Biggest U.S. Retailers Charter Private Cargo Ships To Sail Around Port Delays

Source: Biggest U.S. Retailers Charter Private Cargo Ships to Sail Around Port Delays – WSJ

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From Miners To Big Oil, The Great Commodity Cash Machine is Back, Energy & Commodities

JUST over five years ago, Anglo American was in deep trouble. The natural resources giant, beset by a collapse in commodity prices, scrapped its dividend and announced plans to close mines and cut thousands of workers. Amid talk of an emergency capital raise, its market value fell to less than US$3 billion.

Last week, the trials of 2016 probably seemed like a parallel universe to its chief executive officer Mark Cutifani.

Fuelled by a rally in iron ore and other commodity prices, he announced record first-half earnings and billions in dividends. Anyone who took a punt on Anglo’s shares when they reached their nadir, would have seen a 14-fold increase as the market capitalization soared to US$55 billion.

“High commodity prices have been very important to us,” Mr Cutifani told investors last week. “We don’t think this is as good as it gets.”

Anglo American is one of many. With raw materials prices surging, the whole natural resources sector is showering shareholders with special dividends and buybacks as miners, oil drillers, trading houses, steelmakers and farmers reap billions in windfall profits.

The sector, marked down by investors because of its contribution to climate change and a reputation of squandering money on mega projects, is again a great cash machine.

The economic rebound from last year’s Covid slump has powered an explosive rally in commodity prices as consumers forgo vacations and dining out and spend their money loading up on physical goods instead: everything from patio heaters to start-of-the-art TVs. Politicians are helping, too, lavishing hundreds of billions on resource-heavy infrastructure projects.

The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, a basket of nearly two dozen raw materials, surged to a 10-year high last week and is rapidly closing in on the record set in 2011.

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, has again surged above US$75 a barrel, copper is headed back towards US$10,000 a tonne, European natural gas is at its highest ever for the summer season, and steel is changing hands at unprecedented levels. Agricultural commodities such as corn, soya beans and wheat are also expensive.

“Demand continues to improve with increasing global vaccinations,” Joe Gorder, the chief executive of Valero Energy, one of the world’s largest oil refiners, said last week.

Even commodities long left for dead, like thermal coal, are enjoying a new life in 2021. Coal, burned in power stations to produce electricity, together with huge volumes of carbon emissions, is trading at a 10-year high.

While commodities prices are the main reason behind the turnaround, there are structural factors at play as well.

Miners and oil companies have cut spending in new projects savagely, creating a supply shortfall. The miners were first, as they curbed investment from 2015 to 2016 as investors demanded more discipline; oil companies followed up last year and some major energy companies last week announced further cuts in spending for 2021.

The result is that while demand is surging, supply is not – at least for now. The oil majors are benefiting too from the work of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries alliance of oil producers, which is still holding back a large share of output.

Anglo American, which announced US$4 billion in dividends, is probably the most remarkable turnaround story in the natural resources sector, but its profits were still dwarfed by its bigger rivals. Rio Tinto and Vale, the world’s two leading iron ore miners, together vowed to hand back more than US$17 billion in dividends recently. There is still more to come for investors, with both BHP, the world’s biggest miner, and Glencore, another big miner and commodity trader, yet to report.

And for once, the world’s biggest steelmakers were not only able to absorb the costs, but pass them on. An industry that has spent much of the last decade in crisis is now also able to reward long-suffering shareholders.

The world’s largest steelmaker outside China, ArcelorMittal, that was forced to sell shares and scrap its dividend just five years ago, posted its best results since 2008 last week and announced a US$2.2 billion share buyback programme.

The miners have stolen the spotlight from the energy industry, traditionally the biggest dividend payer in the natural resources industry.

Still, Big Oil recovered from the historic price collapse of 2020, when a vicious Saudi-Russian price war and the Covid-19 pandemic briefly sent the value of West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, below zero. Supported by rising oil, natural gas, and, above all, the chemicals that go into plastics, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and TotalEnergies delivered profits that went to pre-covid levels.

With cash flow surging, Shell, which last year cut its dividend for the first time since World War II, was able to hike it nearly 40 per cent, and announced an additional US$2 billion in buybacks. “We wanted to signal to the market the confidence that we have in cash flows,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said.

Chevron and Total also announced they will buy shares. Exxon, though, is still licking its wounds and focused on paying down debt.

The more opaque world of commodity trading has also cashed in. Glencore said last week that it was expecting bigger trading profits than forecast, with rivals Vitol and Trafigura, two of the world’s largest oil traders, also benefiting from lucrative opportunities created by rocketing prices.

The agricultural traders have cashed on higher prices and unusually strong demand from China.

Bunge, a trader that is the world’s largest crusher of soya beans, told investors it expected to deliver its best earnings-per-share since its initial public offer two decades ago. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co, another big American grain trader and processor, also flagged strong earnings. And Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural trader, is heading towards record earnings in its 2021 fiscal year.

Whether the natural resources boom can last is hotly contested. Many investors worry climate change makes the long-term future of the industry hard to read and they also fret about the tendency of executives to approve expensive projects at the peak of the cycle.

Mining executives fear Chinese demand will slow down at some point, hitting iron ore in particular. But the current lack of investments may support other commodities, like copper and oil.

