Industry Analysts Say Fed Not Taking Commodity, Other Price Surges Seriously

Posted on 04/27/2021 7:22 AM

Census population data: Shift political power south to GOP strongholds

 


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


 

Market Focus:
• U.S. commodity market bull roars
• What veteran commodity traders are saying
• Federal Reserve comes under mounting criticism re: ‘transitory’ inflation
• BoA: Number of ‘inflation’ mentions during earnings calls mount
• Biden’s 100-day stock market performance hottest going back to the 1950s

• Washington no longer fears deficits and debt in short term
• Mama MIA: Nearly 1.5 million mothers still missing from workforce
• Vaccinated shoppers heading back to malls
• Texas A&M to host cattle industry workshop
• California drought grips San Joaquin Valley
• OPEC+ meets to discuss oil production levels Wed., April 28
• Ag demand update

HRW CCI rating drops after freeze event
• Cordonnier drops forecast for Brazil’s corn crop to 100 MMT
• Cordonnier: No change to Argentine production pegs
• Vicentin blocked from exchange and export markets
• Bad weather interrupts loading at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports
• Soaring corn prices have boosted wheat Asian feed mixes
• Early expectations for steady to higher cash cattle action
• Pork and cash hog prices slide to start the week

Policy Focus:
• CFAP 2 payouts climb to $13.5 billion
• $1 million threshold for capital gains hike: Deese
• How $80 billion for IRS gets Biden $700 billion in revenue over a decade

 

China Update:
• China surges past U.S. re: R&D investments as percentage of GDP

 

Energy & Climate Change:

• Supreme Court today focuses on 16-year-old gasoline/ethanol squabble
• Calif. governor seeks to ban new fracking by 2024
• EPA to restore California's power over auto emissions rules, reversing Trump
• Washington state legislature passed a carbon pricing bill
• Cutting greenhouse emissions may be hampered by huge accounting problem  
• House Republicans prioritizing energy and climate change at annual retreat


Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• USDA to expand pandemic electronic benefit transfer benefits


Coronavirus Update:
• Biden to announce updated mask guidance today
• Biden to send AstraZeneca doses abroad, promises to assist India
• USTR Tai discusses Covid vaccine situation with Pfizer, AstraZeneca  
• West Virginia to begin offering $100 savings bonds to encourage vaccine taking

 

Politics & Elections:
• Census: Texas gains, N.Y., Calif., others lose House seats
• New York Post: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Utah) not ruling out 2024 presidential run
• Ryan first Democrat in 2022 Ohio Senate race
• AP analysis: Biden has not explained how he plans to curtail migrant surge
• DOJ investigation into Louisville PD following Breonna Taylor death
• Comparing the first 100 days of recent U.S. presidents

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly weaker overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward mixed openings.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The S&P 500 rose slightly to all-time high ahead of big earnings, Nasdaq hit a new record close. The Dow fell 61.92 points, 0.18%, at 33,981.57. The Nasdaq was up 121.97 points, 0.87%, at 14,138.78. The S&P 50 moved up 7.45 points, 0.18%, at 4,187.62.

 

     Biden’s 100-day stock market performance is the hottest going back to the 1950s.

 

     Stocks and White House

 

On tap today:

 

     • S&P/Case Shiller 20-city home-price index for February is expected to climb 11.7% from one year earlier. (9 a.m. ET)
     • Conference Board's consumer confidence index is expected to rise to 113 in April from 109.7 a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Richmond Fed's manufacturing survey is expected to rise to 22 in April from 17 a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Federal Reserve starts its two-day (FOMC) policy meeting.

     • Bank of Japan sets its key rate. Officials see a strong recovery in the U.S. and China as a boon for Japan’s export-reliant economy, supporting Japan’s growth targets.

 

Washington no longer views deficits and debt in the short term with the same level of alarm they once did. “The low-interest-rate environment isn’t just something that’s transitory,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a former Fed chairwoman. “Rather, a great deal of work suggests that it is a long-term structural shift, so I think we have a lot more debt capacity than we used to.”

