Surging Energy Prices Get Biden’s Attention in Push for Coordinated Global Response
Deere workers approved a new six-year contract | Tai gives signals of Biden trade policy
In Today’s Digital Newspaper
• New jobless claims again inch lower toward pre-pandemic level
• Deere workers voted to end a strike lasting over a month
• Reasons for rising inflation
• FTC asked to look into oil, gas markets
• Biden turning to world's largest oil consuming nations to lower global prices
• U.S. withdrawals from SPR reach highest level since 2011
• Gulf oil and gas lease sale sees big activity
• Why California gas is so much higher than other states
• Update on push for 24/7 operations to untangle congestion at Port of Los Angeles
• Ag demand update
• Wheat leads followthrough buying overnight
• Strategie Grains sees high wheat prices cutting demand
• Wholesale beef prices drop again
• CME lean hog index a little lower
• House Dems more upbeat on BBB vote…not certain when
• Manchin says he is fine with vote on BBB before year’s end
Biden Administration Personnel:
• Controversial nominee gets hearing today
• U.S. and China announces agreement to ease restrictions on journalists
• U.S. urged to temper commercial ties with China
• Soybeans, sorghum, upland cotton and beef main U.S. sales to China in latest week
• Chinese corn, sorghum imports up sharply
• Chinese pork imports fall sharply from year-ago in October
• Three amigos in Washington
• Tai suggests U.S. focused on other avenues in Asia-Pacific region than joining CPTPP
• OSHA told to suspend enforcement of vaccine mandate for private businesses
• Lawmakers weigh in on concern over vaccine mandates and FSA county offices
Politics & Elections:
• Rep. Butterfield (D-N.C.) won’t seek re-election
Other Items of Note:
• Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiyi Reznikov is in Washington today
• Groups call for withdrawal of certain pesticides
Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly down in overnight trading. The U.S. stock indexes are pointed to higher openings. Asian equities closed lower in part as Japanese economic data disappointed. The Nikkei fell 89.67 points, 0.30%, at 29,598.66. The Hang Seng Index declined 300.36 points, 1.29%, at 25,319.36. European equities are lower in early action, with the Stoxx 600 down 0.1% with regional markets mostly lower with losses up to 0.4%; France’s CAC 40 is posting a modest 0.2% rise.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow fell 211.17 points, 0.58%, at 35,931.05. The Nasdaq was down 52.28 points, 0.33%, at 15,921.57. The S&P 500 finished down 12.23 points, 0.26%, at 4,688.67.
On tap today:
• U.S. jobless claims are expected to fall to 260,000 in the week ended Nov. 13 from 267,000 one week earlier. Follow our coverage here. (8:30 a.m. ET) UPDATE: As of last week, initial filings for unemployment benefits, seen as a proxy for layoffs, fell to 268,000, down 1,000 from the prior week’s revised level of 269,000, according to data released today by the Labor Department. Weekly new claims have fallen substantially from the 2020 peak of about 6.1 million new claims in a single week, and in recent weeks have inched closer to the 200,000 new claims per week seen before the pandemic.
• Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing survey is expected to tick down to 23 in November from 23.8 one month earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
• USDA Weekly Export Sales report, 8:30 a.m. ET.
• Saule Omarova, President Biden’s pick for comptroller of the currency, appears before the Senate Banking Committee at 9:30 a.m. ET.
• Conference Board's leading economic index for October is expected to increase 0.8% from the prior month. (10 a.m. ET)
• Kansas City Fed's manufacturing survey is expected to slip to 30 in November from 31 one month earlier. (11 a.m. ET)
• Federal Reserve speakers: Atlanta’s Raphael Bostic to the Metro Atlanta Chamber at 7:30 a.m. ET, New York’s John Williams on the trans-Atlantic pandemic response at 9:30 a.m. ET, Chicago’s Charles Evans on the economy and monetary policy at 2 p.m. ET, and San Francisco’s Mary Daly at a Fed Listens event at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Deere workers voted to end a strike lasting over a month, approving a third contract offer from the company that boosts wages and includes bonuses. The contract was approved by a margin of 61% to 39%, the United Auto Workers union said. “We’re giving employees the opportunity to earn wages and benefits that are the best in our industries,” Deere Chief Executive John May said in a statement. “We have faith that, in return, our employees will find new and better ways to improve our competitiveness.”
