Global Megatrends Remain a Challenge to Business Acceleration, Aon Report Finds

By Staff
Wednesday, July 24, 2024 10:04 AM A new survey from Aon (NYSE: AON) finds decision makers feel their businesses aren’t moving fast enough to address risks associated with global megatrends across trade, technology, weather and workforce.

The Business Decision Maker Survey found that 86 percent of C-suite and business executives across North America, the UK and Europe believe it is important to address the challenges and opportunities presented by these megatrends. Meanwhile, the survey also found that businesses find it harder to make the right decisions amid their growing complexity and volatility.

More than 74 percent of respondents said that their responsibility for supply chain or distribution functions has increased over the last year. Issues such as the economy and financial concerns remain significant trade risks, affecting their ability to manage these megatrends. 

AI advancements and data analytics offer businesses additional resources to stay competitive, however, the survey found that these factors are also creating new and evolving risks for businesses. Nearly 63 percent of respondents said they have measured the ROI of cybersecurity initiatives, and 61 percent have audited IT suppliers to manage third-party risks and IT sprawl in the last year.

The survey found modelling climate and weather risks is a particular concern for executives, however, only 39 percent of decision-makers said they are very confident they have accurate data, analytics and insights to protect their businesses. Meanwhile, 59 percent of respondents said they are "very confident" with their ability to have quantified the profit-and-loss of supply chain, cyber risk and weather-related scenarios and events in the last year, compared to just 36 percent of leaders who report they feel less confident they are effectively managing risk exposures.

Risk Managers Face Diverse Concerns in 2024, Actuary Report Says

By Staff
Tuesday, July 23, 2024 11:43 AM New data from the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), a leading international organization for credentialing, professional education and research, and the Society of Actuaries shows risk managers are facing a wider range of business concerns. The organizations released the 17th Annual Emerging Risk Survey, which surveys risk managers to rank current and emerging risks. According to the report, disruptive technology, climate change, war and cyber risks were some key emerging risk trends.

The report found that deadly heat waves and other climate events along with continuing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as the advent of ChatGPT, were also playing a significant role in effectively running businesses between 2023 and 2024. The report found that at the end of 2023, climate change was the top emerging risk, however, by May 2024, it ranked fourth among risk managers. Meanwhile, disruptive technology had moved to the top spot. 

According to respondents, the biggest change from the previous emerging risk surveys is the inclusion of disruptive technology. It didn't appear in the top five in 2022, however, by May 2024, it was number one. Generative AI has also climbed the list as risk managers grapple with the rapidly changing technology. 

The organization also conducted a mid-year flash survey in 2024, with political extremes topping the list of risk concerns at 44 percent, followed by data and cyber threats at 40 percent and inflation at 32 percent. Generative artificial intelligence and economic slowdown rounded out the top five.

Buy Now, Pay Later Market Soars as Consumers Look for Alternative Payment Options

By Staff
Monday, July 22, 2024 3:58 PM Demand for buy now, pay later (BNPL) services is skyrocketing, according to a new report from SkyQuest, an IP focused research and investment bank and accelerator of technology and assets. The report revealed that the demand for these services has grown significantly over the past two years and is slated to increase further over the next decade. 

New data shows that the BNPL market was valued at more than $27 million in 2022 and made up 65 percent of the revenue share of the online segment, rising to more than $32 million by 2023. SkyQuest predicts that by 2031 the market will reach more than $1.2 billion, growing 18.6 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate). 

With a growing number of e-commerce channels, SkyQuest noted increasing service adoption among millennials in developed economies has driven the BNPL numbers higher. 

The adoption of BNPL has been driven by consumers’ desire to avoid expensive and cumulative interest rates and deposits. Additionally, the increased costs associated with the treatment of many diseases, such as cancer and chronic heart disease, have driven demand for BNPL services during the forecast period.

SkyQuest noted that as the market innovates and changes, it can redefine how consumers fulfil their future purchasing and financial obligations. With digitization and changing consumer preferences, BNPL platforms have gained wide acceptance in retail sectors including e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores, SkyQuest said.

Gross Domestic Product Falls to 1.4 Percent, National Retail Federation Review Finds

By Staff
Friday, July 19, 2024 5:37 PM The nation is at a “critical moment” of waiting to see what will happen next according to a new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF). 

New data from the July issue of the NRF’s Monthly Economic Review points to a drop in gross domestic product year-over-year from 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023 to 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024. This is the lowest point since the spring of 2022, according to the NRF, which has contributed to the deceleration of consumer activity due to higher interest rates. Meanwhile, unemployment remained steady, hovering around 4.0 percent. 