 

     Infrastructure is “one of the highest-return investments for this economy at this time,” said Yellen, adding that the proposed spending increase on research and development alone would bring the U.S. back to a level of public spending last seen in the 1960s. “R&D is an important factor determining productivity growth in the economy.”

 

Fed, take note of this on inflation: Bank of America data showed the number of "inflation" mentions during earnings calls this reporting season has already tripled compared with last year, the biggest jump since 2004 when the bank started tracking the number. "Inflation is arguably the biggest topic during this earnings season," Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy at Bank of America, said in a note. "Raw materials, transportation, labor, etc. were cited as major drivers of inflation and many plan to (or already did) raise prices to pass through higher costs." (See related item below on surging commodity prices.)

 

     Investors will monitor what the Federal Reserve, which meets today and Wednesday, says for reassurance that the pick-up in prices is only temporary. If there is some acknowledgement that inflationary pressures could be more than temporary, that would certainly be a key attention point. The Fed’s use of forward guidance as a monetary policy tool is potentially at a critical point.

 

Mama MIA. Nearly 1.5 million mothers are still missing from the workforce. Many mothers and fathers alike have said that the pandemic’s effect on their lives has helped them feel closer to their children. But it has also affected their careers: Although men’s labor-force participation also fell to record lows last spring, women as a group have had more difficulty rebounding. A Wall Street Journal analysis (link) of Census Bureau data shows that mothers are re-entering the labor force — defined as people 16 and older who are working or actively looking for work — more slowly than fathers. Factors including access to childcare, a lack of attractive jobs, the demands of home and virtual schooling, and health concerns are likely affecting mothers’ employment. The participation rates of women with children under the age of five have fluctuated the most.

 

     Mamas missing

 

Vaccinated shoppers are heading back to the mall, offering hope that the worst of the pandemic downturn is over for this industry. Foot traffic at a representative sample of 50 malls in March was up 86% from the same month last year, according to mobile-device location data from analytics firm Placer.ai. While that foot traffic was 24% lower than in March 2019, mall owners are suggesting that their business has turned a corner. Observers note that malls in places with an overabundance of stores and limited population growth are likely to continue struggling, especially after the recent pent-up demand subsides. And, customers are spending more on casual wear, accessories, jewelry and watches, while sales of formal dresses and men’s suits have lagged behind.

 

     Credit cards

 

Texas A&M to host cattle industry workshop. USDA tapped the Agricultural and Food Policy Center, AFPC, at Texas A&M University to analyze several issues related to cattle markets, particularly in light of disruptions caused by Covid-19. The AFPC – a joint activity between Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M – will host a workshop from June 3-4 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown in Kansas City, Missouri. Link to a full agenda and to register. “The primary purpose of this workshop is for AFPC researchers to gather important information on the cattle industry in response to a request from the Committee on Agriculture in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Bart Fischer, co-director of the AFPC. “That information will then be presented to Congress.”

 

     As part of its work, AFPC commissioned papers on specific industry topics from experts around the country. Those papers will be presented at the workshop, where presenters and other experts will be invited to offer their perspectives. Topics of papers and authors

  • How the Industry Got Here, Derrell Peel, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University.
  • Price Discovery and Price Determination, John Anderson, Ph.D., University of Arkansas.
  • How Markets Work, Chris Bastian, Ph.D., University of Wyoming.
  • New Research in Fed Cattle Markets, Ted Schroeder, Ph.D., Kansas State University.
  • Another Look at Capacity and Supplies, Steve Koonz, Ph.D., Colorado State University.
  • Price Reporting and Market Transparency, Josh Maples, Ph.D., Mississippi State University.
  • Lessons from Other Markets, Scott Brown, Ph.D., University of Missouri.
  • Various Triggers and Benchmarks, Justin Benavidez, Ph.D., Texas A&M/AgriLife Extension.
  • Relating Fed Cattle Pricing to Cow/Calf Producers and the Rest of the Supply Chain, David Anderson, Ph.D., Texas A&M/AgriLife Extension.