Details: Deere workers returning to assembly plants and warehouses will get an immediate 10% raise, and each worker will receive an $8,500 bonus. Additional 5% pay raises will be provided in 2023 and 2025, and lump-sum bonuses amounting to 3% of workers’ annual pay will be awarded in the three other years. The deal approved Wednesday also will increase the base pay level for Deere’s continuous-improvement program by about 4%, giving workers more weekly pay from the program if their productivity meets the company’s goals. About two-thirds of UAW-represented Deere workers receive production-based compensation on top of their regular wages, according to the company.
- Steve Rattner, a former Obama economic adviser, lashed out at the Biden administration today in a New York Times op-ed titled: "I Warned the Democrats About Inflation." Link He wrote, “How could an administration loaded with savvy political and economic hands have gotten this critical issue so wrong? They can’t say they weren’t warned — notably by Larry Summers, a former Treasury secretary and my former boss in the Obama administration, and less notably by many others, including me. We worried that shoveling an unprecedented amount of spending into an economy already on the road to recovery would mean too much money chasing too few goods.”
- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is facing questions in private meetings with Democratic senators this week about how he plans to counter soaring inflation. Powell’s private answer echoes his public response — that he plans to reduce the Fed’s $120 billion in monthly asset purchases by $15 billion a month, and then consider raising interest rates.
- U.S. ag sector lobbyists are focused on the dramatic surge in fertilizer prices. Fingers are being pointed at some companies amid major price increases on a weekly basis. The surge in fertilizer costs is expected to lower net incomes for midwestern grain farms in 2022 by 34% from the high levels of 2020 and 2021, say five university economists.
- Logistical/supply chain snafus still linger and are contributing to price runups for a host of products. Cargo ships idle off the coast of Southern California, freight trains carry empty cars, and trucking companies struggle with labor shortages.
- Inflation is not just occurring in the U.S. Inflation in Canada is running the hottest since 2003. The country's consumer price index in October climbed 4.7% from one year earlier, Statistics Canada said. The report follows elevated inflation readings in the U.S., U.K., eurozone and other countries contending with high energy prices and pandemic-related shortages.
- Harvard professor and former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman writes in the WSJ: "It’s the [Federal Reserve's] job to keep inflation under control. No more wishful thinking that inflation is about to downshift dramatically. Policy makers at the Fed need to recognize that tools like asset purchases can’t solve the supply-side problems constraining U.S. labor markets and output. They have a dual mandate. They have to take inflation into account even if the economy isn’t yet at maximum employment. ... The central bank should express a more realistic understanding of inflation and firm up monetary policy by tapering its asset purchases more quickly. The Fed should set the default expectation that the federal-funds rate will be on an upward path starting in the first half of 2022 and that if employment or inflation is much lower than expected, the hikes will be slowed or canceled,"
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is weaker ahead of US economic data, with the euro and yen both firmer against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was slightly higher, trading around 1.59%, with global government bond yields mostly lower. Gold and silver futures are lower ahead of US economic reports, with gold under $1,866 per troy ounce and silver under $25.06 per troy ounce.
• Crude futures are mixed with U.S. crude shifting between losses and gains, trading around $78.35 per barrel and Brent firmer around $80.45 per barrel. Futures were under pressure in Asian action, with U.S. crude down 72 cents at $77.64 per barrel while Brent was down 32 cents at $79.96 per barrel.
• FTC asked to look into oil, gas markets. President Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that oversees consumer protection, to look into whether “illegal conduct” by large oil and gas companies is pushing up gasoline prices. He specifically pointed to gasoline prices that rose about 3% from a month earlier, even as the price of unfinished gasoline was down more than 5%. "This unexplained large gap is well above the pre-pandemic average," Biden said in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. "Meanwhile, the largest oil-and-gas companies in America are generating significant profits off higher energy prices." Outside analysts expressed skepticism that the FTC would find enough evidence to substantiate Biden’s allegations, and they said the president has few options for quickly lowering gasoline prices. Asked for comment on the letter, an FTC spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the commission “is concerned about this issue, and we are looking into it.” The American Petroleum Institute (API) took issue with the Biden request, with API Senior Vice President for Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola saying in a statement it was a “distraction” from fundamental market shifts and decisions by the administration that are “exacerbating this challenging situation.” API said that instead of investigating markets “that are regulated and closely monitored on a daily basis or pleading with OPEC to increase supply, we should be encouraging the safe and responsible development of American-made oil and natural gas.”
• Biden administration is turning to some of the world's largest oil consuming nations to lower global prices after OPEC+ snubbed several requests to increase crude production. According to the White House, President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the "importance of taking measures to address global energy supplies" during their virtual summit this week. That sparked chatter about a coordinated move initiated by the White House to put millions of barrels of oil on the market. Reuters reports that the coordinated effort could include China, India, South Korea and Japan, and would involve releasing national crude stockpiles at a time when prices are rising at the pump. The U.S. and allies have coordinated strategic petroleum reserve releases before, with the last big effort coming during the 2011 war in OPEC member Libya. "We're talking about the symbolism of the largest consumers of the world sending a message to OPEC that 'you've got to change your behavior,'" a source told Reuters.