“Today we’re waiting once again,” said National Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, adding the current economic climate strongly mirrors that of 2017 which saw fast economic growth and low unemployment. “Much like 2017, the economy is going strong, and the labor market is still relatively tight. But this time we’re waiting for inflation to come down, and we’re also waiting for the Federal Reserve to decide on when to lower interest rates.”

Kleinhenz said that the Fed must balance using high interest rates to reduce inflation with the risk that keeping rates too high for too long could slow the economy to the point of recession.

Manufacturers Are Ready to Invest in AI in 2024, Report Says

By Staff
Thursday, July 18, 2024 12:40 PM Manufacturers are ready to invest in AI according to a new report from Augury. The AI solutions provider in the health and process health sector released its annual State of Production Health Report this month which identifies challenges, trends and best practices in manufacturing’s quest to balance the competing demands of profits, people and the planet. New data shows that 83 percent of respondents are investing in AI in 2024, compared to 63 percent in 2023. The report also found a 300 percent year-over-year increase in respondents who said there are no roadblocks to AI adoption. 

Nearly 90 percent of manufacturers reported they anticipate more frequent supply chain disruptions over the next 12 months. Despite the “great promise” of AI, many manufacturers are concerned about the complex relationship between supply chain hurdles and AI. 

Supply chain was named the top production obstacle by 25 percent of respondents, and leveraging AI is still a low-ranked objective. Increasing capacity, however, is now the number-one objective for leveraging AI, according to 44 percent of respondents. 

Manufacturers are also concerned about the pace at which their staff can keep up with AI. Nearly 91 percent of industrial leaders worry that retiring veterans exacerbate the knowledge gap in manufacturing. 

Upskilling the workforce will be necessary to meet this challenge, with 97 percent of respondents saying that AI and advanced technologies will help create new jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Alternative Energy Demand Soars as Temperatures Rise, Energy Information Administration Reports

By Staff
Wednesday, July 17, 2024 4:33 PM The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects that the United States will generate more electricity from renewables and coal in the second half of this year, as electricity demand and natural gas prices increase. According to the latest July Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) from the EIA, updated forecasts show that natural gas prices will be approximately 36 percent higher in the second half of the year than in the first half of the year.

As a result, the agency expects a decrease in electricity generation from natural gas, the largest fuel source for U.S. electricity. Demand is forecast to be 2 percent higher in the second half of 2024 compared to 2023, forcing a higher demand for power. 

The increases in alternative fuel source demand stems from a hotter-than-normal start to the year, the agency reports. This contributed to about 5 percent more U.S. electricity generation in the first half of 2024 than during the same period in 2023, as air-conditioning use increased in response to higher temperatures. 

A further 2 percent increase in electricity generation is expected in the commercial sector due to a rise in demand from data centers.

Gas Prices Remain Steady Despite Hurricane Beryl and Long Weekend Travel, AAA Report Finds

By Staff
Tuesday, July 16, 2024 1:21 PM Holiday travel and a hurricane did little to move gas prices this month, according to a new report from the automobile Association of America (AAA). The report revealed that the national average for a gallon of gas rose three cents to $3.54 compared with the first week of July. 

The increase was well below expert expectations as Hurricane Beryl brought destruction and flooding to various areas of the United States. Oil remained just above $80 per barrel, with new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing a slight dip in gas prices. 

In May, the U.S. government announced that it was releasing more than 1 million barrels of oil to help curb rising fuel costs ahead of the summer travel season. Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the government established a Northeast reserve in the area in preparation for future disaster scenarios. 

The sales, from storage sites in New Jersey and Maine, were allocated in increments of 100,000 barrels at a time. According to the Energy Department, the goal was to create a competitive bidding process that ensures gasoline can flow into local retailers before the July Fourth holiday and sold at competitive prices, to “lower costs for American families and consumers.”

Gas demand fell from 9.42 million barrels per day to 9.39 in the second week of July. Domestic gasoline stocks also dropped from 231.7 to 229.7 million barrels, despite increased production to 10.3 million barrels per day.

The AAA noted tepid gasoline demand and waffling oil costs may lead to some short-term stability in pump prices.

As of July 11, the national average for gasoline was $3.54, which is 10 cents higher compared with the same time in 2023. 

The most expensive markets gasoline prices are in California, Washington and Nevada, while the least expensive markets are Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, where gas prices are well below an average of $3.11 a barrel.

Location Determines New Home Sales Prices, Census Bureau Report Says

By Staff
Monday, July 15, 2024 12:33 PM A home’s location has never been more important to its sales’ value, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report found that the price of new homes sold in 2023 varied by as much as $74 per square foot, depending on the area of the country. 

The average median price per square foot for a new home in the South was just over $146, while a home in the Midwest averaged $156.26. The Northeast saw the highest average price at $220.95 per square foot. The West averaged $195.38 per square foot. 

