Only time will tell how much record US prices at the pump will dent driving demand this summer, but don’t expect a significant increase in gasoline supply from American refineries.
The reason: Several US gasoline refineries have shut down in recent years, or been converted to make other fuels, crimping America’s refining capacity and exacerbating the hit from high crude oil prices in the current energy crunch.
US refineries operated at 93.2 percent last week, the loftiest level since December 2019 and an exceptionally high rate for a season normally associated with plant maintenance.
It all points to a stressed US energy system ahead of the summer driving season, which kicks off this weekend with the Memorial Day holiday.
“We’re set for failure,” said Robert Yawger an analyst at Mizuho Securities. “Basically, we’re set for high prices, increasing inflation, and it doesn’t bode well.”
But limited refining capacity is also a global problem, according to a note from the Eurasia Group that described a tight fuel market with little relief in site.
“Increased demand is outstripping both storage and production capacity, leading to shortages,” Eurasia Group said.
“Right now, demand is drawing down that storage much faster than it can be replaced, depleting inventories and driving refined product prices higher. While International Energy Agency data from this week shows global refinery throughput capacity increasing, it still remains below pre-pandemic levels.”
Besides lifting crude prices, the Ukraine invasion has also pinched supplies of some refined products exported from Russia, especially low-quality gasoil.
– Plants are converted, closed –
Gasoline prices in the United States have soared more than 70 percent in last year to record levels, nationally averaging about $4.60 per gallon. Analysts at JPMorgan Chase believe prices go higher still this summer, surpassing $6.00 a gallon.
The number of active US refineries has fallen 13 percent in the last decade and now stands at the lowest level in the modern era.
The list of closures includes the Philadelphia Energy Solutions plant, which had been the largest in the northeastern United States prior to being shuttered in June 2019 following an explosion.
This group includes some refineries that were suspended early in the pandemic as fuel demand sank. Some, such as Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in New Mexico, were never restarted.
The issue has “become a greater concern here in the United States as we’ve shut down a million barrels a day of refining capacity over the last year,” said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates.
Large US refineries have also been shifting some of their capacity to biofuels and other renewable fuels in light of policies to address climate change favored by investors who prioritize environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
At its Cheyenne, Wyoming refinery, HollyFrontier is converting a 52,000 barrel a day refinery from gasoline production to renewable diesel.
– Dwindling market share –
But many in the oil industry are loath to undertake significant new refinery projects in light of the heavy investments by automakers like General Motors and Ford building electric vehicles that will lower gasoline’s market share as a transport fuel.
Major airlines have also pledged to use more renewable fuels, lowering demand for jet fuel, another product at petroleum refineries.
Experts also pointed to policies such as ban on the sale of new gasoline-fired cars after 2035 that is being considered by the European Union.
“Laws like that are a clear signal that demand for your product at some point is going to go down,” said Bill O’Grady of Confluence Investment Management. “There is very little incentive to invest.”
Building a new refinery requires extensive capital, years of planning and regulatory approvals and would not pay off for 10-20 years, said Richard Sweeney, a professor of economics and the economy at Boston College.
“Gas prices are very, very high and diesel prices are very, very high,” said Sweeney, adding, “I don’t think anyone thinks that’s going to last years.”
Many refiners are steering extra cash made from today’s strong market towards dividends and shareholder buybacks, which are favored on Wall Street.
The last major US refinery in the United States opened in 1977 and there have only been five new plants in the last 20 years, all smaller refineries.
When refiners have added significant capacity, it has been through expansions of existing plants rather than greenfield projects.
“No community wants a refinery,” said O’Grady. “They’re dirty. They explode. They smell bad.”
The current global refining predicament is built on a “false assumption that we can do without refining,” said Phil Flynn of the Price Futures Group.
“We’re going to have to balance our ESG dreams versus the reality of trying to keep the market supplied with the products.”
10 unexpected alternative investments in luxury goods
Take a note from financial advisers—don’t work for money, get your money working for you.
Investments in property are typical, as is purchasing hedge fund assets or even helping fund a startup venture that could become the next unicorn tech company. For many investors, once they’ve ticked off these boxes, they may be ready to look outside the box—or the stock market ticker, in this case—and consider some novel ways to diversify their portfolios and grow those three-comma-laden fortunes.
