Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: May 22, 2022

Chart: U.S. Retail Sales Rose in April 2022

The reading showed American consumers continued to spend despite stubbornly high levels of inflation although it was the smallest gain in retail trade in four months.

Inflation rate slowed to 8.3% in April from a 41-year high of 8.5% in March

Source : Trading Economics

Chart: Philly Fed’s Business Outlook Survey Plunge in May 2022

Missing expectation of 15

Source : Bloomberg

Humour: News in Cartoons

Cracks in U.S. Economy Start to Show as Recession Warnings Mount

Rich Miller wrote . . . . . . . . .

The late Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson once quipped that Wall Street had predicted nine out of the last five recessions. This time, the stock market may be right.

The US economy is starting to show signs of strain under the weight of decades-high inflation and climbing interest rates — raising the risk of a downturn.

Investors are taking note, with equities nosediving this week as earnings gloom at retailers like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. fueled the growing fears. And the trend could spell trouble for President Joe Biden, whose Democrats must defend thin Congressional majorities in November’s midterm vote.

Squeezed by higher prices for gasoline and food, American households are taking on record amounts of debt to help make ends meet. Socked by higher mortgage rates, homebuilders are turning gloomier about the outlook. Small firms are also struggling with rising business costs and difficulties in hiring or retaining workers.

“I don’t think you can have a completely benign soft landing of the economy at this point,” where inflation comes down but unemployment doesn’t go up, said Ethan Harris, head of global economics research at Bank of America Corp. “We’re either going to have a weak economy or a recession.”

Wall Street economists are cutting their growth forecasts in response to a tightening of financial conditions engineered by an inflation-fighting Federal Reserve. The last six months have seen a drop in equity prices, higher interest rates, and a stronger dollar.

‘Uncomfortable’ Odds

Most economists are betting that the economy has enough momentum — and pent-up demand for automobiles, housing and travel, thanks to savings built up in the pandemic — to carry it through the end of this year without stumbling. It’s next year and beyond where they see the greater danger. And even then, the consensus is for a slowdown rather than a slump.

In a May 18 note, JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief US economist Michael Feroli said he now sees growth easing from 2.4% in the second half of this year to 1% in the latter half of 2023 as the Fed’s hikes cool off demand, like they’re intended to. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists led by Jan Hatzius also downgraded their outlook in the past week.

But a growing number of analysts are warning that something worse could be in store.

“We put the odds that the economy will suffer a downturn beginning in the next 12 months at one in three with uncomfortable near-even odds of a recession in the next 24 months,” Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said in a May 16 note.

A lot depends on what happens with inflation and the Fed. If inflation stays well above the central bank’s 2% target — it’s more than 3 times higher now — policy makers may feel compelled to respond forcefully to bring it down, tipping the economy into recession.

The Fed raised interest rates by 50 basis points earlier this month and Chair Jerome Powell has signaled it’s on track to make similar-sized moves at its meetings in June and July.

The Fed chief acknowledged for the first time on May 17 that the central bank’s pivot to tighter policy might result in higher joblessness, though he argued that wouldn’t necessarily deliver a hammer blow. “You can still have quite a strong labor market if unemployment were to move up a few ticks,” Powell told a Wall Street Journal event.

Housing Frontline

Powell also admitted that the central bank’s ability to pull off what he called a “soft or softish” landing of the economy may depend on events outside its control. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is pushing up food and energy prices and casting a pall over global growth. China’s strict Covid Zero policy is hobbling the world’s second-largest economy and further snarling supply chains.

History is not on the Fed’s side. After examining 15 Fed tightening cycles since 1950, Bloomberg Economics’ chief US economist Anna Wong concluded that “the central bank will be hard-pressed to avoid a downturn and may need to embark on a steeper rate hike cycle than markets currently expect.”

The housing market is on the front line of the Fed’s drive to slow growth by raising the cost of credit. Since the end of last year, mortgage rates have risen by more than two percentage points, the fastest run-up in roughly four decades.

“Housing leads the business cycle and housing is slowing,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Jerry Konter, after the industry group reported that confidence among its members slumped for a fifth straight month in May, to the lowest since early in the pandemic.

Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, said he expects the economy to fall into a modest recession in the second half of next year as Fed rate-increases bite. He sees unemployment rising to 4.4% in 2023 — from a current rate of 3.6%, which is close to a 50-year low.

National Federation of Independent Business chief economist William Dunkelberg also sees a recession coming. A majority of small-business owners surveyed by the NFIB in April expect conditions for their firms to worsen over the next six months, the most downbeat outlook in 48 years. About one-third said inflation was their biggest headache, the most since 1980.

Inflation is top of mind for households as well — and a key reason why consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan, has slumped to the lowest since 2011.

Beset by rising prices, Americans are increasingly relying on credit to keep on buying, according to Goldman’s Hatzius — who reckons that can’t last.

Consumer borrowing “supports spending in the short term but ultimately is not going to be a sustainable source of big increases in spending,” he told Bloomberg Television on May 17. “So it builds in a slowdown, sort of down the road.”

Source : BNN Bloomberg

Apple, Google, and Microsoft Will Soon Implement Passwordless Sign-in on All Major Platforms

Corin Faife wrote . . . . . . . . .

On May 5th — World Password Day — we might have come one step closer to passwords being a thing of the past.

In a joint effort, tech giants Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced Thursday morning that they have committed to building support for passwordless sign-in across all of the mobile, desktop, and browser platforms that they control in the coming year. Effectively, this means that passwordless authentication will come to all major device platforms in the not too distant future: Android and iOS mobile operating systems; Chrome, Edge, and Safari browsers; and the Windows and macOS desktop environments.

“Just as we design our products to be intuitive and capable, we also design them to be private and secure,” said Kurt Knight, senior director of platform product marketing at Apple. “Working with the industry to establish new, more secure sign-in methods that offer better protection and eliminate the vulnerabilities of passwords is central to our commitment to building products that offer maximum security and a transparent user experience — all with the goal of keeping users’ personal information safe.”

A passwordless login process will let users choose their phones as the main authentication device for apps, websites, and other digital services, as Google detailed in a blog post published Thursday. Unlocking the phone with whatever is set as the default action — entering a PIN, drawing a pattern, or using fingerprint unlock — will then be enough to sign in to web services without the need to ever enter a password, made possible through the use of a unique cryptographic token called a passkey that is shared between the phone and the website.

By making logins contingent on a physical device, the idea is that users will simultaneously benefit from simplicity and security. Without a password, there will be no obligation to remember login details across services or compromise security by reusing the same password in multiple places. Equally, a passwordless system will make it much more difficult for hackers to compromise login details remotely since signing in requires access to a physical device; and, theoretically, phishing attacks where users are directed to a fake website for password capture will be much harder to mount.

Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s vice president for security, compliance, identity, and privacy, emphasized the degree of compatibility across platforms. “With passkeys on your mobile device, you’re able to sign in to an app or service on nearly any device, regardless of the platform or browser the device is running,” Jakkal said in an emailed statement. “For example, users can sign-in on a Google Chrome browser that’s running on Microsoft Windows—using a passkey on an Apple device.”

The cross-platform functionality is being made possible by a standard called FIDO, which uses the principles of public key cryptography to enable passwordless authentication and multi-factor authentication in a range of contexts. A user’s phone can store a unique FIDO-compliant passkey and will share it with a website for authentication only when the phone is unlocked. Per Google’s post, passkeys can also be easily synced to a new device from cloud backup in the event that a phone is lost.

Though many popular applications already included support for FIDO authentication, initial sign-on has required the use of a password before FIDO can be configured — meaning that users were still vulnerable to phishing attacks that see passwords intercepted or stolen along the way.

But the new procedures will do away with the initial requirement for a password, as Sampath Srinivas, product management director for secure authentication at Google and president of the FIDO Alliance, said in an email statement sent to The Verge.

“This extended FIDO support being announced today will make it possible for websites to implement, for the first time, an end-to-end passwordless experience with phishing-resistant security,” said Srinivas. “This includes both the first sign-in to a website and repeat logins. When passkey support becomes available across the industry in 2022 and 2023, we’ll finally have the internet platform for a truly passwordless future.”

