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Charting the Global Economy: Clogged Ports Keep Prices Elevated

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast. Supply-chain jams are leading to congestion at ports around the world, keeping prices elevated. Trucking trips originating around the busiest U.S. ports show massive increases in idle time, while the backlog of container ships anchored near Singapore was 10.5 percentage points above normal. That’s contributing to higher global food prices, as well as inflation more broadly. In the U.S., payrolls increased in October by more than forecast, affirming the Federal Reserve’s decision this week to start tapering its bond purchases. The Czech and Polish central banks hiked rates to combat rising inflation, while the Bank of England and Norway stood pat.
Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:


The labor market got back on track last month with a larger-than-forecast and broad-based payrolls gain of 531,000. The data paint a sunnier picture of the job market than previously thought, with easing Covid-19 cases and higher wages helping employers fill near-record openings. They also help validate the Federal Reserve’s decision this week to begin scaling back its pandemic-era pace of bond-buying aimed at keeping borrowing costs ultra-low.

Fertilizer prices skyrocketed as soaring natural gas costs have forced some European production plants to halt or curtail production. The price surge is stoking fears farmers may pull back on purchases or shift more acres into crops that require less nutrients. A drop in yields could drive crop prices higher, worsening food inflation.

Trucking trips originating around the U.S.’s busiest ports are showing massive increases in idle time, another sign of the supply-chain logjams plaguing American transport hubs. So far this year, there is more than a day’s worth of idle time per truck, up from 21.5 hours in 2020 and 17 hours in 2019.

The Czech central bank raised borrowing costs by 125 basis points to 2.75% -- the biggest in nearly a quarter century -- and Poland’s central bank governor pledged to do “whatever it takes” after his institution raised the benchmark rate by 75 basis points to 1.25%. Yet further west policy makers were more hesitant this week: The Bank of England defied market expectations by keeping interest rates on hold. Norway also stood pat, but confirmed it’s on track to raise borrowing costs by year-end.

China’s delta variant outbreak has as of Wednesday made its way to 19 of 31 mainland provinces, the widest spread of cases the nation has seen since it quelled the initial outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019. The highly contagious strain is breaching curbs more frequently than earlier strains, forcing Beijing to aggressively combat the virus in ways that are increasingly disrupting lives in the world’s second-largest economy. An outbreak is also accelerating in Europe as colder temperatures lead to more socializing indoors.

A statement from China’s government urging local authorities to ensure there was adequate food supply during the winter and encouraging people to stock up on some essentials prompted concerned talk online, with people linking it with the widening coronavirus outbreak, a forecast cold snap or even rising tensions with Taiwan.
Emerging Markets

Inflation extended its surge last month, raising pressure on the Bank of Russia to make a bigger increase in interest rates in December. Consumer prices rose 8.1% in October, the highest level since the beginning of 2016 and above the 8% median forecast of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Food prices jumped 10.1%, but the core index was also elevated.

Last year the global economy came juddering to a halt. This year it got moving again, only to become stuck in one of history’s biggest traffic jams. New indicators developed by Bloomberg Economics underscore the extremity of the problem, the world’s failure to find a quick fix, and how in some regions the Big Crunch of 2021 is still getting worse.

Congestion at many of the world’s major ports offered a snapshot of supply chains trying to avoid unprecedented bottlenecks, as cargo handlers searched for the quickest way to route goods through the clogged arteries of global commerce. Singapore, which drew down from Monday’s high of 53 waiting ships, had 17 more waylaid vessels than usual, creating a congestion rate of 48.2%, or 10.5 percentage points higher than the median.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Nov 7, 2021 15:50
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