Gas, Jobs and Food

The media is now reporting what average Americans already know: the cost of living is impacting our lives. The cost of gasoline, loss of jobs and the increase in the price of food has led to a decline in consumer confidence. There is a silver lining today: the dollar index is up almost 1% due to the increase in unemployment filings: less jobs means a stronger dollar.

David DeGerolamo

Gas

Half of Americans Have Cut Back or Cancelled Vacation Plans
Due to High Gas Prices

NEW YORK, May 5 /PRNewswire/ – With the summer vacation season fast approaching, almost half of Americans (47 percent) say they have already cut back or cancelled vacation plans due to high gas prices and 20 percent have scaled back their plans because of high air fares, according to this month’s RBC Consumer Outlook Index. The Index for May fell to 42.9, down 1.9 points from April’s 44.8 reading.

This month’s decline in the RBC Consumer Outlook Index is driven by all four sub-indices. The Expectations Sub-Index declined to 53.2, down 1.3 points, reaching the lowest point this year, and the Current Conditions Sub-Index, declined three points to 32.9 from 35.9 in April. Seven-in-10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track, compared to 30 percent who say it is headed in the right direction. The “wrong track” number is at the highest level observed since 2009.

Jobs

The number of claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, pushed up by auto-plant shutdowns and other unusual events that seasonal variations failed to take into account, the Labor Department said.

Applications for jobless benefits jumped by 43,000 to 474,000 in the week ended April 30, the most since August, Labor Department figures showed today. A spring break holiday in New York, a new emergency benefits program in Oregon and auto shutdowns caused by the disaster in Japan were the main reasons for the surge, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data was released to the press.

Food

World food prices rose to near a record in April as grain costs advanced, adding pressure to inflation that is accelerating from Beijing to Brasilia and spurring central banks to raise interest rates.

An index of 55 commodities rose to 232.1 points from 231 points in March, the United Nations’ Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on its website today. The gauge climbed to an all-time high of 237.2 in February before dropping 2.6 percent in March.

The cost of living in the U.S. rose at its fastest pace since December 2009 in the 12 months ended in March, the same month in which Chinese consumer prices rose by the most since 2008. The European Central Bank raised interest rates on April 7, joining China, India, Poland and Sweden in a bid to control inflation partly blamed on food costs. Costlier food also contributed to riots across northern Africa and the Middle East that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia this year.

      
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