Brian Cunningham | US resort faces seasonal worker shortage due to visa cap.

RUTLAND, Vermont (AP) — Some Vermont ski resorts and luxury hotels are facing an acute labor shortage because of a congressional cap on the number of special visas issued to international workers who fill seasonal jobs such as ski lift operators and waiters, officials say.

Bob Beach, co-owner of the Basin Harbor Club resort near Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh, said the cap on H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers has left him scrambling to hire the 300 workers he needs to keep the resort running from May to October.

He said he has longtime seasonal staff members from Jamaica who were waiting to return to Vermont.

“Not only are we having to really search to the extreme to find those replacements, we’re also having to contact those folks to say, ‘It does not look like you’ll be joining us for the summer,'” Beach said.

Congress capped the H-2B visa program nationwide at 66,000 workers. There was an exemption last year that helped alleviate the shortage of workers, but it was not renewed for this year.

Tom Torti of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce said the state’s labor shortage is getting worse as Vermont’s population ages.

The Killington ski resort, the state’s largest, has trouble filling positions in the winter, when its employment need jumps to 1,800 workers from 300 for summer.

“It’s hard to get the international workers,” President and General Manager Mike Solimano told the Burlington Free Press. “On the other hand, nobody local wants the jobs. At times we had a hard time running the lifts because we were short of people.”

He said he’s tried to working with a college or paying more for seasonal jobs. Entry-level pay remains US$11 to US$13 an hour.

“A lot of times in winter, we clear out the administrative offices,” Solimano said. “Everybody is out doing something. We don’t have people in marketing, IT and accounting who get to sit in the office. Maybe they’re not running lifts, but they’re working in the parking lots.”


Brian Cunningham | Oil slumps as surprise gasoline build raises supply worries

Oil slumped to a two-week low on Wednesday, after U.S. data showed a smaller-than-expected drop in overall crude stocks and a surprising build in gasoline inventories, which raised worries about excessively high global supply.

U.S. crude futures settled down $1.97 to $50.44 a barrel, a 3.8 percent drop, the worst-one day decline since March 8, as investors bailed out of long positions in response to the bearish inventory figures.

U.S. crude stocks fell 1 million barrels in the latest week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, less than anticipated. Gasoline stocks posted a counter-seasonal build of 1.5 million barrels, despite heavier refining activity.

The surprise build in gasoline, along with an increase in U.S. production and imports from OPEC nations, pressured prices.

A global crude glut has persisted even as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producing countries have worked to reduce output under an agreement to cut supplies almost 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of 2017.

U.S. stockpiles and production have cast doubt on whether the OPEC cuts were enough. U.S. production rose to 9.252 million barrels a day in the most recent week, the highest since August 2015.

“They drop production, we add production, and so at end of the day it’s ugly,” said Robert Yawger, energy futures strategist at Mizuho Americas.

Brian Cunningham | Latest ‘Furious’ film opens strongly, especially outside of the US

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Universal’s action thriller The Fate of the Furious hit the ground in super-high gear this weekend, taking in US$100.2 million ($140 million) on North American screens while roaring to record global revenues of more than a half-billion dollars, industry analysts estimated.

Exhibitor Relations said the latest chapter in Universal Studio’s “Fast and Furious” series accounted for nearly two-thirds of North American revenues over the three-day Easter weekend, leaving previous frontrunner The Boss Baby in its dust with just US$15.5 million in sales. That Fox/DreamWorks Animation film has now grossed US$116.3 million domestically.

While the latest “Fast” opened strongly, the manic muscle-car-filled film – with megastars Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – made nearly a third less in its first weekend than the previous “Fast and Furious” chapter, which scored US$147.2 million.

But the new film had an exceptionally strong performance in the rest of the world, led by China, bringing in US$432.3 million. With North American sales added in, the estimated US$532.5 million global debut would break the record of US$529 million held by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, website reported.

“Beauty and the Beast” continued to draw viewers, earning $13.6 million in its fifth week out. The Disney blockbuster, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, has taken in $454.7 million domestically while pushing past $1 billion

The animated Smurfs: The Lost Village from Sony came in next at US$6.5 million. That was half its opening take from a week earlier.