So far, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all said that they expect the new sign-in capabilities to become available across platforms in the next year, although a more specific roadmap has not been announced. Although the plot to kill the password has been underway for years, there are signs that, this time, it may have finally succeeded.

Source : The Verge

Infographic: The State of Global Democracy in 2022

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

Falls Can be a Serious, Poorly Understood Threat to People with Heart Disease

Michael Merschel wrote . . . . . . . . .

Falls pose a major risk to people with heart problems, and health experts need to do more to understand and prevent the danger, a new report says.

“Falls are very common,” said Dr. Sarah Goodlin, senior author of the scientific statement from the American Heart Association. They are associated with serious injuries, and just the fear of falling can limit a person’s quality of life.

“And falls are particularly common in adults with cardiovascular disease,” said Goodlin, medical director of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the VA Portland Health Care System in Oregon. “Yet they’re very underrecognized.”

The report, published Thursday in the AHA journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, said basic information is lacking on how often and why people with heart disease fall, as well as on how severely they are injured.

One 2018 study published in that same Circulation journal estimated that 60% faced a moderate to high risk of falling. That’s based on records from 2,456 people hospitalized with heart disease in one Minnesota county.

Overall, the potential harm from falls is clear, said report co-author Stephanie Turrise, a nurse-scientist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year. About 3 million of those who fall will end up in an emergency room for treatment, and more than 32,000 will die.

“Falls, especially in older adults, can be absolutely devastating,” Turrise said.

Problems can persist even after someone has recovered and becomes afraid of falling again, Goodlin said. That can start a vicious cycle where older adults with cardiovascular problems become less active and more prone to problems, Turrise said. “To keep them healthy, they’ve got to be active.”

Heart problems can lead to falls both directly and indirectly.

A heart rhythm problem, for example, might cause blood pressure to dip, which could cause someone to lose consciousness. Fall risks also could be higher in someone with diabetes, who might have foot numbness from neuropathy, or in someone recovering from a stroke, who might have weakness on one side, Turrise said.

The report says people with heart failure, a condition in which the heart and circulation do not circulate blood adequately, and irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias might be at higher risk of falling than those without these conditions.

Medications to treat cardiovascular conditions can cause side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, confusion or other problems, Turrise said.

“I can’t tell you how many older adults are on diuretics for heart failure or for blood pressure management,” she said, “and it increases their urinary frequency, and they get in such a hurry to make it to the bathroom that they fall.” Diuretics also can cause the person’s blood pressure to drop when they stand, making them lightheaded, Goodlin said.

Medical teams need to take note, Turrise said. “We need to be aware, and we need to act.”

People can be embarrassed to admit they fell, Goodlin said. So, a “really simple” first step for a health care team would be simply asking patients about falls. Health care professionals should also watch patients walk, and if they seem off balance, consider sending them to a physical therapist for a more in-depth evaluation.

“One of the fundamental things that we advocate is checking blood pressure when the person has been standing for three minutes,” Goodlin said. That can alert a care team to health problems or medications that might be causing worrisome dips.

Teams also need to think holistically, she said. A cardiologist who rules out a heart-related cause for a fall shouldn’t dismiss the problem, because “it’s still important to sort out why the person fell and to intervene to try to prevent the next fall.”

For patients, Goodlin said, the most important thing is to be honest with their doctors and nurses, even if they are embarrassed to bring it up, and to say they have fallen or that they’re afraid of falling when they walk.

“There are things that can be done to improve their situation,” she said. “Certain exercises can improve balance and safety, so working with a physical therapist can help.”

It’s essential for people who are given assistive devices to use them, Goodlin said. Some people don’t want to use a cane or a walker because they think it makes them look old. “You look a whole lot older in a hospital bed with a hip fracture than you look being safe,” she reminds her patients.

Turrise said people also can ask an expert, such as their doctor or pharmacist, to review their medications to see what might be contributing to falls.

More research could lead to better ways to protect and treat people, the report says. Meanwhile, “there’s really a partnership between adults who have cardiovascular disease and their doctors and nurses,” Goodlin said. “Adults need to feel comfortable talking to doctors and nurses about falls and safety.”

Source: American Heart Association