Biden: China will ‘eat our lunch’ on infrastructure
In Today’s Digital Newspaper
• Focus on next week’s USDA Ag Outlook Forum, especially on planted acres
• Monday holiday in U.S. and elsewhere
• Investigations into whether criminal misconduct fueled last month’s market frenzy
• WSJ: Forecasters optimistic about U.S. economic growth this year
• Most surveyed by WSJ say $15 minimum wage will cost the U.S. jobs
• U.S. federal deficits projected to soar over next decade
• Britain’s economy in 2020 was worst downturn since ‘Great Frost’ of 1709
• Gas hits highest price in 12 months
• Royal Dutch Shell makes bold statement about end of the oil age
• OPEC and IEA: second-half oil demand will outstrip production
• Bitcoin for employee compensation
• USDA announces several daily export sales
• Wheat industry analyst notes very cold weekend ahead
• Ag demand update
• Mexico’s ban on GMO corn and glyphosate likely to be challenged in court
• Tax cut spurs more aggressive Indian palm oil imports at expense of soy, sunflower oil
• Steady cash trade amid a pause in the beef market rally
• Pork prices on the rise, along with kill numbers
• Boozman issues warning on new farm bill as climate changing policy threatens funding
• Even bigger focus ahead for USDA’s CCC; CBO’s updated ag baseline
• Biden: China will ‘eat our lunch’ on infrastructure
• Highway Trust Fund to be depleted in 2022
• DeFazio, Graves want Biden to tap Harbor Maintenance Fund
• Schumer working to include $15 minimum wage
• China blocks BBC
• Canadians stay jailed in China as Huawei talks stall
• ITC rules blueberry imports not causing serious injury to domestic producers
• Taiwan to hold referendum by Aug. 28 on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine
• Reuters: Lawsuits likely re: proposed Mexican ban on imports of glyphosate
Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Kraft Heinz agreed to sell Planters and its other nut brands to Hormel for $3.35 billion
• Revenue from Uber’s food-delivery business nearly matched core ride-hailing division
• Can a fine whiskey age overnight?
• Biden: U.S. has struck deals to purchase 200 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses
• LA Times: McCarthy attended son’s wedding in California amid deadly Covid-19 surge
Politics & Elections:
• Dozens of former GOP officials in talks to form anti-Trump third party
• 2020 election cost $14.4 billion, most expensive ever
• Trump’s impeachment defense team to issue rebuttal today
• Reparations measure to get hearing
Other Items of Note:
• Cotton AWP surges above 70 cents per pound
• Maryland readies America’s first digital ad tax on tech giants
• Looking good takes on more meaning
Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward weaker openings. Many Asian markets were closed late this week as the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday began, and markets will remain closed until the middle of next week. U.S. markets are closed on Monday for the President’s Day holiday. Asian markets were mostly lower in light trading. Japan’s Nikkei fell 42.86 points, 0.14%, at 29,520.07. Markets in Hong Kong, South Korea and mainland China were closed for a holiday. Chinese markets will reopen next Thursday, while Hong Kong markets will reopen Tuesday. European equity markets were mostly mixed.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow ended down 7.10 points, 0.02%, at 31,430.70. The Nasdaq gained 53.24 points, 0.38%, at 14,025.77. The S&P 500 gained 6.50 points, 0.17%, at 3,916.38.
Here come the Feds. Federal investigations are under way into whether criminal misconduct fueled last month’s market frenzy. The Justice Department and the U.S. attorney in San Francisco have sought information about the activity from brokers and social-media companies. GameStop shares, after spending two weeks in January bouncing wildly between about $20 and $483, are now just over $50. Link for more via the WSJ. Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee scheduled a hearing for next Thursday with a focus on how Reddit and Twitter have been used to mobilize herds of investors to all make the same trades that have buffeted GameStop.
On tap today:
• University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for the opening weeks of February, due at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to inch up to 80.8 from 79.0 at the end of January.
• Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
• New York Fed President John Williams speaks to the Economic Club of New York at 2 p.m. ET.
• CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.
Forecasters are increasingly optimistic about U.S. economic growth this year, though less so about the labor market’s prospects, as it recovers from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a new Wall Street Journal survey shows (link). Economists on average expected U.S. gross domestic product to expand nearly 4.9% this year, measured from the fourth quarter of the prior year, according to the business and academic economists surveyed in February, an improvement from their 4.3% forecast in January. They cited the distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations and the prospect of additional fiscal relief from Washington for the brightening outlook.
Three quarters of economists surveyed by the WSJ say a $15 minimum wage will cost the U.S. jobs. Asked about the impact on employment of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, 47% of economists surveyed said the policy advocated by President Biden would result in the loss of less than a 1 million jobs, and 29% said the plan would decrease employment by between 1 million and 2.5 million jobs. Of those surveyed, 7% said doubling the minimum wage would increase jobs. Biden and many Democrats are pursuing legislation to increase the minimum wage in phases over four years, saying it would lift many low-wage workers out of poverty. Some Republicans and businesses have warned that such an increase could cost jobs as the U.S. recovers from pandemic layoffs.
Federal deficits are projected to soar over the next decade, but not as much as officials forecast last summer, thanks to an improving economic outlook, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday. The CBO expects cumulative deficits over the next 10 years will total $12.6 trillion, 3% less than projected in September, the last time the agency released its estimates. The decline stems from stronger-than-expected economic activity, higher inflation and higher interest rates, which would boost federal tax revenue more than spending. However, the latest forecast is before an expected spending binge relative to the pending Covid aid package.
The public share of the $27.9 trillion national debt is currently at $21.8 trillion, or 102% of GDP. The CBO anticipates that number will continue to escalate, hitting $35.3 trillion, or 107%, of GDP by 2031, which would be the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in U.S. history.
All this spending has triggered some inflation fears, though Philly Fed President Patrick Harker is the latest central bank official to say there is nothing to worry about. "What I look at is not only the level of inflation but also is it accelerating or decelerating," he declared. "We're clearly committed as [a Federal Open Market Committee] to exceed 2% for a period of time, but it has to be sustainably above 2% for a period of time.
The Fed has said will tolerate inflation levels higher than 2% to juice the economy and get back to full employment, but if the number rises at a faster rate, some analysts note it could be harmful for investors and force the central bank to tighten policy sooner than expected.
The worse U.K. economic contraction in over 300 years. The U.K. economy shrank by a record 9.9% in 2020. This was the worst contraction since records began and likely its sharpest slump overall in 300 years. Bank of England data shows the economy last recorded a comparable drop in 1921, when it shrank 9.7% during the depression that followed World War I. The economy recorded a bigger contraction, of 13%, in 1709, during an unusually cold winter known as the Great Frost. Though the country is grappling with a new, highly contagious variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hopeful that a rapid vaccination drive will permit a gradual reopening of the economy in the coming months, paving the way for a rapid rebound later in the year.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is trading higher. Nymex crude oil futures prices are weaker and trading around $57.75 a barrel. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield is currently fetching 1.155%.
• Crude oil futures were lower, with U.S. crude trading around $57.85 per barrel and Brent around $60.85 per barrel. In Asian action, U.S. crude was at $57.79 and Brent crude was at $60.72 per barrel.
• Gas hits highest price in 12 months as progressives pressure Biden to cancel more pipelines. The average price of gas in the United States has hit a 12-month high, according to new data Thursday from Gas Buddy. The average retail gas price in the United States is now $2.50 per gallon after soaring from an average price of $1.74 per gallon in April 2020. In February of last year, Gas Buddy's chart shows gas prices were about $2.42 per gallon and proceeded to rise slightly before plummeting as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country.