But Shell’s Mr van Beurden summed up the bullish case last week: “Supply is going to be constrained, and demand is actually quite strong”. BLOOMBERG

Source: From miners to Big Oil, the great commodity cash machine is back, Energy & Commodities – THE BUSINESS TIMES

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The Real Reason You Should Never Park At The Airport

Should you park at the airport before you fly somewhere? Airports hope you answer “yes,” but frequent travelers like Andy Abramson are unconvinced. They almost never park at the airport, and with good reason.

“There’s really little value in parking at the airport,” says Abramson, a frequent air traveler who runs a communication company in Los Angeles. “Not to mention the risks of damage to your car.”

He’s returned from trips to find dents, scratched doors, and cracked windows. If he doesn’t rideshare to the airport, he looks for a safe, off-airport option in Los Angeles. Some hotels bundle an overnight stay with parking.

“The Hilton LAX has offered some great deals in the past,” he says.

Airports hope you don’t read the rest of this story. That’s because parking and car rental revenues accounted for $3.7 billion in annual U.S. airport revenues, or about 41% of their non-aviation income, according to a recent study.

A large hub airport earns an average of $63 million a year from parking fees. Apart from airline revenue, it’s the single largest source of income, which may explain why airports sometimes push so hard for passengers to use their parking.

Airport parking can cost more than your airfare, in some cases. A recent survey found that the world’s most expensive parking is in London, where you can spend as much as $244 a week. Boston’s Logan Airport also ranks highly ($136), and so does San Francisco ($131).

As it turns out, there may be lots of alternatives to parking at the airport, beyond ride-sharing and mass transit. They range from the bundled “park, sleep fly” options Abrams used to off-site parking lots that use advanced algorithms to find you the best — and cheapest — spot.

Bottom line: You should almost never park at the airport. There are usually alternatives to consider.

Why you shouldn’t park at the airport

Here’s why you should never park at the airport, according to experts:

  1. It’s almost always more expensive than off-airport parking.
  2. There are better ways to save time, like a park and fly option.
  3. Your vehicle might be damaged, particularly in a remote lot.
  4. Parking rates (and perks) are more competitive away from the airport.

Park, sleep and fly

Parking at a hotel is one of the best, and perhaps most overlooked options. John Madden, a retired government employee from Rochester, Mich., decided to do that on a recent flight out of nearby Detroit.

“I had an early morning flight and didn’t want to deal with the stress of a 40-mile drive with commuters and having to get up extra early, and I absolutely did not want to be late for or miss my flight,” he recalls.

His solution? He found a hotel and parking package through a site called ParkSleepFly.com, which combines one-night hotel stays with long-term parking offers. But many airport hotels also advertise park and fly options.

“I saved $20 on the parking portion compared to using only a private off-airport parking lot as I usually do,” says Madden. “The hotel used a private off-airport lot with frequent shuttles. Very convenient.”

The experience made for a less stressful trip.

“I was rested and relaxed at the airport instead of frantic,” he says. “A bit of an indulgence.”

This site finds spare parking spots

If you’d rather park closer to the airport, you have lots of choices. You can visit an off-airport parking facility (coupons are readily available online to reduce your price). A site like AirportParkingReservations.com negotiates with parking vendors across the country, too. Choose a reputable, covered parking spot with a trusted parking provider for the best results.

But there are other ways to avoid parking at the airport. When Lauren Keys and her husband needed a parking spot at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a few days, they worried about the cost. As budget-conscious travelers, they usually rideshare to the airport or ask friends to drop them off. And they were nervous about parking their van just anywhere.

They discovered a site called Way.com that helped them find unused parking spaces near the airport.

“We thought it felt a little scammy, so when we showed up with our parking voucher, we talked to the manager, security, and valet folks at the hotel to confirm that what we were doing was legit,” says Keys, who writes a personal finance blog. “They confirmed Way.com was a partner, and it was a breeze.”

She estimates she would have paid $30 a day to park at the airport. Way.com’s cost was just $20 a day.

Note: Some sites charge reservation fees, so pay close attention to the fine print before you book.

Essential advice for airport parking

Here are some expert tips for finding the best spot close to the airport.

Go for a trusted name. That’s the advice of Thomas Spagnola, the vice president of supplier relations at Fareportal, a travel technology company. He prefers Park N’ Fly, The Parking Spot or Wally Park. “I use the big three is because they have more shuttles are running consistently to and from the airport, so my wait time isn’t too long,” he says.

Make a reservation. If you’re flying during a busy time of the year, parking fills up quickly. “During holiday seasons and peak tourist season, on-airport options are usually very full and the cheaper parking options are at capacity,” warns Taylor Randolph, a spokesman for Parkfellows, a site that helps travelers shop for airport parking. “Parking rates will increase for off-airport parking due to the increased demand, so it’s best to reserve airport parking before this happens if travelers want the best price.”

Run the numbers anyway. John Rose did on a recent trip from Rochester, N.Y., from Dallas. “Normally, when we fly, we stay at a Comfort Inn hotel, which typically doesn’t charge much to park while we’re gone,” he says. “However, this time, things changed. We called various hotels and they said they now charge $8 to $10 per night to park, in contrast to the previous policy of about $25 to $50 flat rate for a week or more. Not good.”

If you’ve made it this far in the story, your local airport is not happy with you. Because now you’ll save money on parking and avoid those high airport rates. It’s as easy as finding the best option for your next flight and always doing the math.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Source: The Real Reason You Should Never Park At The Airport

DIA has more than 40,000 public parking spaces offering a variety of choices to meet your needs. Parking facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.