increasingly feel willing to spend, vaccinations are more widely administered and some version of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid proposal, which includes additional cash payments for individuals, is enacted.
Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging. On Thursday, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note moved above 1.5 percent — a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92 percent it was trading at only two months ago.
That move raised alarms on Wall Street and ignited a deep selloff in the stock market. Some investors fear that rising interest rates and the threat of inflation might lead the Fed to raise its benchmark short-term rate too quickly and potentially derail the economy. The tame inflation figure in Friday’s report from the government shows that, so far at least, price increases are mostly mild.
In testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell downplayed the inflation risk and instead underscored the economy’s struggles. Layoffs are still high. And 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that erupted nearly a year ago. That’s a deeper job loss than was inflicted by the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Still, despite the weakened job market, key sectors of the economy are showing signs of picking up as vaccinations increase and government rescue aid works its way through the economy. The Fed’s ultra-low-rate policy is providing important support as well.
Retail sales soared last month. Factory output also rose and has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels. And sales of newly built homes jumped in January.
Friday’s report showed that consumers boosted their purchases of durable goods — from autos to appliances — by a strong 8.4 percent last month. Spending on nondurable goods, which include food and clothing, increased 4.3 percent.
By contrast, spending on services barely eked out a 0.7 percent gain. America’s service sector, which includes restaurants, entertainment venues and other face-to-face establishments, has been pummeled by the widespread reluctance or inability of consumers to travel, shop or dine out.
Consumers saved a significant chunk of their income last month: The personal savings rate jumped to 20.5 percent, from 13.4 percent in December.
With so many Americans forgoing out-of-town travel, shopping trips and indoor dining, the savings rate has been climbing, contributing to expectations for a surge in spending once more people feel comfortable resuming their previous spending habits.
“There is a lot of economic juice coming,” Zandi said. “I think the economy is going to be booming by later this year.”


Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks
Updated 14 sec ago

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt has unveiled a four-wheeled light vehicle powered by petrol and natural gas that will replace the country's 3.5 million tuktuks in a bid to reduce their environmental footprint. 

The ministries of trade and industry and military production showed off a prototype of the new vehicle following Egyptian authorities decision on Tuesday evening to ban the import of tuktuks and set a plan to replace them using alternative vehicles.

Tuktuks are three-wheeled vehicles used as taxis, common in a number of countries including Egypt.

Minister of State for Military Production Mohamed Ahmed Morsi explained that this vehicle is a sample of a proposed project between the National Authority for Military Production and the private sector company GB Auto Ghabbour to provide an alternative four-wheeled vehicle. 

Trade and Industry Minister Nevin Gamea said the vehicle will be produced with a dual system engine, petrol and natural gas, which reduces the cost of transportation and operation and makes it environmentally friendly. 

The number of tuktuks in Egypt is approximately 3.5 million, according to estimates, of which just 10 percent have an official licence.

Some see them as a public nuisance while others find them a cheap, convenient method of transportation.


Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia
Updated 4 min 44 sec ago

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Tokyo-based Yokogawa Electric Corp. has signed an initial agreement with Aramco to seed and localize semiconductor chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia and boost growth in the industrial digital business domain.

Under the agreement, Aramco is to explore the possibility of utilizing Minimal Fab technology for semiconductor manufacturing, Argaam reported. 

Minimal Fab is a production system that enables high-mix, low-volume manufacturing of semiconductors and microelectromechanical systems without the need for a cleanroom.

The Japanese company will offer its expertise in deploying the technology to Aramco facilities, with the provision of related training, maintenance, and support services to ensure an end-to-end success.

The announcement comes as the world struggles with shortage of chips, with a recent US government report warning the problem could continue for more than six months.

 


34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple
Updated 28 January 2022

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple
  • Attorneys-general accuse Apple of stifling competition

OAKLAND, California: Apple Inc. is stifling competition through its mobile app store, attorneys general for 34 US states and the District of Columbia said on Thursday, as they appealed against a ruling that let the iPhone maker continue some restrictive practices.