Holding fifth spot on North American screens was Going in Style. The Warner Bros. comedy, starring Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine as aging bank robbers, had weekend sales of US$6.3 million.

Rounding out the top 10 are: Gifted (US$3.0 million) Get Out (US$2.9 million) Power Rangers (US$2.9 million) The Case for Christ (US$2.7 million) Kong: Skull Island (US$2.7 million)

Brian Cunningham | The big debate: Is 2017 the best time to be a marketer?

From creative programmatic and targeted content to emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, the sheer variety of ways to communicate with consumers makes 2017 an exciting time to be in marketing.

Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed, however, would go a step further. Speaking at Advertising Week Europe last month, Weed argued that the rapid pace of innovation, coupled with the plethora of methods available to engage with consumers makes 2017 not only exciting, but actually the best time to be a marketer.

“I genuinely believe this is the best time to be in marketing and advertising, because so much is changing and it’s so exciting. I’ve never done a job this long before, but I’m not doing the same job as I was doing seven years ago. It’s radically changed,” he explained.

“To me the exciting thing is there have never been so many ways to engage with people in a two-way conversation. Making sure you’re on top of innovation and working out what’s going on is tremendous. I can’t believe there is anything more exciting just now.”

Exciting yes, challenging definitely. This is the era of fake news, ad fraud and dubious metrics. So far in 2017 high profile advertisers from McDonald’s to L’Oreal have pulled spend from Google and YouTube in fear their adverts might appear next to extremist content.

Consumers are also more engaged with brand messaging then ever. This proved to be the downfall of Pepsi’s latest campaign, which was pulled after a matter of days following a savage social media backlash accusing the drinks giant of co-opting the Black Lives Matter global protest movement.

The “always on” nature of the digital age has given consumers the tools to make their voices heard and have more control over content, notes Sulinna Ong, vice president of artist marketing at music streaming site Deezer.

She believes in 2017 any marketer worth their salt must understand how to utilise all the digital tools at their disposal to create meaningful engagement, which then gives them the opportunity push innovation and creativity up the agenda.

“New technology and the continued rise of social media have dramatically increased demand for authentic and exciting conceptual work, producing creative 360-degree campaigns that may otherwise have been flagged as “too risky” in the past. Now – more than ever before – the appetite for experimentation drives innovation,” says Ong.

This opinion is shared by Creative England marketing manager Rachel Graye, who believes the digital age has broadened marketers’ ability to build relationships with consumers.

“Digital advancements definitely make marketing more exciting. I see it as an advantage to have even more tools at our disposal to get closer to the consumer. Social and influencer marketing, for example, allows us to connect with people in a more meaningful way,” she explains.

READ MORE: Is digital an effective mass market medium?

“It also allows marketing teams to work more closely as different expertise needs to come together for it to work as a whole. Content marketing forces us to be more creative, which is a challenge and an opportunity to create something new and re-write the rule book – what’s more exciting than that?”
Increasing accountability

Marketing effectiveness is under the microscope like never before, putting teams under increasing pressure to deliver tightly defined KPIs that directly impact the bottom line.

It is for this reason 2017 brings with it more complexity and accountability, says Dixons Carphone commercial marketing director Jonathan Earle. He argues short-term thinking in the boardroom means marketers are not even given enough time to hold their nerve if the numbers are not coming in.

“It’s got to be immediate response rates and that can also add pressure, because campaigns could be launching new products or services, and it takes time to drive into people’s psyches what you’re doing. Sometimes the ROI has got to be immediate otherwise it’s a failure.”

That being said, Earle believes making marketers accountable for driving real business growth can only be a good thing, as it shows marketing is being seen as a revenue generator not a cost centre.

Brian Cunningham | Boeing’s largest 737 max jet takes flight amid market downdraft

Boeing Co.’s newest and largest 737 Max gunned down the runway and soared over the shore of Lake Washington, south of Seattle, on its way to an almost three-hour maiden flight Thursday.

