The Chemical Activity Barometer, a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, rose 0.4% in February on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.
This followed a 0.7% gain in January. On a year- over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer increased 2.0% (AA 2-15-20, P. 3).
The unadjusted February data showed a 0.4% decline following a 1.5% increase in January and a 0.3% gain in December, ACC reports. The CAB reading for January was revised upward by 0.44 points and the CAB for December was revised downward by 0.26 points.
“The CAB signals gains in U.S. commerce into the fourth quarter of 2020,” stated Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC, on Feb. 25. However, it is still not known what the ultimate effect the Coronavirus will have on the U.S. and world economies.
The barometer’s diffusion index rose to 68% in February. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored.
The CAB has four main components, each one consisting of a variety of indicators: production; equity prices; product prices; and inventories and other indicators.
Production-related indicators increased in February. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry generally improved, which suggests further gains in housing. Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed.
Performance chemistry improved, with widespread gains among segments. U.S. exports were mixed. ACC also notes that equity prices surged, while product and input prices improved. Inventory and other indicators were mixed.
U.S. production of major plastic resins totaled 7.9 billion pounds in January, up 5.4% compared to the same month in 201.
Track & Trace Standards Issued
The Digital Container Shipping Association and its nine ocean carrier members issued a common set of processes along with data and interface standards to make container Track and Trace more efficient.
The standards [link] can be implemented by carriers, shippers and third parties to enable cross-carrier shipment tracking, according to DCSA.
The association’s current ocean carrier membership represents 70% of the global container shipping market, and other carriers have been invited to use the new standards.
The standards are said to support Track and Trace across five general shipment phases: Pre-shipment, pre-ocean, ocean, post-ocean and post shipment.
For shippers, the new standards will simplify shipment visibility across multiple carriers, enabling them to better plan and optimize shipment handling activities, the association states.
For carriers, DCSA says the standards will serve to unify T&T information sharing with other parties, ensuring accurate and efficient communication, regardless of the underlying technology or platform.
The data model is designed to ensure that Track and Trace data definitions are consistent for all users, leveraging any system.
These definitions are based on the Industry Blueprint that was published by DCSA and its ocean carrier members in 2019, which established a consistent vocabulary and proposed a common set of industry processes.
DCSA also says the standards are aligned with the UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) standards intended to provide a global industry framework that preserves existing investments and streamlines communication among all supply chain participants.
CA Legislature Mulls AB 5 Bills
California state legislators are considering several bills that would shrink the jurisdiction of last year’s AB 5 law outlawing most forms of independent contractor status previously enjoyed by workers.
Federal and state courts have enjoined the law from being enforced in regard to truck drivers while the courts hear arguments arguing that it violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
In the meantime, other states are considering imposing their own versions of the AB 5 law (AA, 1-31-20, P. 5).
California legislators have submitted no fewer than 34 separate bills for changing AB 5. Several would expand the exemptions for some professions excluded from the law’s application, including barbers, cosmetologists and similar professionals.
Also being addressed are the plights of musicians, free-lance journalists and photographers. Under the current law, if a writer submits more than 35 articles a year, he or she must be considered an employee.
While a Republican proposal to repeal AB 5 is not expected to go anywhere, GOP lawmakers also are seeking exemptions for a plethora of professions: small business owners, pharmacists, physical therapists, franchisors/franchisees, timber operators, marriage/family therapists, health care providers, land surveyors, landscape architects, interpreters and translators, certified shorthand reporters, youth sports referees/umpires and newspaper carriers.
“If there were any doubt, it is now clear that AB 5 will continue to be the most significant labor and employment policy issue in Sacramento for the near future,” is the assessment of attorney Benjamin Ebbink of the Fisher Phillips law firm. “This year’s legislative activity may also portend how this issue develops in other states – or even at the federal level,” he adds.
Ecommerce Good For Environment
Ecommerce is improving the sustainability of retail by driving supply chain efficiencies, according to ProLogis, the global logistics real estate firm.
This view is supported by academic studies that have measured the end-to-end environmental impacts, the company says.
“The key to greater sustainability in retail is reducing the transportation impact – the largest source of emissions for the United States as a whole,” ProLogis notes. “Here, ecommerce is substantially more efficient.”
By consolidating goods transportation into trucks and vans making several deliveries on a circular route, rather than individual point-to-point trips by consumer vehicles, the carbon footprint of transportation falls by more than 50% as measured by kg CO2e, studies have shown.
In addition, the faster pace of adoption of electric vehicles by delivery companies (compared to the larger consumer vehicle fleet) is widening the CO2 savings of online versus in-store shopping, it says.
While the packaging cost for ecommerce is greater, ProLogis notes that it doesn’t outweigh the transportation savings created by online shopping. In total, the end-to-end environmental impact is estimated to be roughly 15% lower for online versus in-store shopping.
“Today’s supply chain is placing network operations closer to end consumers, in turn reducing carbon emissions, lowering total vehicle miles traveled and cutting operating costs,” it adds.
This delivery strategy is aided by analytics and technology that make it possible to choose the most efficient routes, ProLogis explains, with ecommerce operators actively seeking to reduce costs through order consolidation and network optimization.
“Academic studies estimate that the transportation portion of the environmental impact for ecommerce is less than half that of in-store shopping, even after incorporating a higher return rate,” ProLogis says.