While dozens of state attorneys general have filed recent antitrust lawsuits against other big tech companies, including Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google, none had so far taken aim at Apple.
Thursday’s remarks, led by the state of Utah and joined by Colorado, Indiana, Texas and others, came in a lawsuit in an appeals court against app store fees and payment tools between “Fortnite” video game maker Epic Games and Apple.
“Apple’s conduct has harmed and is harming mobile app-developers and millions of citizens,” the states said.
“Meanwhile, Apple continues to monopolize app distribution and in-app payment solutions for iPhones, stifle competition, and amass supracompetitive profits within the almost trillion-dollar-a-year smartphone industry.”
The action comes after a US district judge in Oakland, California, mostly ruled against Epic last year.
That decision found that commissions of 15 percent to 30 percent which Apple charges some app makers for use of an in-app payment system the company forced on them did not violate antitrust law.
Epic challenged the ruling in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. On Thursday, professors, activist groups and the states weighed in through court filings that described legal arguments in support.
Apple’s reply is expected in March. On Thursday, the company said it was optimistic that Epic’s challenge would fail.
The states said in their filing that the lower court erred by failing to adequately balance the pros and cons of Apple’s rules and also by deciding that a key antitrust law did not apply to non-negotiable contracts Apple makes developers sign.
“Paradoxically, firms with enough market power to unilaterally impose contracts would be protected from antitrust scrutiny — precisely the firms whose activities give the most cause for antitrust concern,” they said.

 


Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
Updated 28 January 2022

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
  • Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period

SAN RAMON, California: Apple shook off supply shortages that have curtailed production of iPhones and other popular devices to deliver its most profitable holiday season yet.
The results posted Thursday for the final three months of 2021 help illustrate why Apple is looking even stronger at the tail end of the pandemic than when the crisis began two years ago.
At that point, Apple’s iPhone sales had been flagging as consumers began holding on to their older devices for longer periods. But now the Cupertino, California, company can’t seem to keep up with the steadily surging demand for a device that has become even more crucial in the burgeoning era of remote work.
Apple’s inability to fully satisfy the voracious appetite for iPhones stems from a pandemic-driven shortage of chips that’s affecting the production of everything from automobiles to medical devices.
But Apple so far has navigated the shortfalls better than most companies. That deft management enabled Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period, a 9 percent increase from the same time in the previous year.
Those sales gains would have likely been even more robust if Apple could have secured all the chips and other components needed to make iPhones. That problem plagued Apple’s July-September quarter when management estimated that supply shortages reduced its iPhone sales by about $6 billion. The company may address how supply shortages affected its performance in the most recent quarter during a conference call with analysts scheduled later Thursday.
Despite what drag the shortages caused, Apple still earned $34.63 billion, or $2.10 per share, a 20 increase from the same time in the previous year. Revenue climbed from the previous year by 11 percent to $123.95 billion.
Apple’s ongoing success help push the company’s market value above $3 trillion for the first time earlier this month. But its stock price has tumbled 13 percent since hitting that peak amid worries about a projected rise in interest rates aimed at dampening the torrid pace of inflation that has been fueled in part by supply shortages.
Its shares gained more than 3 percent in Thursday’s extended trading after the Apple’s fiscal first-quarter numbers came out.
The supply issues looming around Apple’s devices have magnified the importance of the company’s services division, which is fueled by commissions from digital transactions on iPhone apps, subscriptions to music and video streaming and repair plans.
The up to 30 percent commissions collects from apps distributed through Apple’s exclusive app store have become a focal point of a fierce legal battle that unfolded in a high-stakes trial year, as well as proposed reforms recently introduced in the US Senate that tear down the company’s barriers that prevent consumers from using alternative payment systems.
For now, though, the services division is still booming. Its revenue in the past quarter hit $19.52 billion, a 24 percent increase.
Apple is widely believed to be maneuvering toward another potentially huge money-making opportunity with the introduction of an augmented reality headset that would project digital images and information while its users interact with other physical objects and people. True to its secretive form, the company has never said it is working on that kind of technology.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook has openly shared his enthusiasm for the potential of augmented reality in public presentations, and analysts believe the long-rumored headset could finally roll out later this year — unless it’s delayed by supply shortages.


Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’
Updated 28 January 2022

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Thursday replacing the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, today is not “wise.”
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told local broadcaster MTV that nobody proposed removing the central bank governor, but “I do not imagine changing the central bank governor today is a wise matter.”
Salameh, who has support from several top politicians, is being probed in Lebanon and at least four European countries, with his role under close scrutiny since Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019.
Salameh denies any wrongdoing during almost three decades leading the central bank.