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CEO Turnover Surges, Bridge Collapse Disrupts Construction Supply Chains, Fed-Tracked Inflation Gauge Rises

CEO Turnover Surges, Bridge Collapse Disrupts Construction Supply Chains, Fed-Tracked Inflation Gauge Rises

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CEO Turnover Surges

A challenging business climate spurred 248 CEO departures at U.S. companies during February, up 49% from a year earlier and the highest monthly total in two decades of tracking by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

February’s tally of chief executive exits was also 28% higher than January’s total and topped the previous monthly record of 219 set in January 2020. Analysts cited a combination of factors, including technological advances, cost-cutting, redeployment of company resources and enhanced scrutiny of CEO behavior and decision-making.

The government-nonprofit category led February CEO departures at 56, rising 17% from a month earlier and increasing 40% from a year earlier. The category also leads year-to-date CEO changeovers at 104 for January-February, rising 79% from the same span of 2023.

Technology was second with 31 exits in February, topping the month-earlier figure by 48% and rising 107% from February 2023. That industry, which also leads others for worker layoffs so far in 2024, posted a total of 52 CEO exits during January and February, up 63% from the first two months of 2023.

The outplacement firm noted that interim CEOs taking the helm after changeovers since 2020 have remained in their positions longer than those in prior periods. The average tenure for U.S. interim CEOs was 10.1 months between 2010 and 2018, rising to 2.2 years between 2019 and 2023. For 2023 alone, interim CEO tenure averaged 3.2 years.

“This suggests CEOs who took the position temporarily in 2019 extended their tenures due to the pandemic, and are deciding to leave their posts now,” Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger said in a statement. 

Bridge Collapse Disrupts Construction Supply Chains

Construction industry analysts are anticipating significant delivery delays and potential price increases as shipments of key building materials and equipment are held up amid cargo transit disruptions following the bridge collapse in the Port of Baltimore.

Citing its analysis of Census Bureau data, the National Association of Home Builders noted that Baltimore’s second-largest import in 2023 was heavy duty machinery such as bulldozers and excavators, valued at about $3.6 billion. That category was second only to motor vehicles, valued at nearly $22.5 billion.

Another building-related category that could be affected by transit disruptions is unwrought aluminum, Baltimore’s fifth-highest-valued import at $1.25 billion. Other top Baltimore imports crucial to many types of construction include plywood and other laminated wood products valued at about $425 million; sawn lumber valued at $198 million; and gypsum, a core material in drywall and plaster applications, valued at nearly $24 million.

The trade group noted Baltimore tops all other U.S. ports for plywood and gypsum imports, and is the 11th biggest port for sawn lumber. Baltimore also handles nearly $264 million worth of electrical transformers, which developers in several industries said were already in short supply and causing project delays for the past several months due to lingering supply chain snags caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other analysts said the ultimate construction fallout will depend on the results of manufacturer and distributor efforts to reschedule and reroute cargo to alternate ports and arrange truck deliveries of redirected materials. Automakers and other companies are in the process of rerouting products to East Coast ports including New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina.

Fed-Tracked Inflation Gauge Rises

Consumer spending increased in February despite an uptick in an inflation measure that is closely watched by the Federal Reserve.

The Commerce Department said the pricing component in its personal consumption expenditures index rose 0.3% on a monthly basis and 2.8% on an annual basis, excluding food and energy. The annual rate was 2.5% with all items included, up from the 2.4% annual rate for January.

February’s all-items annual rate was still lower than the 3.2% February figure reported earlier this month for the Labor Department’s better-known consumer price index, which is based on different criteria. It was also closer to the Fed’s previously stated target of 2% before it starts cutting its key lending rate, though the Fed has already signaled up to three reductions could take place later this year.

The government reported February’s personal income rose 0.3% from the prior month as disposable income increased 0.2%. Personal spending rose $145.5 billion or 0.8% from January, led by categories including motor vehicles, financial services, air transportation, housing and utilities. 

Michael Pearce, deputy chief U.S. economist at research firm Oxford Economics, said February’s consumer spending “surprised on the upside,” rebounding primarily through stronger service spending despite continued inflationary pressures.

“The loosening of labor market conditions, stable inflation expectations, and likely disinflation in rents to come all make us confident that inflation will still trend slightly lower over the course of this year,” Pearce said in a statement. “That should be enough to give the Fed confidence to begin removing some of the policy tightness later this year, though the resilience of the real economy means policymakers are in no rush.”

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