The latest model in Boeing’s best-selling jet family took wing five days ahead of schedule, during a week marking the 50th anniversary of the first 737 flight. The single-aisle Max 9 faces an uncertain future, however, in a market dominated by Airbus SE’s longer A321neo.

About three-quarters of orders for the workhorse planes favoured by budget carriers are clustered around mid-sized models such as the Max 8 and A320neo. But sales are growing faster for larger narrow-bodies, one reason why Boeing is targeting Airbus’s lead with two stretched jets.

“It’s an incredibly important part of our family moving forward,” Randy Tinseth, a Boeing vice president of marketing, said of the Max 9. Boeing has also begun marketing an even larger model, the Max 10X, and expects the two variants combined to eventually account for about a quarter of its narrow-body sales, he told reporters.

The US planemaker is trying to pull off a balancing act with the 737, its largest source of profit. Boeing is mulling introducing as many as five Max models targeting different niches, while ratcheting up the tempo in its Renton, Washington, factory over each of the next three years.

Any stumbles in developing the new jets, a process fraught with delays, could damage Boeing’s bottom line if snarls slow manufacturing at a plant preparing to increase output to 47 planes a month in May — five more than the present rate. The Max 8, the first of the upgraded 737 models, has completed flight-testing and is slated to begin deliveries in May, months earlier than initially planned.

The first Max 9 took to the skies with Captain Christine Walsh in command. It is designed to seat 178 travellers in a two-class cabin, about 16 more people than the Max 8, while flying the same distance: as many as 3,515 nautical miles.

The debut is the latest in a year crammed with new planes produced by manufacturers from Brazil to Ukraine. Boeing has already begun to cut metal for the next 737, the smaller Max 7. Meanwhile the company’s 787-10, the largest Dreamliner, took its first flight 31 March—the same day that Airbus’s A319neo and Antonov’s An-132D turboprop aircraft made their maiden flights.

Sputtering airplane sales raise concerns that the new aircraft are entering the market as the aerospace industry heads into a downturn after more than a decade of growth. That could make it tougher for manufacturers to recapture the billions of dollars poured into engineering, tooling and factories.

The pain won’t be felt equally, however. Boeing and Airbus are cushioned by record backlogs for their upgraded narrow-bodies: 3,703 orders for the 737 Max and 5,056 sales for the A320neo lineup.

“This is why we have a duopoly,” said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, referring to Boeing and Airbus. “Newcomers have a harder time with an ultimately cyclical market, combined with heavy spending on new-product development.”

Boeing shouldn’t have any problem recovering its costs for the 737 Max family, the latest versions of the venerable single-aisle jet that revolutionized low-cost travel and aircraft manufacturing with its moving line. The bulk of Boeing’s orders are said to be for the -8, which seats more travellers than the A320neo, although the US planemaker doesn’t break out sales by Max model.

With the Max 9 struggling to gain sales, Boeing has begun pushing the Max 10X, a longer model. It would seat about 230 travelers in a single cabin and cruise on transcontinental routes flown by Boeing’s 757, which has been out of production for more than a decade.

But potential customers, including Air Lease Corp., fret that the new model will get to market too late, with a planned 2020 debut. That will be a year after Airbus will introduce an A321neo model configured to seat as many as 240 people. Boeing would probably have to discount heavily to cut into Airbus’s lead, Aboulafia said.

“They can’t seem to get the pricing power they had with the NG series,” the analyst said, referring to the previous generation of the 737s that commanded premiums to Airbus jets. “Maybe that will change. But if it does, it will happen on the Max 8.”

But Boeing, for now, may be content to have product offerings that it can hone for 737 operators—without ceding the top end of the narrow-body market to Airbus, said Ken Herbert, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity.