     “Those papers, along with everything learned from the workshop, will be compiled into a report that will be submitted to Congress at the end of the summer,” said Joe Outlaw, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agricultural economist and AFPC co-director, Bryan-College Station. “In an effort to facilitate the free-flow of information, the workshop is being held in person and much of the discussion will be informal.”

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is firmer. Nymex crude oil prices are higher and trading around $62.35 a barrel. Meantime, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note is presently fetching around 1.577%. 


     • Crude oil futures have made additional gains from marks seen in Asian action, with U.S. around $62.30 per barrel and Brent around $65.45 per barrel. Crude oil prices edged up in Asian action after slight declines Monday in U.S. trading. U.S. crude was up 18 cents at $62.09 per barrel and Brent was up 24 cents at $65.27 per barrel.

 

     • Corn futures prices just hit a nearly eight-year high overnight and are trading above $7.20 a bushel. Soybeans are also at a nearly eight-year and high nearing $16.00 a bushel, and wheat futures are at an eight-year high above $7.50 a bushel. Hog futures are at 6.5-year high. Meanwhile, copper climbed to a point not seen in nearly a decade. Chinese steel futures are at record highs, coffee futures prices hit a nearly four-year high this week, and lumber futures are at record highs. For perspective in lumber, the last bull run in 2018 saw futures prices hit a then-record-high of $659.00 per thousand board feet. This week prices have skyrocketed to $1,420.00 and are still climbing. Many consumer companies came under pressure as the jump in commodity prices fueled fears of inflation. Commodities are a big portion of costs for consumer staples. For example, there are contractors that are bidding construction jobs now on a labor-only basis — that materials will cost what they will cost. Says analyst Jim Wyckoff: “Those who think consumer and producer price inflation won’t become problematic down the road may want to ponder [these price developments].”

 

        The following graphic comes from the Wall Street Journal and illustrates how a growing number think about the Federal Reserve:

 

       Fed

 

     • What veteran commodity traders and analysts are saying. Discussions over the past week reveal the following:

  • Soybeans are up $1 or more from a week ago… Corn market is inverted (has a carry) while wheat is not.
  • U.S. ag attaché China report last week indicates total China corn imports of 28 MMT vs USDA World Board estimate of 24 MMT.
  • Export contacts: China recently bought 3-4 MMT of new-crop U.S. corn.
  • Traders key off Brazil’s second corn crop. USDA is at 109 MMT. A growing number of private analysts are now around 104 MMT. The closer it gets to 100 MMT or even below results in explosive market and trade policy impacts.
  • Trade policy impacts if key grain prices continue to surge include (1) Will Brazil temper exports, even though their history suggests they will not, but this time they have a beleaguered leader of their country. Brazil already announced they would waive import duties for the rest of the year in a bid to bring food prices down. That is the focus for most of the actions seen thus far temper food price inflation at home. (2) Brazil usually adjusts their sugar/ethanol policy, but analysts say that could take a while because of prior purchases. (3) Will Russia, Ukraine and other exporters temper trade?
  • Russia wheat to Mexico is almost cheaper than U.S. wheat to Mexico FOB.
  • Lessons learned from past years: Let markets work as prices will ration demand. But countries rarely let markets work at the extremes.

     • California drought grips San Joaquin Valley. California farmers say a complex law passed in 2014 — during the last drought — that requires all groundwater taken from wells to match the amount of water returned to aquifers by 2040. Experts say meeting its requirements will mean taking about 1 million acres of farmland out of production statewide. Link to more via the Los Angeles Times. Seasonal droughts are typical to California’s Mediterranean climate, but the effects of global warming, due to the burning of fossil fuels, have now made it easier for the state to slip into periods of dryness, and harder for it to get out, experts say.

 

     • OPEC+ meets to discuss oil production levels on Wednesday, April 28. Members must reach a balance between raising output and holding back as some economies struggle to rebound.

 

     • Ag demand: Algeria tendered to buy a nominal 50,000 MT of milling wheat. Taiwan’s MFIG purchasing group issued an international tender to buy up to 65,000 MT of animal feed corn from the U.S., Brazil, Argentina or South Africa. Romania has the lowest offer in Egypt’s tender for an unspecified amount of wheat.

