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Idalia Storm Damage Could Reach $20 Billion, Consumer Spending Rises, Thomas Discloses Trips Involving Developer Crow

Idalia Storm Damage Could Reach $20 Billion, Consumer Spending Rises, Thomas Discloses Trips Involving Developer Crow

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Idalia Storm Damage Could Reach $20 Billion

Analysts said property damage and related economic losses could reach $20 billion after Idalia, the hurricane that turned into a tropical storm, left roads flooded and thousands without power in Florida and three other states.

Debris cleanup operations proceeded after the storm, blamed for at least two deaths, passed through Florida and headed north up the Atlantic Coast, where it was still causing heavy rain and floods in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Some of the nearly 500,000 customers who originally lost power from downed lines had electricity restored by Thursday afternoon, but residents of communities such as Cedar Key, Florida, still had no running water after returning to their homes.

Forecaster AccuWeather said its preliminary estimate of damage and economic loss was between $18 billion and $20 billion. That would be far lower than the loss of between $180 billion and $210 billion from Hurricance Ian last fall, among the most costly storms in U.S. history, analysts said.

Video images of the storm in its early hours showed gas station overhangs and restaurant signs being blown over by high winds. But Florida business leaders said tourism-related damage from Idalia was mitigated in part by the storm hitting largely in a coastal area of the northwestern part of the state known as Big Bend, which is less populated than areas to the south.

The White House Thursday formally declared Florida a disaster area, making it eligible for federal funding for recovery. 

Consumer Spending Rises as Layoffs Jump

The latest government data showed U.S. consumer spending rising, even at a time of historically high layoffs as companies deal with economic uncertainties.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that July’s consumer spending increased 0.8% from the prior month. Spending rose by a total of $144.6 billion for the month, led by categories including groceries, housing and utilities, food services, lodging, healthcare and financial services.

Oxford Economics researchers said July’s spending outpaced many analysts’ expectations, putting U.S. consumption on track for a 3.5% year-over-year gain for the third quarter, though spending has brought consumer savings rates to an eight-month low as income gains are still being eroded by inflation.

“We expect excess savings will be exhausted in the coming quarters, while a downturn in the labor market and tightening borrowing conditions will likely push savings up and spending down,” Michael Pearce, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics, said in a statement.

The spending news arrived as outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that August’s announced layoffs by U.S.-based employers totaled 75,151, a 217% increase from July and a 267% jump from August 2022. Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger said hiring in several industries is slowing after ramping up significantly in the past two years of the pandemic rebound, and workers are more reluctant to leave their current positions.

Companies year-to-date have announced more than 557,000 layoffs, up 210% from the first eight months of 2022. Many of the latest layoffs in industries including technology and warehousing are not yet reflected in unemployment insurance claims in an otherwise tight job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for the week that ended Aug. 26 totaled 228,000, down 4,000 from the prior week’s revised level.

Thomas Discloses Trips Involving Developer Crow

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas filed financial disclosures detailing his travel expenses paid for by billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow. Thomas had come under scrutiny for not previously reporting his financial ties to the GOP megadonor.

The justice’s financial disclosure report released Thursday said Crow, chairman of Dallas-based Crow Holdings, paid for Thomas’ travel expenses and meals on at least three occasions last year. The report also disclosed information on Crow’s 2014 purchase of three houses in which the justice held an interest, which the filing said was “inadvertently omitted” from prior reports.

The report also said Crow, who has not commented publicly on the disclosures, paid for Thomas’ return flight on his private plane in February 2022 from Dallas, where the justice had traveled to speak at a conference of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and for a flight back to Dallas in May 2022 to speak with the group.

Thomas also disclosed this week that Crow paid for his flights to and from the Adirondack Mountains by private plane in July 2022. Thomas was a guest of Crow, who provided meals and lodging at a lakeside resort owned by the real estate developer. The report said the justice plans to make full disclosure of transportation, lodging, food and entertainment expenses in future filings based on guidelines that were updated by the Judicial Conference of the United States in March of this year.

Crow Holdings, the private family office of the Trammell Crow family, has more than $16 billion in assets under management that span more than 850 properties throughout the U.S. The nonprofit news organization ProPublica reported earlier this year that Crow gave Thomas luxury trips that were not properly reported by the justice; Thomas maintained he had followed existing disclosure laws aimed at preventing conflicts of interest involving parties that could have business before the court.

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