In the hierarchy of business threats confronting corporate leaders in 2022, Covid-19 still rules. But inflation has quickly closed the gap. Concerns about rising prices skyrocketed in the past year, according to a survey of more than 900 global CEOs conducted by the Conference Board, a business research group. More than half of the CEOs expect price pressures to persist until at least mid-2023 after having registered as a low-level worry in the year-ago survey.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatened to ruin Americans’ finances. For many, the opposite happened. Though initial shutdowns caused unemployment to surge to levels not seen since the Great Depression, trillions of dollars in government stimulus and the economy’s swift, if turbulent, recovery helped many families reach a new level of financial security.
It can be difficult now to remember what the U.S. economy looked like a year ago. The unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, with 10 million fewer people employed than before the pandemic. Expectations were that it could take years for the labor market to heal.
Americans have more money in their pockets than they ever have before. That sounds like really great news, but it isn’t, because the cost of living is rising much faster than our incomes are. In addition, much of the “new wealth” that has been created over the past couple of years has ended up in the hands of the very wealthy, and this has caused the gap between the rich and the poor to grow even wider. As for the middle class, it is being systematically hollowed out by “Bidenflation”, and that process is only going to accelerate during the early stages of 2022.
There was a huge merger in 2021: the combination of popular culture and modern finance. Tom Brady and Matt Damon were suddenly shilling for cryptocurrency exchanges. Digital tokens that started off as elaborate pranks represented tens of billions of dollars of paper wealth. And cartoon pictures of apes were selling for millions of dollars on something called the nonfungible token market, which almost no one had heard of in the long-ago days of 2020.
The Covid years are littered with predictions that didn’t work out. For anyone looking ahead into 2022, that should be enough to give pause. Most forecasters, including Bloomberg Economics, have as their base case a robust recovery with cooling prices and a shift away from emergency monetary-policy settings. What could go wrong? Plenty. Omicron, sticky inflation, Fed lift-off, China’s Evergrande slump, Taiwan, a run on emerging markets, hard Brexit, a fresh euro crisis, and rising food prices in a tinder-box Middle East — all these feature in a rogues’ gallery of risks.
While most savers recognize it is increasingly their responsibility to fund retirement rather than relying solely on a pension or Social Security, 43% worry about what will happen if Social Security runs dry, a separate survey by personal finance site MagnifyMoney found.
Americans are hoarding cash because of fatigue and uncertainty, with little chance the trend will reverse soon. Over the past two years, households have socked away close to $1.6 trillion in “excess savings,” or resources they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to save before the Covid-19 crisis, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The funds are well beyond the three to six months of emergency savings generally recommended by financial advisers.
U.S. inflation rose at the fastest pace in three decades in October, with prices increasing more in some parts of the country than in others. Consumer prices were up 7.3% last month in the region that encompasses Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Mid-Atlantic states, however, saw prices rise less, by 5.4% from a year ago. Midwesterners saw relatively higher housing costs in October, with rent, natural gas and home furnishings all rising at a brisker clip than in other regions. Rental prices in Northeastern states, by contrast, grew at a much slower pace than elsewhere last month.
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