 

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:

     • HRW CCI rating drops after freeze event
     • Cordonnier drops forecast for Brazil’s corn crop to 100 MMT
     • Cordonnier: No change to Argentine production pegs
     • Vicentin blocked from exchange and export markets
     • Bad weather interrupts loading at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports
     • Soaring corn prices have boosted wheat Asian feed mixes
     • Early expectations for steady to higher cash cattle action
     • Pork and cash hog prices slide to start the week

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

— CFAP 2 payouts climb to $13.5 billion. Payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) have reached $13.50 billion as of April 25, up from $13.45 billion the prior week. Acreage-based payments now total $6.23 billion, livestock payments are at $3.43 billion, sales commodities total $2.57 billion, dairy is at $1.21 billion, and eggs/broilers payouts are at $57.29 million.

 

     CFAP 1 payments are now at $10.56 billion, up from $10.55 billion the prior week.

 

     As for the CFAP Additional Assistance (CFAP-AA) program, no payout information has yet been made available from USDA even as the Farm Service Agency said that actions under CFAP include processing of CFAP-AA payments. “USDA will finalize routine decisions and minor formula adjustments on applications and begin processing payments for certain applications filed for this program,” according to FSA.

 

— $1 million threshold for capital gains hike: Deese. President Biden intends to raise capital gains taxes for those earning more than $1 million a year, his top economic adviser confirmed Monday. Brian Deese, the head of the National Economic Council, said at a media briefing that Biden’s upcoming tax plan would set the new threshold for higher capital gains taxes. Revenue would go toward funding major new social-spending measures that the president is set to unveil in a joint congressional address on Wednesday evening. Deese didn’t specify whether the income threshold is for individuals or for households. But he described the increase as affecting “three-tenths of a percent of taxpayers,” or about 500,000 American households. "For the typical Americans, most of their income comes from wages, so for people making less than a million dollars a year, about 70% of their income comes from wages," he said.

 

     Biden wants a 39.6% top rate on long-term cap gains, up from the current 20% rate, for those earning at least $1 million of annual investment income — Deese did not mention a specific rate. An Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare-related investment tax would bring the federal toll to 43.4% for top earners.

 

     Deese contended that the revenue generated by a higher rate on the richest Americans could then be deployed in programs and subsidies that have been shown to increase economic output over time. “Investments, for example, in early childhood and in our children return enormous dividends in terms of their own academic success, reduced cost in the health-care system, productivity and growth in the future,” he said.

 

     Deese

     National Economic Council Director Brian Deese holds a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on April 26, 2021.

     Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

 

— How $80 billion for IRS gets Biden $700 billion in revenue over a decade. President Biden is proposing an extra $80 billion for the IRS to crack down on tax evasion by high-earners to help fund his economic agenda, the New York Times reports (link). Administration officials believe the effort will raise $700 billion over a decade. The article notes that the Biden administration will portray those efforts — coupled with new taxes it is proposing on corporations and the rich — as a way to level the tax playing field between typical American workers and very high-earners who employ sophisticated efforts to minimize or avoid taxation.

 


CHINA UPDATE


 

— China surges past U.S. re: R&D investments as percentage of GDP. The U.S. has fallen to 10th in the world in terms of research and development investments as a percentage of GDP and, at the current pace, will soon lose its long-time spot as the largest R&D investor globally to China. Chinese companies have a 60% market share in wind turbine manufacturing, nearly 80% for solar module cells, and over 80% for battery cells used in electric vehicles, a White House report says (link).
 


ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE


 

— Supreme Court today focuses on a 16-year-old gasoline/ethanol squabble. The long-running clash concerns the ability of refineries to win exemptions from 16-year-old U.S. government mandates that they mix renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel. Under former President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency let dozens of small refineries off the hook. Though the Biden administration is set to change course, a high court ruling limiting refinery waivers would remove its discretion.