Masterworks.io compiled a list of 10 alternative investments in luxury goods, from different sources such as Forbes, Harvard Business School, Investopedia, and Investor Junkie. For the well-off, having an enviable collection of jewelry, vintage cars, and limited-edition toys and fashion accessories may just come with the lifestyle; but for investors, these top-dollar purchases can also be a smart investment when chosen wisely.
l i g h t p o e t // Shutterstock
A good bottle of wine is synonymous with the finer things in life, but it could also be a valuable avenue to more riches. If an investor knows their grapes, they could end up with a cellar of tasty investments—one bottle recently sold at a fundraising auction for a record $1 million.
Wine is notoriously difficult to appreciate for the uninitiated, and if you’re more likely to notice the “nose” and “legs” on a person than a glass of wine, you may wonder how you’ll navigate the wine world.
There are wine exchanges where the well-heeled can follow and invest in certain wines, online auctions, and more exotic options like buying wine before it is even sold, something called buying “en primeur.”
A cellar full of top-quality vintages will undoubtedly draw admirers of exquisite taste, but remember, actually tasting these investments will drastically lower their value.
yu_photo // Shutterstock
Designer handbags convey status and have the benefit, to those of a certain class, of being expensive. Sotheby’s reports the average auction prices for new Birkin bags in 2022 ranged from $12,000 to $23,000. If it’s hard to believe that one purse could be so expensive, consider that the smallest bags can be the most expensive bags.
For some, it may be arguable whether buying a fashionably expensive accessory is “an investment” or just an excuse to elicit the envy of other high-fashion devotees. In this case, though, that handbag may be worth the trouble. A report from Credit Suisse and Deloitte found that the financial return on Chanel bags was an 11.8% increase in 2021, and 38% for Birkin bags.
Krikkiat // Shutterstock
Many people have childhood memories of being given that toy they’d been dreaming about, or the crushing disappointment of finding out they weren’t actually going to get it. Now that those children have gotten older, some finally have the resources to collect the toys they had dreamed about it as a child. Nostalgia pulls in many collectors as they finally get ahold of a toy they couldn’t quite get their hands on in younger years, or rediscover a beloved childhood toy that was long lost.
The money can be pretty substantial, too: An original Barbie sold for $27,450, an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure from “Star Wars” was won at auction for $76,700, and a Super Mario Bros. NES cartridge sold for $660,000.
Be warned, though: Not all that brings joy is valuable. If you’re still holding on to that so-called “ultra-rare” Princess Diana Beanie Baby in hopes of funding a new private jet, you should know one recently sold for only $9.
Tristan Fewings // Getty Images for Sotheby’s
The wealthy have stored value in fancy art for millennia, and recent years are no exception. Wealthy people spent an average of $242,000 on art and antiques in the first half of 2021, according to Forbes.
Also, if you believe elegance is about condensing value into a small space, fine art is a fantastic option. “When Will You Marry,” a 40-by-30-inch work painted by Paul Gauguin in 1892, sold for nearly $300 million, or about $250,000 per square inch.
This sort of fine art purchase isn’t just for aesthetics. If you ship that artwork to your home, you could be facing millions in taxes, so an investor will likely ship it to a tax-free storage site to avoid that tax burden and keep those dollars safely in their bank account.
sutsaiy // Shutterstock
Jewelry and watches
The arrival of the pandemic coincided with a spike in the value of vintage watches, according to GQ. New watches have pulled in serious modern-day dollars as well, like this watch from Jacob the Jeweler that lists for $620,000.
For those who sneer at the hoi polloi snatching up wrist candy, maybe rare jewels are more their speed. A pink diamond called the CTF Pink Star sold for over $71 million and a blue diamond sold for over $57 million.
Unlike wine or artwork, these are items you can actually use on a regular basis. If new money shouts and old money whispers, there’s no better way to broadcast your recent largesse than these sparkling acquisitions.
PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek // Shutterstock
What if you could combine the graceful lines of fine art with the fun of toys? If that experiential portmanteau is what you seek, then look no further than classic cars.
Classic cars rev up the nostalgia and envy of others, and they can have serious value. A rare 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR sold for over $143 million in 2022 and a vintage red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $48 million.
Leave it to the common folk to show off their fancy new cars on the internet, like this Pagani Roadster, which sells for a paltry $4 million. You know the journey to make all your Champagne wishes and caviar dreams really come true starts with the throaty purr of a classic engine.
Abigail McCann // Shutterstock
The company Verified Market Research says the sports card trading market was worth over $7.8 billion in 2021.
Investing in trading cards can be risky, as they don’t have the same intrinsic value of something like a car—which, even if valueless on the market, could still provide transportation—and so their values can fluctuate more. But you needn’t worry about such trivialities, as the stakes are small compared to other options: according to Yahoo, only two trading cards have ever sold for more than $6 million each.
Eudaimonic Traveler // Shutterstock
Even the moderately deep-pocketed can invest in comic books.
The record price for a comic book was a trifling $5.3 million in January 2022 for “Superman #1.” But the returns can be handsome. “Amazing Fantasy 15,” the comic book with the first appearance of Spider-man, sold in 2011 for $110,000 and sold 10 years later for $3.6 million, which is more than 31 times than the original investment.
phil_berry r // Shutterstock
While children from earlier generations may have been enamored with Superman, the younger set shifted their idolatry from figures of fantasy to heroes on the parquet floors of basketball courts.
Perhaps, you think, instead of chasing collectibles deemed valuable in the past, you could look to where future interest may lie. And a growing category of collectibles is sneakers.
Michael Jordan, a fellow member of the three-comma club, not only became an international superstar, but also helped usher in today’s fascination with sneakers. So, it is fitting that the most expensive sneakers ever sold were his, a $615,000 pair from the first-ever Air Jordan line, released after his rookie season.
mundissima // Shutterstock
Digital art, also known as non-fungible tokens or NFTs
Long gone are ideas of money being valuable because it is tied to a commodity like gold. Today we live in a world where money has value because someone says it does.
What better way to wrangle growth in your portfolio than by taking the concept of value to a further extreme: taking a digital file and giving it value because a record somewhere says you own it. Welcome to the world of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
While NFTs are tied with the cryptocurrency market, and 2022 has seen some rocky times in crypto, you can be sure that you’ll be joined by your fellow fiscally elite. According to Gadgets360, as of 2021, nearly 80% of all NFTs are owned by just a few investors.
This material is provided for educational purposes only. It is not investment advice and should not be the basis of an investment decision.
This story originally appeared on Masterworks.io and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
IT spending is a “recession-proof” investment in 2023
Gartner forecasts a 2.4% increase in global IT spending.
Companies in the US can’t afford to blow their budgets this year in the face of inflation. Just look at Salesforce, who axed nearly 10% of their workforce and ended office leases in an effort to reduce business costs by $3 – 5 billion.
Tech giants like Tesla and Google have followed suit, especially for corporate and recruitment staff — but not for IT spending.
Over half of today’s digital leaders plan to spend more on IT in 2023 despite common predictions for tough financial times.
But how much more?
Gartner comes through with the numbers, citing a 2.4% increase in overall global IT spending for 2023. This was great news for the SaaS industry especially, as software spending will jump a massive 9.3%.
But this isn’t really news.
We saw this coming when Google Workspace boasted an impressive 3 billion users at the end of 2021. Another indicator was the massive IT skills shortage that had companies scrambling to recruit developers, programmers, and engineers.
With more software comes more implementation, strategy, and maintenance. This prompts a 5.5% increase in IT services spending for 2023. We’re talking qualified, experienced IT professionals from programmers and cloud architects to network engineers, information security experts, and analytics professionals. Digital leaders want to have a reliable team to keep the data (and revenue) flowing.
On top of that, you can expect to see more and more dollars allocated for the latest automation and productivity tech, aka AI software and robots. Efficiency is the name of the game, and companies will maximize it with both skilled IT professionals and robots.
Still, cloud infrastructure and data center systems will take precedence, with a 0.7% increase in spending this year. Companies need somewhere to sift through, store, and analyze all that data, with insights that 21% of leaders see as driving more revenue.
Don’t get too excited, though — your annual laptop refresh might take a backseat as companies drop device spending by 5.5%.
Bottom line? You’ll be on the receiving end of a pumped-up IT budget with the right apps, software, and IT skills. As Gartner Analytics VP John-David Lovelock reminds us?
“IT spending remains recession-proof.”
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
Project management strategies everyone can use to boost productivity
With more offices offering hybrid and remote options for employees than ever before, the need for efficiency is essential.
Workplace productivity is declining at the fastest rate in decades, despite employees working more. Experts cite many reasons, ranging from higher financial stress to a plateau following the rise in productivity in the early 2000s. Disruptions in the workday are also inevitable as each new wave of COVID-19 and other illnesses spike.
