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NGA Economic Update: Metrics to Watch

Katy Devlin presents at NGA Glass Conference

Katy Devlin, content director for the National Glass Association, presented “10 Industry Metrics You Should Be Watching” as part of the Thirsty Thursday series of webinars. Devlin’s presentation, originally given at NGA Glass Conference: Isle of Palms | Charleston 2024, provides a comprehensive look at the economic trends shaping the glass and fenestration industries.

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Quick takeaways

Inflation “pinch” to fade further, and rate-cuts unlikely until latter half of 2024

Inflation has been a major headwind in the last two years, peaking at 9.1% in June of 2022. Since then, it has come down, and decreased throughout 2023, says Devlin.

Interest rates bottomed out during the pandemic, then saw “precipitous” increases in 2022 and into 2023, explains Devlin. The rates plateaued at a 22-year high in 2023. Jerome Powell, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, has said they are unlikely to cut rates in March 2024, reports Devlin, but has signaled the likelihood of three, quarter-point rate cuts in the coming year, likely in the latter half.

Supply chain woes reemerge with Red Sea attacks

“Things have been pretty much back to normal for the better part of a year” with regards supply chain, says Devlin, after the transportation, cost and lead times snarls supply chain issues caused during the pandemic.

That relative calm ended last month with the Red Sea attacks on cargo ships, she says, which resulted in many big shipping companies choosing to travel around the continent of Africa instead of their normal routes through the Red Sea. This has resulted in increased freight costs, and will likely have “ripple effects” says Devlin, though it hasn’t affected North American ports yet.

What does have the potential to impact North American ports is the historically low water levels in the Panama Canal, Devlin reports. The Canal is relied on by three of North America’s five largest ports – any difficulties due to water levels is likely to “have a really big impact,” says Devlin, and is something to keep an eye on in future.

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