“The investments haven’t been excessive relative to the broader program,” he said. The Max 9 and 10X will help “keep Airbus pricing in check,” he said. “Part of the benefit is just having something in place and letting the technology mature.” Bloomberg

Brian Cunningham | US ban on carry-on e-gadgets will hit Indian travellers hard

One out of every two passengers who fly from India to the US transit through airports in the Middle East like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and from Saturday they will need to check in all electronic devices sized larger than a smart phone like laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, electronic games, DVD players, etc. Apart from not having their personal device for work or entertainment at airport lounges and on board ultra-long haul flights, air travellers will have to worry about the possibility of their e-gadgets getting lost, misplaced or stolen from their checked-in bags.
On Friday, the US department of homeland security banned “all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone” from the carry on bags (bags carried on board by the flyer) of passengers who board direct flights to the US from the airports in Amman (Jordan), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Jeddah and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait, Doha (Qatar), Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Airlines were notified by the US government at 3am EDT (12.30pm IST, Friday) about the ban and have been given 96 hours within which to comply.
As for the passengers who transit from any of these airports, they will have to pack their electronic goods into their check-in bag at their airport of origin.
So a passenger booked on a Mumbai-Dubai-Dallas flight will have to check in the laptop at Mumbai itself. The new security measures don’t apply to passengers booked on Air India. But those booked on Jet Airways will need to check if their flights will transit through any of the above listed airports.
Apart from passengers from the countries that are on the list, it will be those from India who would be the most hit as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are popular transit halts for passengers from India flying to the US. The US National Travel and Tourism office data on international travellers to the US and the countries they come from has Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, China and European nations in the top ten list. Passengers from none of these countries would generally transit through any of the 10 listed airports to reach the US. But that’s not the case with India, which stands at the 11th position on the list. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), in the fiscal year 2016, of the 2.69 million passengers who flew from India to the US, 1.3 million flew on airlines like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar that transit through airports like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Kapil Kaul of CAPA said that he sees the new security measures as a “serious passenger inconvenience and nothing more”. He added that it might result in some business class traffic moving to carriers that are not affected but given the very high demand and high passenger load factors there won’t be any significant movement. “It’s poorly executed and communicated but we expect it to be a short term measure,” Kaul added.
Anil Punjabi, president of Travel Agents’ Federation of India, said: “The restriction, first by the US and then by the UK, has scared travellers. They feel that if intelligence agencies believe that terror outfits may explode a bomb on a plane that originates from the Gulf, they should avoid it altogether. Even elderly people travelling to their children living abroad want to avoid the flights. Though most of them don’t carry the restricted items, there is fear of delay at airports in the Gulf.”

Brian Cunningham | The U.S. Real Estate Market – Trends, Characteristics And Outlook

37% of all homes sold in the U.S. last year were purchased for investment purposes.
The homeownership rate in 2016 was the lowest in 50 years, as renting has been increasingly the more frequent choice compared to purchasing.
Were interest rates or inflation surprise to the upside in 2017, the negative price movements of the last months are likely to not only persist, but become more significant.
Following the debacle of 2007-2008, the U.S. real estate market has since been characterized by a significant improvement in prices, number of transactions and mortgage originations. This has been the result of an economic recovery that will be completing its 8th year in June 2017, coupled with the generally expansionary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. To understand how real estate markets in 2017 and beyond will unfold, it is necessary to look at various determining elements, including 1) Mortgage originations 2) Economic growth 3) Housing affordability 4) Interest rate policy and 5) Construction activity. This article analyses what has been driving real estate in the years since the 2007-2008 financial crises, what are the current price trends and what can be expected this year and onwards.

The US Real Estate Market since 2007
The years 2007-2009 proved to be a historical event for American housing. The economic crisis, in great part caused by the proliferation of subprime mortgages, led to significant bankruptcies in the financial sector and a recession which shrunk GDP by 0.3% in 2008 and 3.1% in 2009. The effects on real estate prices was swift and significant, as for the first time ever the USA experienced a nationwide fall in housing prices:

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index from a peak of 184.62 in July 2006 reached a nadir of 134.01 in February 2012, or a fall of 27%. Regional markets, in particular Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami and California, were hit with bigger corrections, ranging from 40% to 65%. Construction activity was likewise hit, with housing starts falling from 1.49 MLN a month in March 2007 to below 0.5 MLN monthly in Q1 2009: