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August 13: Space Tourism Starts, Food Prices explode 250%, Warren Buffet Reports RECORD Profit (Recap ep240)

In this week’s recap, Marcello talks about how the Richard Branson dream of space tourism has become a reality with its first “flight” with space tourists completed this week; Food prices keep rising amidst supply concerns; Berkshire Hathaway posted its highest ever quarterly operating profit, while gains from stock holdings helped the conglomerate led by billionaire Warren Buffett swing to a nearly $36 billion overall profit.

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, finally launched its 1st round of space tourists, a major step toward delivering on decades of promises. The company’s rocket-powered space plane, VSS Unity, took off from a New Mexico spaceport attached to a massive twin-fuselage mother-ship.It carried 3 customers. Virgin Galactic has a backlog of about 800 tickets already purchased, including 600 at prices up to $250K & another couple hundred at $450K per ticket.
Rice prices soared to the highest in nearly 15 years in Asia midweek, on mounting concerns over global supplies, as dry weather threatens production in Thailand & after top shipper India banned some exports. Thai white rice 5% broken, an Asian benchmark, jumped to $648 a ton, the most expensive since October 2008, according to data from the Thai Rice Exporters Association. That brings the increase in prices to almost 50% in the past year.
China’s exports fell -14.5% year-on-year in July, while imports contracted -12.4%, customs data showed on Tuesday, in the worst showing for outbound shipments from the world’s 2nd-largest economy since February 2020. Economists expected a -12.5% slide in exports & a -5% drop in imports. Total trade for July came in at $482.92B, a 13.6% fall year on year, while the country’s trade surplus stood at $80.6B, down -19.4% compared to July 2022.
In Australia 3 potential strikes at 3 major liquefied natural gas facilities could disrupt about 10% of global exports of the fuel & deliver a new energy price shock across both Asia & Europe. Workers at Chevron Corp & Woodside Energy LTD facilities in Australia, have voted to approve industrial action at the North West Shelf, Wheatstone & Gorgon operations & some walkouts could begin as soon as next week under labor rules.
The assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio shocked the country, where rising drug-related violence is a major concern for voters, Villavicencio, a vocal critic of corruption & organized crime, was killed on Wednesday during an evening campaign event in northern Quito. A suspect in the crime later died of injuries sustained in a shoot-out & 6 others have so far been arrested, the AG’s office said. 9 people, including a candidate for the legislature & 2 police officers, were injured, it added. President Lasso said after midnight, the crime was clearly an attempt to sabotage the election.
The Labor Department reported on Thursday that the U.S. initial jobless claims rose, a seasonally adjusted 248K for the week ended Aug. 5, an increase of 21K & above an estimate for 230K. Continuing claims, which run a week behind, edged lower to 1.684M, below the estimate for just over 1.7M.
At least 36 people have died after wildfires, fanned by winds from Hurricane Dora, 100’s of miles to the SW, had fanned the flames across the state., devastated much of the resort city Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island, the Maui County said in a statement. Multiple neighborhoods were burnt to the ground, as the western side of the island was nearly cut off, with only 1 highway open & over 11K evacuated, as officials told of widespread devastation to Lahaina, its harbor & surrounding areas. Some people fled into the ocean to escape the smoke & flames. The airport remained open to help the populace escape.
Household spending in Japan fell -4.2% in June year on year, a steeper fall than the 4% recorded in May, thus reflecting a 4th straight month of decline, according to official data. Food still made up the largest proportion of household spending, the largest fall was spending on furniture & household utensils, down -17.6% year on year. The average monthly consumption expenditures per household for June was 275,545 yen ($1,932.41), while the average monthly income per household stood at 898,984 yen in June, down -5.6% from the previous year.
According to the Mega Millions website someone from Florida purchased a ticket with all six matching numbers on Wednesday August 08th good for the top prize of up to $1.58B. The top prize bumped up to nearly $1.6B after no one got the 6 matching numbers for last week’s drawing. It is the 2nd-largest lottery reward won by a single person in U.S. history, although the final amount the winner will get to take home will be far smaller after taxes & other deductions are taken into account.

U.S. inflation higher in July, breaks a 12-month streak of slowing consumer price increases; Oil prices hit new peaks on Wednesday with the global Brent benchmark touching its highest since January; China’s CPI for July, declined by -0.3% year-on-year, smaller than the 0.4% expected by economists polled. The last time China recorded a fall in its inflation rate was in February 2021; Italy’s cabinet approved a whopping 40% windfall tax on lenders’ profits for the remainder of 2023.

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