• Shell said that in the next decade it would cut production of traditional fuels such as diesel and gasoline by 55%, double the amount of electricity it sells and roll out thousands of electric vehicle charging points. Its oil output has already peaked, it said, forecasting a decline of 1% to 2% a year. Bottom line: Royal Dutch Shell made a bold statement about the end of the oil age. “Even as the world decarbonizes, it will still need oil and gas for decades to come,” said Ben van Beurden, Shell’s CEO. While global oil demand has risen somewhat from the depths of the pandemic, McKinsey forecasts that overall demand for oil will peak in 2029. Shell is using its energy-trading division to supply businesses with clean energy and may roll out other services like carbon capture and storage. Shell will rely on oil production to help finance its conversion to renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydrogen. Its current plan is to invest $2 billion to $3 billion a year in renewable energy assets — out of a $22 billion capital investment budget.
• OPEC and the International Energy Agency said second-half oil demand will outstrip production, quickly drawing down the glut of crude that has built up since the pandemic began.
• Bitcoin for employee compensation? Officials in Miami, which has been courting tech executives, are studying whether to adopt Bitcoin as an option for employee compensation and payment for city services.
• USDA daily export sales:
— 195,338 metric tons of corn to Costa Rica. Of the total, 135,644 metric tons is for delivery during 2020-2021 marketing year and 59,694 metric tons is for delivery during 2021-2022 marketing year; and
— Export sales of 115,577 metric tons of corn to Guatemala during 2020-2021 marketing year.
• Wheat industry analyst notes very cold weekend ahead with low temps Sat. and Sun. mornings in the southern Plains HRW region. Immature plants in dry soils are vulnerable to some freeze industry, the analyst adds, listing areas in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas.
• Ag demand: Egypt’s state grain buyer purchased 30,000 MT of soyoil in an international tender. Mauritius tendered to buy 4,000 MT of long grain white rice from optional origins.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):
• Mexico’s ban on GMO corn and glyphosate likely to be challenged in court
• Tax cut spurs more aggressive Indian palm oil imports at expense of soy, sunflower oil
• Steady cash trade amid a pause in the beef market rally
• Pork prices on the rise, along with kill numbers
— Boozman issues warning on new farm bill as climate changing policy threatens funding. Additional signs of partisan discord in the Ag Committee, this time in the Senate. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), the panel’s ranking member, told members of the National Cotton Council Thursday that funding to address climate change could come out of existing farm bill programs. "You'll hear that it's paid for, that it doesn't cost anything,” he said of the Democratic climate change plan. “The reason it doesn't cost anything is that... the monies that they need to make it work will come out of the farm bill. And so, something else will be displaced.”
Meanwhile, Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) wants to put more money into conservation programs to promote climate-friendly practices. But she wants funding for that to come out of separate climate change legislation that Democrats plan to move later.
This puts more focus on a legislative proposal by Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), ranking member of the House Ag Committee. He and others via a legislative initiative want to boost USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority to $68 billion, from the current maximum of $30 billion.
— Even bigger focus ahead for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The CCC accounts for a significant portion of mandatory federal spending for agriculture through a wide range of programs, detailed in this Link which shows the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) latest forecasts for the ag baseline. Previous items have detailed farm-state lawmakers and others’ wanting to tap the CCC for new funding that would total billions of dollars, from helping to fund climate change proposals (carbon credit bank) to accelerated conservation programs and other spending ideas. This is why farm-state lawmakers want a huge boost in CCC’s borrowing authority (see related item).
The CBO baseline also includes their latest (done late last year) assessment of the supply and demand situation for major U.S. crops. The following are CBO’s corn and soybean forecasts (check the previous link for more details):
How CBO sizes up the dairy situation:
What CBO sees ahead for crop insurance:
— Biden: China will ‘eat our lunch’ on infrastructure. President Joe Biden warned that China is making advancements in transportation that give it an advantage over the U.S., as he made a pitch for Congress to pass an economic recovery package that includes infrastructure improvements. “If we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch. They have major, major new initiatives on rail,” Biden said, adding that China is also making rapid advances on electric vehicle technology.