• U.S. withdrawals from SPR reach highest level since 2011. While some lawmakers continue to push the Biden administration to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as a way to bring down gasoline prices, data is showing that withdrawals from the SPR are already taking place at the highest level since reserves were released in September 2011 after the uprising in Libya, according to Bloomberg. Some 3.25 million barrels were withdrawn from the SPR in the latest week of data, with another 3.1 million barrels withdrawn the prior week. These withdrawals from the SPR are not an administration effort to bring down gasoline prices but rather are normal sales from the reserve. Given that gasoline prices are still lofty, it appears to add credence to the testimony from the head of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) this week that tapping the SPR would have a minor impact on gasoline prices.
• Gulf oil and gas lease sale sees big activity. The Department of Interior’s sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday saw brisk activity, with oil companies shelling out $191.7 million to purchase drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, with 33 companies putting in 317 bids for 308 tracts covering 1.7 million acres, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. This is the heaviest activity in an auction since 2014. Many of the leases sold were in shallow water areas, an indication some say reflects oil companies’ interest in the lower-carbon crude that comes from those locations. The active interest was also a potential reflection of uncertainty regarding further sales that could have more-stringent conditions and higher fees. Not surprisingly, environmental interests decried the sale which took place after the Biden executive order to suspend new oil and gas lease sales was struck down in federal court. In a briefing on transportation issues at national parks Wednesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the agency’s review of the oil and gas leasing program was still being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and she indicated she could not estimate whether it would be released by the end of the year.
• Why California gas is so much higher than other states. California gas prices have always been among the nation’s highest, and now they are at the very top — around $1.25 per gallon above the national average, according to the American Automobile Assn. Some reasons:
— The nation’s highest fuel taxes. State politicians — mainly Democrats — proposed the high state levies, but voters approved them. Some say they are for a good cause: mainly road construction. For every gallon of gas, motorists pay nearly 67 cents in state and local taxes. Additionally, there’s an 18.4-cent federal tax, bringing the total government tab to 85.4 cents. That’s 29 cents higher than other states’ taxes on average, according to the California Energy Commission.
— The commission also estimates that oil companies pass along to consumers a 23-cent-per-gallon cost of participating in the state’s climate-fighting cap-and-trade program, which involves buying permits to emit greenhouse gas.
— Motorists also face about 18 cents for the companies’ cost of meeting the state’s low carbon fuel standards. And, 15 cents are added for California’s special anti-smog blends.
— The crude itself is costing a bit more than $2.
• Update on the push for 24/7 operations to untangle congestion at the Port of Los Angeles. Officials say the number of containers stuck for long periods on the docks has fallen sharply this month but the number of ships waiting offshore reached another record this week and it may take a pause in the flood of imports for the ports to clear the backlog. The Wall Street Journal reports that one terminal at the Port of Long Beach flung open its gates around the clock for truckers in mid-September, from Monday to Thursday. But no trucks showed up. In late September, it said it would open during overnight hours only if 25 trucks made appointments. Since then, those criteria were met only one night, and only five big rigs showed up,
• Ag demand: Taiwan bought 48,000 MT of U.S. milling wheat. Japan purchased 121,805 MT of milling wheat in its weekly tender, including 89,715 MT from the U.S. and 32,090 MT from Japan. South Korea purchased 69,000 MT of corn expected to be sourced from South America or South Africa.
• NWS weather: Another around of moderate to heavy rain and strong winds will move into Pacific Northwest tonight; high elevation snow farther inland on Friday into the weekend... ...Wintry precipitation this morning and again Friday morning over interior New England; lake-effect snow will develop downwind from the Great Lakes into Friday.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:
• Wheat leads followthrough buying overnight
• Strategie Grains sees high wheat prices cutting demand
• Wholesale beef prices drop again
• CME lean hog index a little lower
— House Democratic leaders continue to be upbeat on passing the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) Act either today or more likely on Friday. Debate on the measure begins today.
CBO released its analysis of the Education and Labor Committee title for BBB on Thursday night. Along with the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means titles, those are the focus of the BBB package especially for Democratic moderates, who want to see if the CBO estimates match up with preliminary White House revenue and spending projections.