 

     AFPM comments: “A plain reading of the law makes clear that Congress intended for the small refinery hardship program to be a lasting safety net available to facilities for those times when RFS regulatory costs become a source of disproportionate economic harm. There is no “use it or lose it” provision in the statue,” American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) President and CEO Chet Thompson said in a statement ahead of today’s arguments. “If Congress today wants a different law, it’s their job to change it. The job of legislating shouldn’t be punted to the courts.”

 

     Ethanol and biodiesel makers argue the exemptions have undercut demand, running counter to Congress’ goal of bolstering renewable fuel production. Curtailing waivers could encourage more investments in distributing and blending plant-based fuels, they say.

 

     Background: Biofuel advocates challenged the surge in RFS waivers in federal court, arguing the waivers should be reserved only for refineries that have continuously secured extensions of their initial exemptions. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in January 2020, finding the EPA had wrongly exempted refineries owned by HollyFrontier Corp. and CVR Energy Inc.’s Wynnewood Refining Co. The Supreme Court is now reviewing the 10th Circuit’s ruling that refineries should only be eligible if they initially received waivers and had them continually extended — an approach under which only a few nationwide would qualify.

 

     HollyFrontier and Wynnewood argue the 10th Circuit wrongly adopted a strained reading of federal law that could prompt the closing of some small refineries. “Congress intended small refinery exemptions to act as a critical safety valve to protect vital refining assets while meeting the obligations of the RFS,” HollyFrontier said in an emailed statement.

 

     The prospect of fewer exemptions has driven up the cost of the RIN credits. RINs tracking ethanol blending have soared 823% since the 10th Circuit ruling, up from just 15.5 cents apiece on Jan. 24, 2020 to $1.43 on Monday. At the same time, RINs tracking biodiesel blending climbed from 41 cents to $1.51 each, a 268% increase.

 

— Calif. governor seeks to ban new fracking by 2024. California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week ordered his administration to take steps to ban new permitting for hydraulic fracturing by 2024 and to end all oil and natural gas drilling in the state by 2045. American Petroleum Institute Senior Vice President of Communications Megan Bloomgren called the announcement "bad policy masquerading as climate progress" and said that "California needs more energy options, not fewer, as county populations grow.” Link to L.A. Times article (paywall). Newsom wants his state to look for ways to phase out oil extraction altogether by no later than 2045. The move makes California the first in the world to set an end date for oil production, and the timing syncs with the state’s target date to achieve carbon neutrality.

 

     Newsom had insisted last fall that he couldn’t unilaterally ban fracking as governor, calling on the legislature to act instead, but he is now facing the prospect of a recall election that could remove him from office.

 

     Perspective: Newsom’s announcement on fracking, which must undergo a lengthy rule-making process, does not affect existing operations. California accounts for about 5% of U.S. oil production but fracking only represents about 17% of the state’s oil and gas output. Most fracking is concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, a rare Republican section in California represented by GOP leader Keven McCarthy in Congress, making Newsom’s action politically polarizing.

 

— EPA to restore California's power over auto emissions rules, reversing Trump. California's ambition to retake the lead on climate change policy in the United States received a major boost as the Biden administration moved toward allowing the state to once more set its own car pollution standards, a right revoked under former President Donald Trump.T he Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is reviewing a major Trump-era action that blocked California's legal authority to set tailpipe emission standards for cars and SUVs that are tougher than federal regulations. After seeking the public's input, as required by law, the agency intends to rescind the Trump administration's decision, a spokesman for the agency said.

 

— Washington state legislature passed a carbon pricing bill this weekend that would make it the second U.S. state to put a binding limit on emissions across all sectors of the economy. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, the former presidential candidate and climate champion, previously failed to pass carbon pricing, both through the legislature and as a ballot measure. The proposed Climate Commitment Act creates a system capping all types of greenhouse gas emissions and requiring businesses to purchase permits to pollute. Money collected through the system would fund projects to cut emissions from transportation and to protect infrastructure against the effects of climate change.

 

— Washington, we have a measuring problem: Effort to cut world’s greenhouse emissions may be hampered by a giant accounting problem. Scientists have identified a staggering 5.5-billion-ton gap between greenhouse gas emissions that countries acknowledge each year and the emissions calculated by independent models. It is an accounting discrepancy that threatens to complicate the already difficult task of resetting the world’s climate trajectory. Link for more via Washington Post.