The president spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday night in a call that Biden said lasted two hours. The two leaders, speaking for the first time since Biden took office, discussed human rights, trade and security, among other topics, according to the White House.
The president on Thursday met with four senators to discuss infrastructure in the Oval Office: Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.); Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee; and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). “There’s a lot we have to do and I could think of no better people to start off with to try to see if we can come up with some kind of generic consensus about how to begin,” Biden said.
Biden is planning to officially roll out his economic recovery plan in the coming weeks. The plan will focus on job creation, infrastructure, broadband and other issues, according to White House officials.
Immigration and Infrastructure linkage? A group of more than 60 economists urged Biden to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in his forthcoming economic and infrastructure plan, arguing it would raise U.S. wages, productivity and tax revenue. The economists, including President Barack Obama’s former top economist Jason Furman and David Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute, which champions liberal economic policies, made the proposal in a letter to the White House obtained by Bloomberg News. Legalizing millions of immigrants -- especially those in jobs considered essential during the pandemic -- would strengthen the economy while providing them with workplace protections, they argued.
Bottom line: Transportation groups in Washington have been pressing for more attention to highways and ports, and they’ve pointed to the expiration this September of the multi-year surface transport spending plan as the likely impetus. Biden’s support may advance that schedule.
— Highway Trust Fund to be depleted in 2022. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to end this fiscal year with $12 billion in the bank, and run out of money next year, according to new projections from the Congressional Budget Office. The federal government pays for its highways and transit through the fund, which is supported by the gasoline tax. Last year, Congress approved an additional $13.6 billion in a stopgap spending measure to keep the fund afloat.
— DeFazio, Graves want Biden to tap Harbor Maintenance Fund. The House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman and ranking member are calling on Biden to request in his fiscal 2022 budget the full use of $10 billon sitting in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to upgrade the country’s ports and harbors. “At a minimum, we request your Fiscal 2022 Budget Request provide the estimated $2 billion in HMTF allocations called for in WRDA 2020 for the coming fiscal year,” wrote Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in a letter yesterday, referring to the Water Development Resources Act (WRDA) passed late last year. The law authorized a scheduled draw-down over the next decade of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which has a balance of about $10 billion. The fund is made up of money collected through a harbor maintenance tax on imported cargo, but Congress has diverted revenues over the years to pay for other unrelated activities. WRDA 2020 provided a tool to unlock that money to help the Army Corps of Engineers pay for much-needed repairs at ports and harbors.
— Schumer working to include $15 minimum wage. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday he’s “working hard” with Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to ensure that a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour is allowed to be included in the $1.9 trillion relief package under Senate fast-track rules. The duo is working with the Senate’s parliamentarian to ensure the wage hike complies with the chamber’s Byrd rule, which blocks non-fiscal measures and items that increase long-term debt in a budget reconciliation bill.
— China blocks BBC. Chinese authorities have blocked BBC’s World News channel from broadcasting in China, a retaliatory move after British authorities barred CGTN — the English language version of the Chinese state media giant CCTV — earlier this month. BBC World News was not widely available in China even before the ban, however, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab still lamented the decision as “an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom.” China’s National Radio and Television Administration said BBC World News’ reports on China had “seriously violated” a requirement to be “truthful and fair”, harmed China’s interests and undermined national unity.
— Canadians stay jailed in China as Huawei talks stall. The two men, detained in China since 2018 after a Huawei executive was arrested in Vancouver, are at the center of a high-stakes standoff between Canada, the U.S. and China. Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been held by Beijing for more than two years, thrust to the center of a standoff among Canada, the U.S. and China. Canada says they were detained in retaliation for its arrest that same month of an executive of China’s Huawei on a U.S. extradition request. China says they are suspected of crimes that endangered its national security. With talks stalled, their detention drags on. Link to an exclusive WSJ update on the topic.
