April Retail Sales Rise 0.9%, Even as Consumers Confront Sky-High Inflation

Americans ramped up their spending at retail stores in April, a sign that consumers are still weathering the inflationary storm even as prices continue to hover near a 40-year high.

Retail sales, a measure of how much consumers spent on a number of everyday goods, including cars, food and gasoline, rose 0.9% in April from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was in line with expectations from Refinitiv economists, but it marked a noted slowdown from the upwardly revised 1.4% gain in March.

The so-called core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services and are most closely correlated with the consumer spending aspect of the nation’s gross domestic product, rose 1% in April.

People walk through a shopping area in Manhattan on June 7, 2021, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The April advance – which is not adjusted for inflation, meaning that consumers may be spending the same but getting less bang for their buck – was led by a burst in spending at bars and restaurants as well as on vehicles, clothing, furniture and electronics.

Receipts at gas stations actually dropped last month as prices at the pump briefly fell from highs recorded in March. However, gas prices have since notched a new record, climbing to a national average of $4.52 per gallon, up from $3.04 one year ago.

“American consumers continued to spend more at retail stores in April, despite inflation as lower gasoline prices helped to boost spending on discretionary items,” said Tuan Nguyen, a U.S. economist at RSM. “But it won’t last long as gasoline prices reached a record high in May.”

Signage displays fuel prices at a Shell gas station in San Francisco, California, on March 7, 2022.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

There are other signs that inflation is beginning to weigh on consumers: Walmart reported earlier Tuesday that its profit took a beating in the first quarter of the year as the company grappled with soaring prices for everyday goods like food and fuel and higher costs from snarled supply chains.

The data comes as consumers face the worst inflation spike in decades The government reported last week that the consumer price index climbed 8.3% in April from the previous year, close to a four-decade high. The reading was much higher than economists expected and underscores that inflationary pressures in the economy remain strong.

Rising inflation is eating away at strong wage gains that American workers have seen in recent months: Real average hourly earnings decreased 0.1% in April from the previous month, as the inflation increase eroded the 0.3% total wage gain, according to the Labor Department. On an annual basis, real earnings actually dropped 2.6% in April.

Source: April retail sales rise 0.9%, even as consumers confront sky-high inflation | Fox Business

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Gas Prices: How Your Driving Behavior Impacts Costs at The Pump

On Thursday, the national average retail price for regular gasoline surged to another record high, hitting $4.41 per gallon.

While you may not be able to control the prices at the pump, you can control how you drive. Certain driving behaviors can actually help consumers save significantly when it comes to filling up at the pump, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, told FOX Business.

It’s the “easiest” thing to do when trying to combat those rising fuel costs, he said. Keep your tachometer as low as possible. De Haan says drivers should keep feet light on the gas when accelerating. The heavier you are on the accelerator, the more fuel your engine is using, he said.

The tachometer should be used as a gauge for drivers to see how much fuel they’re actually using, according to De Haan.  The tachometer measures the working speed of an engine in RPMs, or rotations per minute. It is located next to the speedometer on a vehicle’s instrument panel.

“The higher the needle goes, the more gas your engine is guzzling,” De Haan said.  The objective is to keep your tachometer as low as possible and not to “bash on the pedal,” De Haan added.

Cars crowding the turn lane into Murphy Express at Beal Parkway and Racetrack Road as gas lines started popping up at numerous gas stations around the Fort Walton Beach area in Florida. (USA Today Network via Reuters Connect / Reuters Photos)

It’s also important to keep the speed of the car under control because speeding increases fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gas mileage will decrease “rapidly at speeds above 50 MPH.”

The best way to control speed is using cruise control. Although cruise control may not be useful in some congested parts of the country, like New York or Chicago. However, the feature can be “more effective and efficient than a human trying to maintain the same pressure on the gas pedal,” according to De Haan.

Maintenance: Make sure your check engine light is not on If you have a check engine light on, especially if it’s flashing, it should be checked as soon as possible. A lot of sensors on cars are critically important, but the check engine light is the “most critical,” according to De Haan. When the light is flashing, “it’s basically telling you that it’s in distress,” De Haan said.

The car essentially goes into “limp mode,” which means “the car has lost some critical sensor or something is critically wrong and … is basically using up to twice as much fuel to protect itself from catastrophic damage,” De Haan added. Another thing motorists should be checking is tire pressure.

A man checks gas prices at a gas station in Buffalo Grove, Ill., March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom). When a tire loses air pressure, there is more friction between the tire and the road. That increase in friction will lower a car’s fuel efficiency, according to De Haan.

Removing access weight

Leaving heavy objects in the back seat or truck of a car can also hurt fuel efficiency. In fact, every hundred pounds will reduce fuel efficiency by one to two miles per gallon, according to De Haan.

Racks that sit on the roof of cars, typically in the summer or winter months, are also working against drivers. Those racks will “absolutely destroy the aerodynamics of your vehicle” and drive down fuel efficiency by 25 to 35%, De Haan said.