 

— House Republicans are prioritizing energy and climate change as they craft a message at their annual retreat in Orlando this week that can help them win back the majority. Republicans intend to announce an energy and climate task force, to define an agenda they could carry out with control of the House. House Republicans’ focus on climate at their retreat comes after they broadcast a climate forum last week to counter President Joe Biden’s leaders’ summit by promoting tax subsidies and government spending to boost development of clean energy technologies and opposing larger policies to reduce fossil fuel use. House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wants to overhaul their party's climate change platform and messaging to compete with Democrats and the Biden administration, partly in response to polls showing the GOP is vulnerable among young and suburban voters concerned about the environment and climate change.

 


FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


 

— USDA to expand pandemic electronic benefit transfer benefits to provide low-income schoolchildren access to food. The White House released an announcement from the USDA that it is kicking off “a new effort funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits.” USDA says the summer months “are difficult for low-income children because they lack access to school meals that fill a nutrition gap during the school year. When school is out of session, summer feeding programs — considered a lifeline for some families — reach just a small fraction, typically less than 20%, of the number served during the school year. This summer, USDA will offer P-EBT benefits to all low-income children of all ages, helping families put food on the table during the Covid-19 pandemic.” In a statement, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The expansion of P-EBT benefits over the summer is a first-of-its-kind, game-changing intervention to reduce child hunger in the United States. By providing low-income families with a simple benefit over the summer months, USDA is using an evidenced-based solution to drive down hunger and ensure no child has to miss a meal.”

 


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


 

Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 147,918,659 with 3,122,200 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 32, 125,098 with 572,674 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 239,768,454 doses administered, 87,867,908 have been fully vaccinated, or 26.9% of the U.S. population.

— Biden to announce updated mask guidance today. President Biden is expected to announce updated guidance on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The guidance is likely to ease recommendations that Americans wear masks even while outdoors.

 

— Biden to send AstraZeneca doses abroad, promises to assist India. The U.S. announced it would send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine abroad, and President Joe Biden pledged his full support to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is combating the world’s largest surge of infections. The U.S.' AstraZeneca doses will be released “as they become available,” White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said in a tweet. It’s not clear how many doses would be sent to India. In a call, Biden and Modi pledged to “work closely together” to combat Covid-19, and Biden promised “steadfast support for the people of India.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not say to which countries the vaccines would be sent but said the shot would have to be approved by national regulators first. Four million doses of the vaccine had already been granted to neighbors Canada and Mexico. Under current plans, 10 million doses will be shipped “in coming weeks,” Psaki said, while the remaining 50 million will be ready in May and June.

 

— USTR Tai discusses Covid vaccine situation with Pfizer, AstraZeneca. Discussions on Covid vaccine production and the issue of waiving certain provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the pandemic were held separately between U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and officials from Pfizer and AstraZeneca. In discussions with Dr. Ruud Dobber, Executive Vice-President of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit, and Head of U.S. Business at AstraZeneca, Tai noted the U.S. announcement of sharing doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as they become available. As for the TRIPS issue, the readouts from USTR on the situation only yielded that Tai was committed to “working with other WTO members on a global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the role of developing countries in any solution that addresses critical gaps in global production and distribution of vaccines.”

 

— West Virginia will begin offering $100 savings bonds to people aged 16 to 35 who get vaccinated, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced on Monday. Meanwhile, months after reporting dangerously high Covid-19 infection levels, the Navajo Nation now says it has vaccinated more than half of its adults for the disease, outpacing the rest of the United States.

 

POLITICS & ELECTIONS

 

— States that voted for Biden lose three net House seats after Census count. In the past decade, the U.S. population grew at its slowest rate since the 1930s, driven by lower rates of immigration and births, the Census Bureau said. The bureau also reported changes to the nation’s political map: The long-running trend of the South and the West gaining population — and Congressional representation — at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest, continued. The data will be used to reapportion seats in Congress, and, in turn, the Electoral College, based on new state population counts.

