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Home Sales Decline

Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. declined in March, CNN reports.

Whats going on: “Existing home sales, which make up the majority of the housing market, fell 4.3% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.19 million, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.”

  • The median price for a previously owned home last month was $393,500, an increase of 4.8% from March 2023, which was the highest on record.
  • The only region of the country to see an increase in existing home sales last month was the Northeast.

Why its happening: Higher list prices combined with still-elevated mortgage rates continue to make home purchasing difficult for Americans.

What it means: “Though rebounding from cyclical lows, home sales are stuck because interest rates have not made any major moves,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

  • However, “[t]here are nearly six million more jobs now compared to pre-Covid highs, which suggests more aspiring homebuyers exist in the market.”
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Weight-Loss Drug Shows Potential to Treat Sleep Apnea

A weight-loss drug has shown potential in treating patients with sleep apnea, CNBC reports.

What’s going on: Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, which is used to treat obesity and diabetes, “was more effective than a placebo at reducing the severity of obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, in patients with obesity after a year, according to preliminary data” from two late-stage clinical trials.

  • In October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration gave the medication a “fast track” designation for patients with moderate to severe OSA and obesity.

Why it’s important: “The results are an early sign of hope for the estimated 80 million patients in the U.S. suffering from OSA, which refers to interrupted breathing during sleep due to narrowed or blocked airways. Around 20 million of those people have moderate-to-severe forms of the disease, but 85% of OSA cases go undiagnosed, according to Eli Lilly.”

  • Complications of the condition include excessive fatigue, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and type 2 diabetes—and treatment options are limited.

Meeting an “unmet need”: “Addressing this unmet need head-on is critical, and while there are pharmaceutical treatments for the excessive sleepiness associated with OSA, [Zepbound] has the potential to be the first pharmaceutical treatment for the underlying disease,” Eli Lilly Senior Vice President of Product Development Jeff Emmick said Wednesday.

  • The sleep apnea trial data means that Medicare may be able to cover the drug, as under new FDA guidance, Medicare can pay for weight-loss drugs if they are used for more than weight loss alone.
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FTC to Unveil, Vote on Noncompete Ban Next Week

The Federal Trade Commission will vote next week on the final version of a rule that would prohibit noncompete agreements between employers and their employees, Law360 (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “According to the FTC’s announcement, the agency’s five commissioners will vote April 23 on whether to ‘authorize public disclosure of the proposed final rule,’ first unveiled in draft form in January 2023. Assuming a vote in the affirmative, staffers will give a presentation on the rule, followed by a second vote to issue the rule in its final form.”

  • The agency did not indicate which, if any, changes it has made to the previous version of the rule.
  • The FTC received more than 26,000 comments on the rule during the 90-day public comment period.

Why it’s important: A noncompete ban would cause disruption to the majority of manufacturing operations in the U.S., a 2023 NAM survey found.

  • Some 70% of manufacturers in the U.S. use noncompete agreements, and they do so to safeguard intellectual property, sales information, industrial processes and business strategies.
  • Approximately 66% of survey respondents—representing manufacturers of all sizes—said a ban would interfere with their operations.
  • Around 50% of those polled said a ban would have a negative effect on their investment in employee training programs.

The NAM says: “The FTC’s proposed rule severely threatens manufacturers’ ability to protect intellectual property and responsibly invest in their employees,” said NAM Director of Transportation, Infrastructure and Labor Policy Max Hyman.

  • “The NAM remains engaged on this critical issue for our members and will weigh our options in response to the commission’s vote next week.”
Input Stories

Granholm: LNG Export Permit Freeze “a Study”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the Biden administration’s recent moratorium on liquefied natural gas export permits “a pause for a study” at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday, according to POLITICO Pro (subscription).

Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) questioned several recent energy-related moves by the Biden administration.

What’s going on: “It is a pause for a study. You don’t need to hype it out beyond what it is,” Granholm told the committee on Tuesday. “It is a pause to get data.”

  • The administration has received bipartisan criticism for the freeze of LNG export permits since announcing the move in January. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said the pause “undercut[s] President Biden’s own stated goals” and “weakens our country while giving Russia an upper hand.”

An examination of prices: Granholm told the committee the pause “was needed to examine prices and market demand since the last time a study was conducted.”

  • She said the study will take into account foreign nations’ emissions “that may be linked to the absence of U.S. natural gas shipments.”

45V guidance: Sen. Manchin asked Granholm about proposed guidance on the Inflation Reduction Act’s first tax credit, known as the 45V. In a news release from the committee, Sen. Manchin said the proposed guidance, “if implemented … would jeopardize the viability of the industry before it even has a chance to get off the ground.”