“They’re just like a mattress on your roof,” he said. “Your car is working harder to offset that object on the top of your car.”

Keep an eye on your AC this summer

When the air conditioning is running in your car, “you’re generally putting more of a load on your engine. You’ll burn a lot less fuel if you crack a window instead, according to GasBuddy. 

MYTH: It takes more gas to restart your car

That may have been true 30 years ago, “but that’s why vehicles have adopted that start stop technology,” according to De Haan. In fact, if you’re going to be sitting in traffic more than 10 seconds, it makes more sense to shut the vehicle off.

Source: Gas prices: How your driving behavior impacts costs at the pump | Fox Business

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The Worst Of The Stock Market Crash May Be Yet To Come

Though stronger than expected, the rate of inflation in April slowed for the first time in eight months, but experts still aren’t sure how long it will take for prices to return to normal levels—even if the worst has finally passed.

Overall prices rose 0.3% from March—higher than the 0.2% economists were expecting but much lower than the previous month’s increase of 1.2%, according to data released by the Labor Department on Wednesday.

On a yearly basis, prices jumped 8.3% last month, falling from 8.5% in March but exceeding expectations calling for an increase of 8.1%; the slowdown marked the first month-over-month decline since August.

The overall increase was the result of broad upticks across shelter, food, airline fares and new vehicle prices, while a month-over-month decline of 6.1% in long-surging gasoline prices (which spiked 18% in March) helped offset the gains, the government said.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.6% in April after a 0.3% uptick in March—a “seriously disappointing” jump given expectations for a 0.4% increase, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist Ian Shepherdson said in an email Wednesday, pointing out a 1.1% increase in new vehicle prices was “significantly bigger” than in recent months.

In a weekend note to clients, Goldman Sachs economist Ronnie Walker cautioned the inflation outlook remains “highly uncertain” due to lingering supply chains, red-hot wage growth and still-surging commodity priceswith gas prices, for example, jumping to record highs on Tuesday.

The economist expects shelter inflation will remain firm amid the tightest housing market in decades, while price spikes driven by supply chain constraints will “fall sharply” as bottlenecks ease, particularly in used cars and consumer electronics, which saw prices continue to fall in April.

“The slight moderation in inflation will likely provide some needed boost in consumer confidence,” Jeffrey Roach, chief economist for LPL Financial, said in emailed comments Wednesday. “Investors and policy makers both know inflation will likely stay above target for a while but both will focus on the direction of the change.”Stocks fell immediate after the Wednesday CPI report, with S&P 500 futures falling 1.1% by 9:05 a.m. ET, while Nasdaq futures plunged 1.8%.

The reopening economy and fiscal stimulus helped fuel one of the strongest starts to a bull market ever during the pandemic, but stocks have struggled this year as the Fed raises rates and unwinds economic support to ease inflation.

After rising 27% in 2021, the S&P has fallen 17% this year, while the Nasdaq has flirted with bear-market territory, plummeting as much as 26%. “A repricing of stocks is currently taking place due to rising interest rates, which mathematically makes stocks less attractive,” explains David Bahnsen, chief investment officer of $3.6 billion advisory The Bahnsen Group.

I’m a senior reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at

Source: The Worst Of The Stock Market Crash May Be Yet To Come, According To Wall Street’s ‘Fear Gauge’ Signal

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Airbus Flies A380 Passenger Jet on 100% Biofuel For The First Time

As part of a broader push on part of the aviation industry to reduce its carbon footprint, Airbus has conducted the first ever flight of its giant A380 jumbo jet using 100 percent biofuel. This is the third Airbus aircraft to fly using the sustainable fuel made up of primarily cooking oil, as the company works to certify the technology by the end of the decade.

The aircraft featured in the groundbreaking flight is the Airbus ZEROe Demonstrator, an A380 adapted for use as a flying testbed and one the company plans to also use to test out hydrogen combustion jet engines.


For this particular outing, the aircraft was loaded up with 27 tonnes of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made mostly with cooking oil and waste fats. This powered the A380’s Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine across a three-hour test flight out of the Blagnac Airport in Toulouse France on March 28, with a second flight then carrying it all the way to Nice Airport on March 29.

This demonstration follows successful flights of the Airbus A350 and the Airbus A319neo single-aisle plane using SAF last year. Using the biofuel to now power the world’s largest passenger jet marks another step forward for the testing program, as Airbus aspires to bring the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.

Airbus isn’t alone in pursuing cleaner aviation with the help of cooking oil. Way back in 2012, Boeing made the first biofuel-powered Pacific crossing in its 787 Dreamliner using a mix of regular jet fuel and fuel derived mainly from cooking oil. In 2014, it even opened up a biofuel production plant in China based to ensure a consistent supply.

In emphasizing the potential of SAF, Airbus refers to the Waypoint 2050 report put together by collaboration of aviation experts to outline how the industry can achieve decarbonization by midway through the century. That report identifies the deploying of SAF as the single largest opportunity to meet these goals, with the potential to deliver between 53 and 71 percent of the required carbon reductions.

