On Monday, we celebrated a little known global holiday that has only been around for 14 years. I personally had never heard of it until this year, when I heard an interesting piece on NPR about the holiday and its significance. The holiday, of course, is International DNA Day. This holiday commemorates the day in 1953 when DNA’s molecular structure was identified by James Watson, Francis Crick, and colleagues. Fifty years later, to the day, the Human Genome Project was completed. Technically, it was as close to complete as possible, as the few remaining tiny gaps were deemed too costly to fill. As a result of the completion of the Human Genome Project, medical and scientific breakthroughs have been possible, such as treatment approaches to various diseases. The project was 13 years in the making, and will certainly be used extensively in the future. So happy International DNA Day!
And now, on to the news.
- US. e-retailers get more competition from Europe as the duty-free ceiling rises
- Driver turnover rates show potential for continued wage growth for truckers
- Amazon jumps into a hot market for food delivery: San Francisco
- More than 800 recalled Volvo trucks remain unaccounted for
- Data recorder of El Faro recovered
- Crude oil prices steady after hitting new 2016 highs
Online retailers in the US are facing a new hurdle: higher duty-free limits. US web shoppers can now buy more merchandise daily from European vendors now that the US Customs and Border Protection has raised the single-day limit on duty free purchases by 300%. That means that the limit has risen from $200 to $800, which is significant. US Customs and Border Protection announced the increase in March, per an amendment to the Tariff Act of 1930 included in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, signed Feb. 24 by President Barack Obama. For many European retailers, this is big news, as depending on what they are selling, the price tag for many goods is well over $200. This opens up these companies to a whole new market of potential customers.
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the turnover rate at large truckload fleets continued to rise in the fourth quarter of 2015. This was the second straight quarter where turnover at large fleets was 100-plus. The ATA indicates that the high turnover rate will continue to put pressure on truck driver pay. Pay for drivers has plummeted over the last 30 years, contributing to the high turnover rate. With the driver shortage showing no signs of stoppage, increasing pay is one way to address the problem. In fact, I’ve yet to see a labor issue that cannot be solved, at least to some degree, by increasing pay and offering better benefits.
Many food delivery start-ups have popped up in San Francisco. And Amazon is taking direct aim at them. On Tuesday the e-commerce giant announced its largest expansion yet of a service called Prime Now Restaurant Delivery, which guarantees one-hour delivery from more than 115 San Francisco restaurants through the company’s Prime Now smartphone app. San Francisco is now the 8th market where Amazon is offering restaurant delivery, following San Diego, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Baltimore, and Seattle.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is on the lookout for hundreds of recalled Volvo trucks that are still unaccounted for. On March 10, Volvo issued a recall of 16,000 trucks in the US due to a problem in which the steering shaft could separate from the junction block, causing complete loss of control of the vehicle. Additionally, the bolt connecting the upper and lower steering shafts may not have been properly tightened. The majority of the trucks have been serviced and are back on the roads. For those trucks that were not serviced, the FMCSA indicated that they would be placed out of service by federal and state roadside inspectors. The FMCSA is still looking for 830 of the recalled trucks that have not been serviced or placed out of service.
Federal investigators have located the voyage data recorder (black box) belonging to the cargo ship El Faro, which sank last October near the Bahamas after sailing into a hurricane. In a statement late Tuesday, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had located the recorder under 15,000 feet of water, and were working to retrieve it. The ship sank October 1, 2015 while transporting cargo from Jacksonville, FL to Puerto Rico, and all 33 crew members aboard died. The black box contains information about the route the ship took and makes audio recordings of conversations and other sounds on the navigation bridge, and could provide more details into the final moments of the ship and crew.
And finally, oil futures steadied after setting new 2016 highs on Thursday. Analysts indicated that supply disruptions, strong investor appetite, and a weakening dollar could push prices higher soon. Brent crude futures were trading at $47.21 per barrel at 1329 GMT, up 3 cents from their last settlement and off an earlier high of $47.59. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 4 cents at $45.37 a barrel after reaching a new 2016 high of $45.71. Both have rallied more than 70% since hitting their lows earlier this year.
That’s all the news for this week. For my song of the week, I’ve chosen something in memory of Prince. This is a live version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps featuring Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and others. Prince literally appears out of nowhere to play one of the most epic guitar solos I have ever seen. Enjoy the weekend and the song.