  • Sen. Manchin mentioned a recent letter to the administration from all seven “hydrogen hubs”—locations designated late last year by the administration to scale up the nation’s clean hydrogen production—saying the centers would “no longer be economically viable” without revision to the 45V proposed guidance.
  • “Do you think we should heed the warning of [the Department of Energy]’s own seven hubs, and do you have any insight into what might be changed?” he asked.
  • Granholm responded that the administration has “gotten over 30,000 responses, and they are working through those responses.”
  • She added, according to POLITICO Pro, “The bottom line is clearly we want the hubs to succeed.”

Our take: “No matter what you call it, the administration’s pause on LNG export permits runs counter to the wishes of the American people and the interests of the United States and our allies,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Michael Davin.

  • “According to a recent NAM survey, 87% of Americans believe the U.S. should continue to export natural gas. The administration should listen.”
Input Stories

Manufacturers Face Significant Cost Increases if Tax Bill Fails

U.S. manufacturers and other businesses are sharing the details of the potential economic fallout if Congress fails to pass NAM-supported, pro-growth tax legislation, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “[L]arge public companies say the law as it stands is costing them hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, while some owners of small and medium-sized businesses say they wonder if their firms will survive.”

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allowed manufacturers across the U.S. to expand their businesses, hire and purchase new, much-needed equipment. But in 2022 and 2023, three critical provisions from the law—immediate expensing for domestic research and development, enhanced interest deductibility and full expensing—expired, hurting businesses of all sizes.
  • In January, the House passed the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act, which would reinstate all three measures. The NAM has been pushing the Senate to pass the legislation, too.

Why it’s important: Lift truck and solutions manufacturer Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc. “spends around $100 million a year on R&D, and the law change that went into effect in 2022 increased its tax bill by about $25 million a year.”

  • “So that’s $25 million less that I have to invest back into my business, whether it’s R&D, whether it’s plants and equipment [or] hiring new people,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Minder told the Journal.
  • Other companies say the lack of action on the House-cleared tax bill “may prompt reduced investment in other areas and increase the rate of return required for new projects.”

Weighing a move: Hyster-Yale—which “spends around 80% of its research budget in the U.S.”—would like to keep its operations in the U.S., Minder continued, but it can’t guarantee that it will continue to do so without the return of the expired TCJA tax provisions.

  • Other manufacturers are reporting a similar predicament.

​​​​​​​The last word: “The stakes are clear: Congress must pass the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act or risk significant economic damage across the manufacturing sector,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain.

  • “Manufacturers are depending on Congress to restore these pro-growth tax policies, which support the investments in R&D and capital equipment that are so critical for manufacturing growth.”
Input Stories

Biden Calls for Tax Hikes in Hometown Speech

President Biden called for tax increases during a visit to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

What’s going on: “Biden used Scranton, a city of roughly 75,000 people, as the backdrop to argue that getting rich in America is fine, but should come with heftier tax bills.”

What he said: President Biden—who has proposed a 25% minimum “billionaires tax”—used the bulk of his speech to call for tax hikes.

  • “The president said decades of Republicans’ policies that cut taxes for the wealthy with the idea of stimulating the economy ‘failed America.’”
  • President Biden has said raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans is “how we invest in the country.”

However … The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was “rocket fuel” for manufacturing, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said during his 2024 State of Manufacturing Address in February.

  • In fact, as we discuss in another story in this edition of Input, the expiration of three pro-growth tax provisions from that law has harmed manufacturers throughout the U.S. And more tax hikes are scheduled to take effect at the end of 2025.
  • It is critical to a healthy manufacturing industry and U.S. economy in general that expired, pro-growth provisions be reinstated—and that Congress act to forestall further tax increases next year.

The final say: “[T]he path is clear,” Timmons said in his February address. “No new taxes on manufacturers.”

Input Stories

NAM to White House: Stand Up for U.S. Businesses, Workers

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative must revise its digital trade policy now to reassert American leadership, the NAM and more than 40 industry partners told the Biden administration ahead of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s testimony this morning before the House Committee on Ways and Means.

What’s going on: In the past few years, the USTR has “retreat[ed] from digital trade protections,” the groups told National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard. Problematic actions/items by the USTR include:

  • The October 2023 withdrawal of longstanding U.S. World Trade Organization positions that support the protection of cross-border data flows, stop data localization requirements, end discrimination against U.S. firms and their goods and services and protect sensitive data from bad actors;
  • Abandonment of core U.S. policy priorities in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity; and
  • The omission in the USTR’s 2024 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers of numerous digital trade barriers, despite the statutory obligation under the Trade Act of 1974 to detail such barriers.