As it stands, all of Airbus’ aircraft are certified to fly with a 50 percent SAF-kerosene blend. Airbus aims to achieve certification for 100 percent SAF use by the end of the decade.

Which Came First, The Electric Pickup or The Charging Station?

How rural communities will fare in the battle for electric vehicles funds comes down to a sort of chicken and egg scenario, officials said.

Without acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) in rural areas, federal funding for charging stations will go elsewhere. But without the charging stations, fewer rural residents will buy electric vehicles.

David Adkins, executive director and CEO of the Council of State Governments, an organization that provides states with research focusing on public policy issues, said if his family in rural Kansas is any indication, electric vehicles are gaining traction in rural communities.

“I’m confident that rural America will increasingly prioritize the need for EV charging stations once the electrified Ford F 150 becomes the truck of choice for farmers and ranchers,” he said. “And Ford will only be able to sell those trucks if charging capacity is ubiquitous.”

Ford and startup Rivian are already selling electric pickups, and several manufacturers have plans to join the market. Cost will make deployment of charging options in urban centers happen first, but without a nationwide network it will be hard to get commercial EVs in widespread use, he said.

EV charging networks will be necessary for tomorrow’s rural America, he said.

“EV charging stations are the next chapter in rural connectivity,” he said. “Right now the focus is on broadband access which primarily benefits those living and working in rural America. Charging stations on the other hand benefit both local residents and those traveling through rural America.”

Recently, the Biden Administration released “Charging Forward: A Toolkit for Planning and Funding Rural Electric Mobility Infrastructure,” a guide for rural areas to get the most out of the federal funding for the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Getting those charging stations into rural areas is important for widespread adoption of EVs, the administration said.

“In rural parts of the country—home to 20 % of Americans and almost 70 % of America’s road miles—EVs can be an especially attractive alternative to conventional vehicles,” the administration wrote in its toolkit. “Rural residents drive more than their urban counterparts, spend more on vehicle fuel and maintenance, and often have fewer alternatives to driving to meet their transportation needs. Over the long run, EVs will help residents of rural areas reduce those costs and minimize the environmental impact of transportation in their communities.”

Ensuring that those charging stations go to rural areas will be a challenge, said U.S. Representative David Scott (D-Georgia), chair of the House Agriculture Committee.

“We are witnessing a point of major research, investment, and adoption of electric vehicles across the country and the world, driven in large part in an effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Scott said at a hearing in January. “As with so many other technological advancements like electrification, broadband, or telephone service, I want to see what can be done to make sure that rural America is not left behind. And to that point, I want to also ensure that the needs of agriculture and rural residents are being considered with these important developments.”

The U.S. DOT said priority in the electric-vehicle charging network will be given to federally designated alternative fuel corridors, primarily located along interstate highways. Nominated by state and local governments, the corridors are highway segments with the infrastructure to support electric-vehicle charging stations, as well as other alternative fuels. The program requires charging stations at 50-mile intervals.

Some states in the American West have expressed concerns about that requirement.

“Western states face a suite of challenges related to planning and siting EV infrastructure, including the unique needs of both underserved and rural communities, vast distances between communities, limited electric grid infrastructure in sparsely populated areas, and a patchwork of federal, state, and private lands ownership boundaries,” the Western Governors Association, comprised of 19 states in the region, wrote in a policy resolution submitted to federal transportation officials in December.

“A number of western states have experienced challenges in meeting these defined metrics due to lacking electric infrastructure and suitable charging locations in sparsely populated areas.”

Part of the same fuel corridor goes through Appalachia, said Janiene Bohannon, director of communications with the Appalachian Regional Council, in an interview with the Daily Yonder. A map of the Electric Vehicle Charging State Location shows all the current electric vehicle charging stations across the country plus the current and proposed charging station corridors.

The number of EV charging stations in Appalachia is growing, she said. More charging stations means more connectivity for Appalachian residents and visitors.

“Bringing EV charging stations to the Appalachian Region will help to reduce its isolation and promote economic growth,” Bohannon said. “Additional electric vehicle charging stations could encourage a greater population that would visit Appalachia.”

Rural communities will have to deal with other larger challenges in installing EV charging stations, Adkins said.

“Another challenge states face in making the conversion to EV vehicles is the way surface transportation is funded,” he said. “The gas tax is currently a primary source of federal and state funding for streets and highways. States will need to update these revenue formulas in order to have funds to pay for infrastructure.”

Picking a technology to install is another obstacle. Tesla, for instance, has a proprietary charger, creating a “VHS v. Betamax-like market-based obstacle,” Adkins said.

“Like with solar, I believe significant subsidies will need to be provided to private sector players in order to build out initial EV charging networks,” he said. “It will be fun to watch how innovation occurs as the number of electric vehicles grows in the next decade.”

Source: Which Came First, the Electric Pickup or the Charging Station? | The Daily Yonder

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