— U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
— ITC rules blueberry imports not causing serious injury to domestic producers. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in a unanimous decision that blueberry imports “are not being imported into the U.S. in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat of serious injury, to the domestic industry.” Chair Jason Kearns, Vice Chair Randolph Stayin, and Commissioners David Johanson, Rhonda Schmidtlein, and Amy Karpel voted in the negative, the agency said.
The ruling in the Section 201 safeguard investigation ends the possibility the U.S. gov’t will impose antidumping or anti-subsidy imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department.
Blueberry alliance responds. “We believed this data and testimony made a compelling case that safeguard measures were critical to the survival of our domestic farmers, and we are disappointed by the Commission’s decision,” The American Blueberry Alliance said.
— Taiwan to hold referendum by Aug. 28 on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine. Public outrage regarding Taiwan’s decision to allow imports of U.S. pork containing feed additive ractopamine has triggered a referendum on the issue to be held within the next six months. Some also believe it could harm prospects for President Tsai Ing-wen’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in the local government elections next year. The China-friendly Kuomintang opposition party has led the effort against U.S. pork and hopes to capitalize on a coinciding drop in approval ratings for Tsai. The decision to allow pork from the U.S. produced with ractopamine was aimed at smoothing the way for free trade talks with the U.S. that have been paused since 2016.
— Reuters: Mexico group says lawsuits likely over proposed Mexican government ban on imports of glyphosate. Mexico’s plans to stop importing GMO corn will likely be challenged by Mexico’s Farm Council (CNA), the group’s president Juan Cortina told Reuters. "Unfortunately, I think there will need to be legal challenges brought by all the people who use glyphosate and genetically-modified corn," Cortina said. Mexico's agricultural sector grew by about 2% despite the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic, even as the rest of the economy contracted sharply. Cortina said the government needs to offer alternatives to GMO corn from the U.S. and “many aspects of the decree need to be clarified,” he noted.
FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
— Kraft Heinz agreed to sell Planters and its other nut brands to Hormel for $3.35 billion. The cash deal includes most Planters products and the Corn Nuts brand. Hormel will also receive the global intellectual property rights to the two brands, subject to existing third-party licenses in other countries. The nuts business contributed about $1.1. billion in sales last year to Kraft Heinz, mostly focused in the U.S. In a statement, Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio said the nuts sale enables the company to focus on other snack brands, like Lunchables and P3. Hormel’s other brands include Skippy and Wholly Guacamole.
— Revenue from Uber’s food-delivery business nearly matched that of its core ride-hailing division in the fourth quarter. Delivery orders were up 128%, while bookings for rides were down 47% from the fourth quarter of 2019, the company said. Uber Eats, the company’s delivery arm, brought in $1.35 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter and nearly out-earned the rides business, which brought in $1.47 billion. “While 2020 certainly tested our resilience, it also dramatically accelerated our capabilities in local commerce, with our delivery business more than doubling over the year,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said in a statement.
— Can a fine whiskey age overnight? Bespoken Spirits, in Menlo Park, Calif., says it can make whiskey in just a few days, using heat and pressure to force alcohol in and out of small pieces of wood that give the spirit its characteristic flavor and color. “With modern material science and data analytics, we can change this antiquated industry,” Aaron said. Link to details on this interesting article via the New York Times.
— Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 107,848,144 with 2,370.280 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 27,392,803 with 475,449 deaths.
— U.S. is buying 200 million more vaccine doses. The Biden administration said that the federal government has signed contracts with both Pfizer and Moderna to provide another 100 million doses each, bringing the total number of doses ordered by the U.S. to 600 million. Biden also said the companies agreed to speed up their delivery timelines. His administration said the country would have enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans with the necessary two-shot regimen by July, after previously saying the country would have those doses by the end of the summer. Biden recently increased the number of doses being sent each week to 11 million, after many state and local officials said they don't have nearly enough shots to meet demand.