The organization noted that 660,000 single family homes were built in 2023, with an average median price of $428,000. These new homes had an average median size of nearly 2,300 square feet and a median price of $154.70 per square foot. 

The Northeast had the highest average median price for a home priced at $760,700 at a size of 2,430 square feet, followed by the West at $536,200, at 2,170 square feet. The average median price in the Midwest was $396,300 at 2,176 square feet, while the South saw an average home price of $388,800 at a size of 2,335 square feet, according to the Census Bureau.

Consumers Begin Back-to-School Shopping, NRF Survey Finds

By Staff
Friday, July 12, 2024 2:21 PM School shopping is well underway, according to a new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The annual Back to School survey finds that 55 percent of back-to-school and college shoppers have already begun buying items for the upcoming school year.

Despite the early start, more than 86 percent of consumers responded they still had at least half of their back-to-school purchases to complete. Approximately 45 percent of consumers said they were waiting for better deals to begin shopping, while 45 percent said they were unsure of what they needed for back-to-school supplies and had not begun yet. 

Online shopping remains one of the most popular ways to stock up on school supplies, with 85 percent of consumers saying they will take advantage of Prime Day and other retailer sales in July. 

Total back-to-school spending is predicted to reach nearly $39 billion, the second-highest figure on record, following last year's record-breaking $41.5 billion in back-to-school sales. 

Families with students in elementary school are expected to pay an average of $874.68 on clothing, shoes, school supplies and electronics, down $15 compared with 2023. 

Meanwhile, college students and their families are expected to spend an average of $1,364.75 on items for the upcoming school year, in line with last year’s record of $1,366, according to the NRF. College students are expected to spend an average of $359 on electronics, $192 on dorm or apartment furnishings, $171 on clothing and accessories, $149 on food and $112 on shoes. 

The NRF noted spending remains in line with last year, with 57 percent of consumers choosing to buy online, while 50 percent responded they will be shopping in department stores. Approximately 47 percent said they will be shopping in discount stores and 42 percent said they will be getting their back-to-school items from clothes stores.

Physical Activity Falls Globally, World Health Organization Report Finds

By Staff
Thursday, July 11, 2024 11:46 AM The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm after new data revealed that one-third of the adults worldwide, or 1.8 billion people, did not meet recommended levels of physical activity in 2022. The WHO said the findings indicate a worrying trend of physical inactivity among adults, which they said, has increased 5 percentage points between 2010 and 2022. 

WHO warned that if these levels of inactivity continue to rise to a projected 35 percent by 2030, the world will remain off track from meeting the global target to reduce physical inactivity by 2030. 

The WHO recommends that adults have 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or its equivalent, per week. Adding physical activity to weekly schedules can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers.

The WHO reports many countries are making an effort to improve these results, with 22 countries identified as likely to reach the global target of reducing inactivity by 15 percent by 2030. Despite this trend, the WHO is calling on countries to strengthen their policy implementation to promote and enable physical activity through grassroots and community sports, active recreation and transport. 

“These new findings highlight a lost opportunity to reduce cancer and heart disease, and improve mental health and well-being through increased physical activity,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. “We must renew our commitment to increasing levels of physical activity and prioritizing bold action, including strengthened policies and increased funding, to reverse this worrying trend.”

Measuring Tape Is More Important Than Cell Phone to Tradespeople, Stanley Survey Finds

By Staff
Wednesday, July 10, 2024 1:54 PM Trade professionals rely on their tape measure more than their cell phone, according to a new survey from Stanley. Recently, Stanley Black & Decker commissioned Atomik Research to conduct an online survey of 1,003 contractors throughout the United States including full-time, part-time and self-employed workers within the construction industry who do residential contracting work. 

The survey found that 75 percent of resident trade professionals reach for their tape measure more than five times per day, while 50 percent of respondents said they used their tape measure at least 10 times per day. 

The survey found that trade professionals have a unique set of on-the-job priorities. Nearly 42 percent of residential trades professionals said they would rather go without their phone, wallet and even keys than be without their tape measure.

The use of tape measures varied from tradesperson to tradesperson, according to the survey. More than 65 percent of respondents said they use their tape measure for measuring material to cut to size, while 44 percent said they used one to measure room dimensions. An additional 38 percent said they needed their tape measures to assist with estimating material needs.

Nearly 66 percent of residential tradespeople said they required different types of tape measures for various jobs. Approximately 71 percent of respondents said the length of a tape measure was their biggest consideration, while 65 percent said it was the reach of the tape measure that made the difference.

Fewer Americans Are Financially Prepared for Retirement, Nationwide Report Finds

By Staff
Tuesday, July 9, 2024 1:35 PM Fewer retirees are relying on their savings alone, according to the 9th annual Nationwide Retirement Institute’s (NRI) Advisory Authority study, which found 31 percent of retirees expect to be less secure in retirement than their parents and grandparents. 