Why it’s important: These moves raise “deep economic and national security concerns,” the groups continued. They are in direct opposition to the interest of U.S. companies and their employees, and they give greater power to foreign nations, including China, “to write the rules that will govern the global digital economy for years to come.”

What must be done: The USTR must revise its stance on digital trade to “stand up for U.S. businesses and workers who face damaging digital trade barriers in foreign countries.”

Input Stories

First-of-Its-Kind-in-U.S. Facility Breaks Ground

Construction of a manufacturing plant that promises to be vital to the world’s move toward electrification is now underway, according to Chemical Industry Digest.

What’s going on: “Orion S.A., a specialty chemicals company, broke ground on a plant in Texas that will be the only facility in the U.S. producing acetylene-based conductive additives for lithium-ion batteries and other applications vital for the global shift to electrification.”

  • Batteries require conductive additives, and those produced at the Texas facility southeast of Houston will be made using acetylene, a colorless gas.
  • Equistar Chemicals LP, a subsidiary of polymer and polyolefin technologies manufacturer LyondellBasell, will manufacture acetylene at a nearby location.
  • The new plant will be similar to an Orion facility already in operation in southern France that also uses acetylene from LyondellBasell.

“A crucial part”: “[W]e see electrification as a crucial part of our plan to reduce carbon emissions across our industries,” said LyondellBasell Executive Vice President of Global Olefins and Polyolefins, Refining and Supply Chain Kim Foley. “By supporting the production of key battery components, we’re contributing to solutions for a better tomorrow.” The company recently released its annual sustainability report.

  • The battery additives produced at the Texas facility will have “one-tenth of the carbon footprint of other commonly used materials,” according to the article.
  • And the plant “will bring new technology and high-skilled jobs including laborers, millwrights, welders, equipment operators, among others jobs in Texas, and [will] positively impact long-term job creation for the local community,” Energy Job Shop reports.
Input Stories

IRI Announces Winner of Prestigious Holland Award

Should manufacturers strive to be “cutting edge”?

That’s the question explored in “Is ‘Cutting-Edge’ Good? Assessing Product Newness Factors in Technologically Turbulent Environments,” the paper that won the Innovation Research Interchange’s 2023 Maurice Holland Award.

  • The honor, named for the IRI’s founder, has been bestowed annually since 1982 by the IRI, the NAM’s innovation division. It goes to the best article published in the IRI’s flagship publication, Research-Technology Management.
  • Winning papers exemplify a commitment to significant work in research and development and innovation management, originality of new management concepts and excellence in presentation.
  • The 2023 award-winning paper, by Michael Obal, Todd Morgan and Wesley Friske, does all three, according to the IRI.

Providing value: “In innovation, novelty generates the most attention but does not always translate into better value for the company and customers,” said Research-Technology Management Editor-in-Chief Yat Ming Ooi.

  • “This article tells readers when and to whom novel new products matter and why companies need to strike the right balance to ensure better new product performance.”

Authors respond: Research-Technology Management “is a leading academic journal for innovation-related research, and thus having an opportunity to publish an article in RTM is a significant accomplishment in its own right,” said co-author Friske, an associate professor at Missouri State University’s marketing department. “I am also grateful for the opportunity to share this award with my friends and co-authors, and it is particularly important to me now that Todd is no longer with us.”

  • Co-author Morgan, an assistant professor at Cleveland State University’s Monte Ahuja College of Business, passed away in 2023.
  • “I’m honored to receive the Holland Award from Research-Technology Management alongside Todd and Wes,” said co-author Obal, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Manning School of Business.

About the IRI: The IRI offers insights, case studies, research, benchmarks and strategic connections—all built around a set of innovation growth drivers as determined by members annually. Click here to learn more about the IRI.

Read the full story here

Input Stories

U.S. Industrial Production Rises

U.S. industrial production increased modestly in March, in keeping with economist forecasts, according to baha.

What’s going on: “Industrial production in the United States rose by 0.4% in March after increasing 0.1% in the previous month, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors stated in its report published on Tuesday.”

The details: Manufacturing output increased 0.5% on a monthly basis and 0.8% on an annual basis. It rose 1.2% in February.

  • Mining declined 1.4% in March and 2.0% year on year.
  • The utilities index grew 2.0% for the month but declined 3.1% year on year.

Capacity utilization: Capacity utilization—a measure of potential output—for the industrial sector as a whole increased to 78.4%, up from 78.2% in February but “1.2 percentage points below its long-run average.”

What it means: These data are among “signs that manufacturing is starting to pick up,” MarketWatch (subscription) reports.

  • “The S&P Global U.S. Manufacturing PMI has been in expansion territory for the past three months, and the ISM factory index was 50.3 in March, the first reading above the break-even level of 50 since September 2022.”
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