A key issue for BBB is completion of the “Byrd bath” and “privilege scrub” of the House bill. Senate parliamentarians are reviewing the proposed legislation to see if it complies with the Senate’s Byrd Rule, which controls consideration of reconciliation bills. Any needed changes will be incorporated into a managers’ amendment for BBB. House Democrats are hoping this amendment will be finished by around midday, according to reports.
Comments: Recent voting timelines have not been met, and this could face similar snags, which is why sources would not be surprised if this moves into a weekend situation.
— Manchin says he is fine with vote on BBB before year’s end. Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) indicated Wednesday that “he’s okay with a plan to vote on President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending bill by the end of the year — a day after warning that he had concerns with the Christmas timeline. Manchin told reporters, “I’m not in charge of the timing. Whatever they want to do is fine with me. ... If we’re gonna vote, vote.” But, Manchin notably didn’t say if he supported the spending bill.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION PERSONNEL
— Biden’s pick as a top financial regulator faces tough scrutiny. At her nomination hearing today, Saule Omarova, the White House’s choice to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, will face questions from a Senate committee about her commitment to capitalism, positions she took as an academic and a 1995 arrest on a misdemeanor charge.
— U.S. and China announced an agreement to ease restrictions on foreign journalists operating in the two countries. The official China Daily newspaper today said the agreement was reached ahead of this week’s virtual summit between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under the agreement, the U.S. will issue one-year multiple-entry visas to Chinese journalists and will immediately initiate a process to address “duration of status” issues, the China Daily said. China will reciprocate by granting equal treatment to U.S. journalists once the U.S. policies take effect, and both sides will issue media visas for new applicants “based on relevant laws and regulations,” the report said.
— U.S. urged to temper commercial ties with China. A commission of security and economic experts convened by Congress recommended that the U.S. take more aggressive steps to dial back commercial ties with China, warning of heightened national security risks. The annual report from the influential U.S./China Economic and Security Review Commission called for imposing restrictions on U.S. investment in China and limiting investors’ ability to buy U.S.-listed Chinese stocks. The report underscores the challenges the Biden administration faces keeping its powerful adversary in check.
— Soybeans, sorghum, upland cotton and beef main U.S. sales to China in latest week. U.S. export sales activity to China for the week ended Nov. 11 focused mostly on soybeans, sorghum, upland cotton and beef. No sales activity was reported for corn or wheat. Net sales of 124,000 tonnes of sorghum, 727,472 tonnes of soybeans, and 13,465 running bales of upland cotton were reported for 2021/22. Sales activity for 2021 included 13,751 tonnes of beef and 353 tonnes of pork.
— Chinese corn, sorghum imports up sharply. China imported 1.3 MMT of corn in October, 14.2% from last year. Through October, China imported 26.23 MMT of corn, a 236% surge from the same period last year. China’s sorghum imports totaled 830,000 MT in October, up 57.2% from last year, and its imports for the first 10 months of the year at 8.18 MMT jumped 103%. China brought in 480,000 MT of wheat last month, down 23.1% from last year, but its imports through October at 8.08 MMT rose 20.8% from year-ago levels.
— Chinese pork imports fall sharply from year-ago in October. China imported 200,000 MT of pork in October, which was down 4.8% September but 41.1% lower than last year. Through the first 10 months of this year, China imported 3.34 MMT of pork, a 7.7% drop from the same period last year.
— Three amigos in Washington. Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador join U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House today for three-way talks, informally known as the Three Amigos summit. Biden is expected to meet with both leaders separately before the summit begins. The meeting comes as both Mexico and Canada warily eye a provision for tax credits on American-made electric vehicles under consideration in Congress that both countries see as a protectionist move.
— USTR Tai suggests U.S. focused on other avenues in Asia-Pacific region than joining CPTPP. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai is currently in the Asian region and has been pushing a “course correction” in U.S. relations with countries in the region, with the Financial Times (FT) reporting Japanese trade officials indicated much of her focus has been on drawing lines of departure from the Trump administration.
In an interview with the FT, Tai appeared to downplay the prospect of the U.S. joining the CPTPP — Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal that Trump pulled out of the third day of his presidency. In the session, Tai cited ways the U.S. could strengthen relations in the region without joining CPTPP, saying there were other ways that were better than joining a trade deal negotiated eight years ago. She said her efforts this week have been on pushing the “durability” of U.S. trade policies.
“The goal of this is to accomplish a course correction,” Tai told the FT. She said there was a U.S. obligation to offer “a durability for a trade policies that will enjoy a broad base of support politically.”
She also tied her efforts to taking on China, a common theme that emerges from nearly every discussion she has held since taking on the USTR role, explaining there was a “real opportunity” for the U.S. and its trading partners to collaborate and take on “challenges that we face together from China’s non-market policies and industrial policies.”
The new framework unveiled with Japan by Tai was noted as a format to work on other issues such as the post-Covid recovery and climate crisis, noting those did not fall under the scope of existing regional trade agreements. “There really is so much for us to work on and talk about. The challenges in the global economy are coming at us fast and furiously. And there’s no time to waste,” Tai told the newspaper. “And I think these structures are going to be incredibly valuable to us in strengthening our relationship.”
Comments: It appears the Biden administration does not want to do any trade pact that has to be approved by Congress. Instead, it will seek to use “framework” deals instead that may not carry the same weight and action as a free trade agreement. And this is a signal from Tai that the Biden administration is not aiming to join the CPTPP, counter to the expectations many trade observers have had given that the Obama administration negotiated the pact that was tweaked to a degree to become the CPTPP. And it also makes clear the Biden administration views its worker-centered trade policy priorities are taking on China, COVID relief and climate issues. Meanwhile, Rep. Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.), ranking member on the House Ag Committee, is pushing Tai to testify on the Biden trade agenda, which GOP lawmakers say needs to be more ambitious. After reading about Tai’s comments to the FT, Thompson may already have his briefing or additional questions to asked Tai.
— Ag interests are pushing for something that USTR Tai says is not going to happen — joining CPTPP. They also want current trade deals enforced, including USMCA, and said it was important to get China to live up to their commitments in the Phase 1 trade deal. They also want shipping/supply chain issues addressed in a bid to make sure trade in U.S. ag goods can flow to foreign markets. Those suggestions and more came during a House Ag subcommittee Wednesday (Nov. 17).
— Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 255,156,395 with 5,126,916 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 47,420,139 with 767,435 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 444,789,186 doses administered, 195,612,365 have been fully vaccinated, or 59.59% of the U.s. population.
— OSHA has been told to suspend enforcement of the Biden administration's Covid vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees, after a federal appeals court upheld a stay on the order. The rules would have required firms to develop a roster of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees by Dec. 5, and compelled the companies to ensure unvaxxed workers wear masks at the workplace and submit to weekly testing as of Jan. 4. In terms of execution, the OSHA regulation would have been enforced through company record-keeping and some in-person inspections (with penalties of up to $13,653 for each reported violation) and covered 84 million workers nationwide. Some observers predict the vaccine or test mandate is going to be resolved at the Supreme Court.
— More lawmakers weigh in on concern over vaccine mandates and FSA county offices. Several Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to exempt county Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff from the Biden administration’s Nov. 22 deadline to be vaccinated for Covid-19.
The lawmakers said they have heard from “numerous farmers and ranches concerned with such far overreach by the Bident administration and how this mandate will jeopardize the programmatic delivery of farm bill programs.” They pointed to a combination of natural disasters across the country as a need to keep county FSA offices fully staffed. The loss of staff at the offices “will result in the loss of decades of experience and knowledge.”
They also warned the vaccine mandate will make recruiting new workers more difficult, pointing to Vilsack’s recent lament that there are fewer USDA workers than they were the last time he helmed the agency.
They further stated that the vaccine mandate “raises economic, food, and national security alarms.”
The lawmakers also chided Vilsack for having appointed only seven state FSA Directors. “This continuation of ignoring the actual needs of the agriculture community and discounting the request of your employees is disappointing,” the lawmakers said.
The letter was signed by House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and 13 other Republicans from the panel.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Rep. Butterfield (D-N.C.) won’t seek re-election. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, whose NC1 district will become considerably more competitive under a new congressional map unless a court blocks it, has decided to retire rather than run for re-election in 2022, according to multiple media reports. Butterfield joins more than a dozen Democratic House members who have decided in recent months to retire or seek a different office as the party faces a grim forecast for the midterm elections.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiyi Reznikov is in Washington today to meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as the United States continues to show support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia over a recent military buildup. The buildup has come while Belarus and Poland navigate a border standoff, with EU and Polish leaders accusing Belarus of encouraging migrants to cross into EU territory. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sees the two as linked, and accused Belarus of raising tensions in order to distract from Russia’s activities near Ukraine. Russian leader Vladimir Putin may give a deeper insight into his own analysis of the situation during a speech to Russian diplomats today in Moscow.
— Groups call for withdrawal of certain pesticides. Earthjustice is leading a push to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides to protect public health. The groups involved in the effort say such an action is needed based an analysis of health assessments for 17 organophosphates still used in the US and agricultural pesticide usage data from the U.S. Geological Survey, according to an Earthjustice report to be released today.