Higher Rock Education - Economics Blog

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Economics in the News – Jan. 8-14, 2024

Economics impacts our lives every day. Below are some of the top storylines from this past week related to economics.

o   Employers have invested significant time and money in workplace mental wellness programs. But how impactful are those programs for the employees? A researcher from Oxford University analyzed more than 45,000 workers at companies that offered an assortment of mental wellness programs, but the study showed that workers who participated in such programs are no better off than their colleagues who do not.

The study also concluded that workers who were allowed to do charity or volunteer work did seem to have improved well-being. Corporate wellness services have become a booming industry in recent years, with numerous vendors competing for companies to invest in their products and services in hopes to save money by improving worker health and productivity. [The New York Times]

o   Federal regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) authorized 11 applications to offer exchange-traded funds tied to Bitcoin, creating a potentially simpler way for people to invest in digital assets. The approval marked a landmark achievement for the cryptocurrency industry, with the newly formed ETFs beginning trading last Thursday, Jan. 11.

Rather than storing Bitcoin in online wallets, investors in Bitcoin ETFs can own shares in funds owning the digital currency. The ETFs can provide investors who wish to gain exposure to the crypto market an outlet without some of the risks and inconveniences often associated with cryptocurrencies. In 2021, the SEC approved funds that track the fluctuations of Bitcoin without holding the currency itself. On the first day of trading, more than $4 billion of new Bitcoin funds changed hands. [The New York Times]

o   Attacks on the Red Sea from the Houthi rebel group in Yemen are starting to impact importers. Average worldwide costs to ship 40-foot-long containers has nearly doubled since late November. The increases have accelerated over the last two weeks, as some companies are routing container ships on longer voyages around the Horn of Africa to avoid the dangerous area.

Shipping executives estimate that the 10 largest boxship operators have shifted around $200 billion in cargo away from the Red Sea since early December. The attacks by the rebels are a response to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The shift to longer shipping routes around Africa is raising fuel and insurance costs and reducing containership availability. [The Wall Street Journal]

o   What countries provide their citizens with the greatest access to the world? Henley & Partners, a firm that advises wealthy people on residence and citizenship by investment, used data from the International Air Transport Association to compile the results. For the largest, wealthiest nations, citizens have access to visa-free travel to nearly every imaginable destination. For others in poorer locations or in places stricken by poverty, impacted by terrorism, or have a recent history of armed conflict, the ability to travel can seem nearly impossible. Travel restrictions have decreased globally since 2006, but some countries haven’t benefitted, raising further awareness on the widening discrepancy between wealthy and poorer countries.

Four members of the European Union – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – and two in Asia – Japan and Singapore -- top the list as the countries with the most global access with visa-free access to 194 destinations. The United States ranked seventh on the list, along with Canada and Hungary. The country with the least global access is Afghanistan, with citizens allowed visa-free entry to only 28 destinations. Other low-ranking countries included Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. [The Washington Post]

o   The NFL playoffs are in full swing. Despite the frustration of some fans of NBC’s decision to broadcast the highly anticipated matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins exclusively on Peacock, the broadcast averaged 23 million viewers. The viewership made it the most-streamed game in NFL history. The game marked the first playoff matchup in league history to air exclusively on a streaming network, which required a Peacock “Premium” subscription costing $5.99 per month.

Reportedly, before the game, Peacock had 30 million subscribers. A regular season game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills was tested as an exclusive Peacock broadcast, averaging 7.3 million viewers. Before Saturday, the most-streamed game in NFL history came in a Dallas Cowboys win over the Seattle Seahawks on Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football.” The overwhelming success of Saturday’s playoff game viewership for NBC paves the way for more playoff games to be streamed in the future. [The Athletic]

© Higher Rock Education and Learning, Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this site may be copied or distributed by any means, including electronic distribution without the express written consent of Higher Rock Education and Learning, Inc.