Enhanced economic pressures paired with smaller retirement savings have retirees struggling to make ends meet when it comes to their daily living expenses. More than 26 percent of retired investors reported they were continuing to pay off their mortgage, while 25 percent said they were paying down credit card debt. 

The NRI reports that while most Americans had planned on a retirement that included leisure and travel, this is far from the reality for many retirees. Approximately 39 percent of retired investors said they were spending less on entertainment in order to meet financial commitments in today's economic environment, and 34 percent said they are taking fewer trips or vacations.

The report found that 22 percent of retired investors are drawing more funds from retirement accounts, intensifying the traditional decumulation stage. This has prompted many investors to shore up their savings, with 63 percent saying they have a strategy in place to protect their assets against market risk, up from 54 percent compared with 2023.

The NRI reports more retired investors are also initiating conversations about legacy planning and wealth transfer with their heirs, with 32 percent of respondents reporting they are discussing wishes for end-of-life care and death. Just 34 percent are discussing the financial details of their estate with heirs.

The NRI said more clients are looking to generate additional income and are refocusing their priorities. The company said 16 percent of retirees are now supplementing income out of necessity.

U.S. Job Market Slows as Unemployment Rises

By Staff
Monday, July 8, 2024 1:43 PM The American job market stumbled a bit in the second quarter, according to a new report from The Conference Board, a non-profit business membership and research group organization. Payrolls increased slightly in Q2, while hirings skyrocketed. Despite these positive numbers, unemployment increased to 4.1 percent in June, but still remains historically low. 

The Conference Board noted that an aging workforce continues to hinder labor force growth. The average has reached pre-pandemic levels, pointing to what The Conference Board said was “no material stress building up in the labor market.” It’s expected that unemployment will top out at 4.4 percent this year if the economy continues to show signs of stabilization. 

The report found the U.S. economy continues to soften, but despite this, fewer companies are releasing workers following the effects of “the sting of wage spikes to draw workers back into the labor market during the pandemic recovery,” according to The Conference Board. 

Workers were on the job an average of 34.3 hours in June, according to the report. This is on par with April and May, and within range of pre-pandemic figures, which The Conference Board believes signals that companies are not reducing hours in the face of rising labor costs.

Newly Built Apartments Are Filling Up at the Slowest Pace Since 2020, Redfin Reports

By Staff
Friday, July 5, 2024 10:00 AM Newly built apartments are filling up at a slower pace, according to a recent report from Redfin. According to new data, just 47 percent of newly constructed apartments completed in the fourth quarter were rented within three months. This a 60 percent drop from 2023 and the lowest rate since 2020.

Redfin stated that the slump may be due to a record number of apartments available for rent on the market. In the fourth quarter, 90,260 were completed, the second highest since 2012.

For the past three quarters, Redfin said, the rental vacancy rate has hovered at 6.6 percent, the highest vacancy rate since 2021. This has created an overall decline in new building starts, which have reached a 10-year historical low.

It has also significantly impacted the rent a landlord can ask, with Redfin stating that demand from renters who can’t afford to buy their own homes is keeping rents near their record high rates.

In May, the median rent for an apartment in the U.S. rose 0.8 percent compared with last year, the highest level since October 2022. To afford a space, renters must earn $66,120, according to Redfin. This is $11,408 more than the average renter earns.

According to Redfin, the supply of small apartments in America has been growing quickly, resulting in the steepest rent declines. The number of studio apartments completed in the fourth quarter was up 32.6 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 22.2 percent increase for one-bedroom apartments. There was a 2.3 percent increase for two-bedroom apartments and a 0.9 percent decrease for three-plus-bedroom apartments.

Car Inventory Climbs as Vehicle Sales Slip

By Staff
Wednesday, July 3, 2024 1:00 PM Car inventory has seen a slight uptick this summer as companies release new models. Demand for vehicles, however, remains stagnant, according to the latest State of the Dealer report from ZeroSum, an industry leader in software, marketing and data science.

The automotive retail agency said its latest findings show new vehicle inventory has reached nearly 3 million on a month-to-month basis, while the market for used and certified vehicles remains unchanged.

Market prices for new vehicles continue to rebound from a winter decline averaging $50,571. This is a $1,000 increase in manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) in the past year, according to ZeroSum.

The company added that the marketed prices for used vehicles continue to be “in the tight span” since early 2024, sitting well below the $30,000 mark that was seen a year ago.

Marketed pricing for certified vehicles rose for the fourth straight month, coinciding with a recent rebound in new vehicle pricing. ZeroSum noted that the underlying efficiency-oriented dynamics of the market have plateaued, noting car turn rates are settling in the high 30s and days-to-move in the low 60s.