 

     Texas has gained two more votes in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gained one seat, based on the first set of results from the 2020 Census released Monday.

     The seven states losing one vote each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

 

     Later in the year, the Census Bureau will release data that shows the growth in population centers, and that will guide states in redrawing their congressional district maps.

 

     The average House seat will now represent 761,169 people, up from 710,767 from 2010. The Census also announced that the total U.S. population stands at 331,449,281 people, a 7.4% growth since 2010, but the second-slowest growth decade in U.S. history.

 

     New York would have kept all of its seats in the U.S. House if the Census Bureau had counted 89 more people in the state, all other things being equal. The last seat went to Minnesota instead of New York, officials told reporters on a call. As noted, New York was one of seven states to lose a House seat in the 2020 Census.

 

     Utah was the fastest-growing state. Three states lost populations, with West Virginia's population declining at the fastest rate.

 

     Analysis: The detailed data needed to draw official district lines won't be released until the fall. “But Republicans, who only need to pick up five seats to win back the House, enter the upcoming mapping wars with a clear advantage,” writes David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report. His bottom line: “These estimates are not hard and fast and will be updated frequently throughout 2021 and 2022. But right now, Republicans might expect to gain between zero and eight House seats via map changes — potentially enough to regain House control.” Wasserman observes that “the reapportionment counts alone offer a small net boost for Republicans: had the 2020 presidential election been held under the new apportionment counts, President Biden would have won the White House with 303, rather than 306, electoral votes.”

 

     State changes

     Seat Map

     Electoral vote changes

     Overall, the U.S. population grew 7.4% in the past decade, reaching 331,449,281 on April 1, 2020. The census, because it is pegged to April 1, doesn’t reflect most of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the population. Since then, the U.S. has seen half a million more deaths than in recent years, a birthrate that dropped to a record low and slowing immigration.
 

     Population pace

     U.S. population
     In this image from video provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau Ron Jarmin speaks as a graphic showing the U.S. population as of April 1, 2020, is displayed during a virtual news conference Monday, April 26, 2021. The Census Bureau is releasing the first data from its 2020 headcount. (U.S. Census Bureau via AP)

 

— New York Post: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Utah) not ruling out 2024 presidential run. House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is not ruling out a potential presidential bid, the New York Post reported (link). “I’m not ruling anything in or out — I’ve been here a long time,” she told the NYP when asked if she would ever consider running in the future. She has been a frequent target of former President Donald Trump. She also said lawmakers who led the efforts on challenging the election on Jan. 6 should be out of the running. “I think we have a huge number of interesting candidates, but I think that we’re going to be in a good position to be able to take the White House. I do think that some of our candidates who led the charge, particularly the senators who led the unconstitutional charge, not to certify the election, you know, in my view that’s disqualifying,” she said. 
 

— Ryan first Democrat in 2022 Ohio Senate race. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan became the first Democrat to announce he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rob Portman. Ryan, 47, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, will run opposite a crowded Republican primary field. Other Democrats are considering a bid but haven’t announced.
 

— AP analysis: Biden has not explained how he plans to curtail migrant surge.  The AP reports (link) that the Department of Homeland Security is dealing with a “crisis” due to “a major increase of border arrivals.” The “largest number of unaccompanied children ever at the border created massive overcrowding at Customs and Border Protection facilities and set off a mad scramble for temporary space.” The AP says Biden “has yet to articulate a plan to manage asylum flows beyond proposing that billions of dollars be spent to address root causes in Central America.” The AP reports that Vice President Harris, “tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration, has spoken to the leaders of Mexico and Guatemala, but no regional meeting is on the horizon.”
 

— Garland announces DOJ investigation into Louisville PD following Breonna Taylor death. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the launching of a “pattern or practice” investigation into Louisville’s government and Louisville’s police department to determine whether there were violations of constitutional rights or federal statutes, less than a week after announcing such an investigation into Minneapolis too.
 

     Perspective: During the Obama administration, over two dozen similar investigations were made. Observers say research shows little if any changes in places which were investigated.
 

— Comparing the first 100 days of recent U.S. presidents:

    Comparing at 100 days



 

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