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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- Feb. 13, 2020 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Feb. 13, 2020

Oil and Other Commodity Prices Falling on Virus Fears; Truck Maker Scania Claims Positioning Breakhrough; Wells Fargo on 2020 GDP Forecast; Warehouse and Delivery Jobs Keep Growing



That's about the price for Brent crude oil this week. That's down from $65, or about 14% since January 20, when the coronavirus crisis was starting to emerge. That's because global oil traders believe the outbreak will slow the overall world economy and that of China specifically – and hence the demand for oil. Some pundits are predicting Chinese economic growth will decrease to about 4.5% in 2020 versus a previously expected 6% rise. And China consumes about 15% of oil supplies currently. Other commodity prices are also tumbling. For example, the price of copper is down around 9%, while the price for iron ore has fallen about 11%. A popular benchmark for natural gas prices is down 20% and is trading at its lowest point since August 2009. Oil and some other commodity prices have starting to tick back up a bit in mid-week as it appears – just appears – the virus emergency may have peaked.



That is within how many centimeters a new positioning system from a Swedish truck maker named Scania can now place a vehicle on the highway, according to an announcement last week. The company claims this high level of positioning accuracy is a potential breakthrough in the development of autonomous vehicles generally and trucks specifically. The system uses the Galileo global navigation satellite system in combination with other positioning and sensor technologies. It was developed as part of Europe's Propart project ­ The Precise and Robust Positioning for Automated Road Transports research effort - which involves Scania and six partners. As part of a recent test, a Scania self-driving truck executed a safe and efficient lane change in traffic. The maneuver was managed by the new system, relying on centimeter-level positioning combined with collaborative perception sensor data. The truck could execute the maneuver due to the precise positioning and an accurate representation of the whole surrounding environment. This was achieved by fusing data from the truck's camera and front and side radars combined with radars mounted on roadside units.



That is the full year 2020 forecast for US real GDP growth from the economists as Wells Fargo, as released this week. That was down just a bit from their forecast for 2.1% made in January, a drop Wells Fargo attributes to a very modest economic impact here from the coronavirus outbreak – though it says there is some significant downside risk to its forecast because the virus crisis could expand. The bank's 2020 global real growth forecast also dropped by 0.1 percentage pointand is now just 2.9%, which if realized would be the slowest pace since 2009. This downward revision was largely driven by lower growth expectations in China due to the virus.



That's how many warehouse and delivery jobs were added in the US in January, the Commerce Department reported, as the ecommerce job machine rolls on. 14,000 of those new jobs came from additional delivery drivers and couriers, while about 6000 new warehouse jobs were added. One of the factors in the growth in headcount: UPS and FedEx adding driver jobs to support new weekend deliveries. And of course Amazon is creating new jobs – many of them actually hired by Amazon Delivery Partner local entrepreneurs – as it rapidly expands its own parcel delivery operations. Interestingly, the number of warehouse jobs might have grown even faster if shippers could find more workers to hire. Trucking companies added 3,200 jobs last month, the strongest growth in a year as the overall sluggish freight market continues.

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