— LA Times: McCarthy attended son’s wedding in California amid deadly Covid-19 surge. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “attended a wedding for his son, Connor in San Luis Obispo County on Dec. 5 — an event that appeared to flout longstanding state Covid-19 rules that prohibit wedding receptions and require that masks be worn during wedding ceremonies,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Two videos of the outdoor nuptials show that the dozen or so attendees visible in the images were not wearing masks, the Republican congressman included. McCarthy issued a statement saying every precaution was taken to make the event safe.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Dozens of former Republican officials in talks to form anti-Trump third party. Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters. The early-stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say. More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law — ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump. Two of the most prominent anti-Trump Republicans in Congress — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — rejected the idea of a breakaway party in statements to Reuters on Thursday. Link to Reuters item.
— 2020 election cost $14.4 billion, most expensive ever. Political spending in the 2020 election totaled $14.4 billion, more than doubling the total cost of the record-breaking 2016 presidential election cycle. That’s according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of Federal Election Commission filings. OpenSecrets previously estimated that the 2020 election would cost around $14 billion. The extraordinary spending figure makes the 2020 election the most expensive of all time by a large margin. The pricey presidential showdown between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was funded by an unprecedented number of small donors giving online and billionaires who wielded tremendous political influence over the last decade. Donors also fueled record spending in congressional races, capping off the 2020 election with the all-time most expensive Georgia Senate runoffs. Link for details.
— Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team is expected to issue their rebuttal today before the U.S. Senate after Democratic House managers made their final arguments on Thursday. Trump’s lawyers are expected to use only one of their allotted two days to make their case, bringing the Senate closer to a vote. While a handful of Republican senators appear willing to vote to convict Trump, a majority remain unconvinced that Trump can be held responsible for the Jan. 6 riots. Democrats need 17 Republican senators to join them in order to achieve a conviction — so far only six appear willing to break ranks.
Dems may use 14th Amendment to bar Trump from running if impeachment fails. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday did not rule out bringing legislation to bar Trump from office if he is not convicted at the ongoing Senate impeachment trial. Democratic senators have discussed in recent weeks that if they cannot secure the 67 votes needed to convict Trump that they might invoke the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to do the same.
— Reparations measure to get hearing. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties plans a hearing Wednesday Feb. 17 to discuss HR 40, a bill “to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery,” among other provisions.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Cotton AWP surges above 70 cents per pound. The Adjusted World Price for cotton moved to 70.32 cents per pound, effective today (Feb. 12), up sharply from the prior week’s rate of 66.38 cents per pound. This is the highest mark for the AWP since it was 71.59 cents per pound the week of Sept. 21, 2018. Meanwhile, USDA will establish Special Import Quota #17 for Upland Cotton for 43,469 bales of Upland Cotton Feb. 18, applying to purchased not later than May 18 and entered into the U.S. not later than Aug. 16.
— Maryland readies America’s first digital ad tax on tech giants. Lawmakers are set to override the governor’s veto of the proposal, which would tax advertising revenue of companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. The proposal, which is similar to laws enacted in Europe, faces legal challenges.
— Looking good takes on more meaning… "Using unique data on Ph.D. graduates from top economics departments in the United States we test whether more attractive individuals are more likely to succeed. We find robust evidence that appearance matters for job outcomes. Attractive individuals are more likely to study at higher ranked Ph.D. institutions, are more likely to find themselves in private sector jobs than in government jobs or in academia. Within academia, attractive Ph.D. graduates are more likely to be placed at higher ranking institutions. More surprisingly, appearance also predicts research productivity on the job. Papers written by attractive individuals are cited more often," UC Santa Cruz's Galina Hale, IDC's Tali Regev and the London School of Economics' Yona Rubinstein write in a working paper (link).