Virtually all of Texas is now abnormally dry. Comparisons to the bone-dry days of 2011 have begun, and it's not looking good. In fact, given the scope of the drought and the higher costs of inputs, agricultural losses across the state are likely to top 2011's record $7.6 billion total.
After agreeing not to support any new fossil fuel investments with public dollars after 2022, the G-7 has backtracked and decided to facilitate development of liquified natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. The G-7 provides a forum for leaders of the seven nations with the largest developed economies (as well as the European Union as a non-enumerated member) to discuss key issues and policies. Although this action is regarded as quite controversial by many, it's the right move at a critical time.
The price of gasoline remains elevated, with the national average briefly surpassing $5 per gallon before retreating modestly. In parts of the country (particularly those distant from refineries), it's already well above that level. Unfortunately, I think that prices will generally stay relatively high through the summer driving season before abating to some extent.
May was another solid month for the Texas job market, with the state posting by far the largest gain across the nation (+74,200), well above California (+42,900) and New York (+26,800). Texas was also near the top in percentage increase, an unusual feat for such a large state.
The latest surveys of consumers indicate that, as a whole, we are becoming a less optimistic lot. Because our spending on goods and services normally represents around 70% of the economy, that is a source of some concern (although, strangely, our confidence level and our outlays have not been particularly correlated over time).
A few years ago, I was asked to name the major events that shaped the Texas we know today. High on the list was the development of Allen's Landing and the Port of Houston during the early days of the Republic and the subsequent efforts at the dawn of the twentieth century to develop a deep-water channel in the area just as the oil industry was emerging. Without this critical infrastructure, Texas could not have become a vital hub of global commerce. I am tempted to say "and the rest is history" – but, in reality, it is also the future.
The European Union (EU) has announced a partial embargo on Russian oil in response to the invasion of Ukraine. By yearend, about 90% of Russian oil import volumes could be affected. It's a major blow to Moscow, which relies on oil and natural gas sales for economic sustainability.
The US Census Bureau recently released the 2020 Census estimated undercount and overcount rates from its Post-Enumeration Survey. While we feared an undercount for Texas, it was even worse than expected.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health ("ARPA-H") was recently established as a new federal agency with the mission of transforming health research and innovation. The concept is similar to that of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has fostered countless breakthrough discoveries (and is about the coolest place on earth). ARPA-H is charged with finding solutions to society's most challenging health crises, including cancer, Alzheimer's, and AIDS. Moreover, treatments are to be broadly accessible to improve outcomes across the globe while simultaneously containing medical costs.
Things are tough for anyone trying to purchase a house, with a double whammy of rising prices and increasing interest rates. Inventories are very low, and supply chain issues and labor shortages continue to complicate construction.