One way to course-correct is to study how project managers help organizations and apply it to your personal or work-from-home life. Among the crucial skills for project management are time management and critical thinking—two of the most significant barriers to productivity. A successful project manager also understands how to deliver a product or service for a company with limited resources and time.
Another element of project management involves communication, which is crucial for success in any endeavor. Examining communication methods and evaluating areas for improvement can reduce mistakes and help with accountability. Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of your stakeholders, communication boosts productivity.
Adding project management techniques to your daily life has many benefits aside from productivity, especially for people who struggle with time management. For that reason, ClickUp put together a list of techniques used by project managers after analyzing resources from the Project Management Institute. Even though the methods are for business, they can be applied to virtually any task-related setting.
Jenn Huls // Shutterstock
Set goals and define ‘success’
Success looks different for everyone, and every successful project management team understands this. Before a methodology can begin, the desired result must be clear.
The end goal or measure of success should reflect reality, with input from the entire team, and also not be set in stone. Having a goal gives project managers a way to scale success. If they assess halfway through the project and find the goal unreachable at the current production rate, they will fine-tune the approach and reevaluate the plan.
Identify hurdles and risks
At the start of a project, it can seem like the only risk is failing to complete it.
But understanding what risk actually means can help avoid bad outcomes. It is essential to define the risk before you begin.
In an office, talk with your manager or client so you understand the goals and worst-case scenario; understanding both can help you better visualize what to avoid and how to plan for success. At home, this could be a project like a basement renovation, where you must gauge how the construction will put your safety at risk. In project management, a manager would engage stakeholders to assess the risks, so in this situation, a stakeholder might be the contractor. Once the contractor outlines the scope of the work, it will become clearer what the risks are.
Rawpixel.com // Shutterstock
Stakeholders are those impacted by a product launch or event, even if they don’t have direct involvement. They can also include the group of people who work on making the project, as well as the end users, customers, or clients for whom the project is intended to reach.
A good project management team will assess each stakeholder’s expectations about the project, such as timelines and deliverables. Stakeholders who are invested in creating the deliverable will need to be happy with the production schedule, quality, and workflow process; they also need to know that the product will satisfy the end user. End users will also need t know that the final product will meet their expectations on what they want to buy or benefit from.
Assuming you know what stakeholders expect can create disappointment and disagreement, so taking time to assess stakeholder expectations when the project starts helps ensure a smoother, better-managed project down the line. Understanding how everyone will feel the impact of every project stage will avoid conflict.
Pra Chid // Shutterstock
Employ the proper tools
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “setting yourself up for success,” then you understand the importance of having the right tools.
Project management requires the proper tools for tracking results and creating new approaches. Certain tools make communication between team members easier, so taking the time to find the right tools for you will go a long way in boosting productivity. Make sure to evaluate your team’s workflow and identify inefficiencies so that you can pinpoint the right tools with solutions. For many teams, this often includes a content or project management system to track progress, a better email organization approach, or a messaging app to facilitate communication.
A project manager with a lot of professional experience understands the impact any event or product launch will have on an organization. PMs can predict how an event launch will affect every industry. They know how outside influences such as the economy or buying behavior can change the outcome of a project.
Impact analysis can help with anything that involves more than one person.
If a team member needs to pitch in on a project or a production schedule needs to be overhauled to account for problems, assess how it will impact the short term. A project manager would determine the financial and reputational cost of disruptions, and the impact of different scenarios that might result from different tactics to solve them.
LightField Studios // Shutterstock
Implement Agile methods
The Agile method is about consistently seeking better ways to achieve goals for an organization in ways that best benefit the team members. This aspect of project management involves constantly checking in with stakeholders and team members to fine-tune a system or process.
If managing a team, this method would include colleagues and managers giving their input. Each time a member chimes in, the Agile method would require tailoring. Because the Agile method emphasizes collaboration and communication, it can be beneficial in a group project to increase productivity.
Wright Studio // Shutterstock
Implement the Six Sigma structure
Sigma is a word that comes from the bell curve in statistics, where it refers to the deviation from the center.
Whenever plans go haywire, the best bet is to figure out the deviation from the intended outcome, which is why the Six Sigma approach is popular among project managers. This methodology aims to define the reason for the departure and identify the errors.
Then, after assessing the value chain and involving stakeholders, Six Sigma processes ways for the business to run more efficiently. The ability to highlight weak areas of a project can save time and frustration.
This story originally appeared on ClickUp and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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