Explaining global turmoil through business lens

by July 28, 2014

The growing drumbeat of global strife and spate of recent air disasters is casting a gloomier pall over economies worldwide, many of which already are mired in tepid recoveries in jobs and financial markets.

Soldiers with Rocket Launcher

Photo: Reuters

The escalating stream of bad news is becoming difficult to overlook even in locales seemingly unrelated to the military conflicts in Israel and Gaza, the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the awful airliner disasters in Taiwan, Mali and of course the two involving Malaysia airlines.  Other international issues are unnerving investors and consumers, like the U.S. evacuation of its Libya embassy and even a terror alert in Norway, among others.

It might be time to help local audiences make sense of how this plethora of adverse world events might ripple out to them.  It’s a challenging order if you don’t generally cover international affairs but if nothing else, this is a time to open a dialogue with local business leaders and company executives; a chance to have a conversation about their big-picture strategies and how global concerns affect them.  A few ideas you may wish to pursue:

Business impact. Who loses, who benefits when international trade is jeopardized, either through sanctions or events like last week’s temporary ban on flights to Tel Aviv?  While the accelerated U.S. sanctions against Russia are designed not to hurt U.S. businesses, the White House said, you might want to start talking not only with business leaders but also industry trade groups about their concerns, particularly in energy, financial and manufacturing sectors.

And what about Russian-made goods sold here in the United States?  Here’s a report that says Russian-made AK-47 firearms are “flying off the shelves” of U.S. gun stores as weapons devotees fear supply issues; that would be something to check locally.  And as the European Union and the United States mull more sanctions, as the Wall Street Journal reports, what’s next?  Vodka? Caviar? Tourism?

Quiet Bengurion Airport

Photo: Travel Weekly

For context or just edification, here’s the U.S. treasury department’s website on sanctions with links to details about a variety of sanctions programs; you might peruse to see if any ongoing programs have local impact.

Investors. Prices of gold have been waning lately as U.S. stock indices maintain record or near-record levels but as global strife continues, the traditional safe haven may be more appealing; ABC News reports that “Gold prices rise amid turmoil in Ukraine” although some Wall Street Journal commenters see the gains as a “knee-jerk reaction” and note that as the Fed telegraphs rising interest rates, gold will be hard-pressed to compete with better-paying bonds.  You might consider getting input from local fee-only financial advisors about what nervous individual investors can do if they’re worried about the effect of international strife on their retirement portfolios.

Meanwhile the U.S. dollar, another safe haven for international investors, is gaining – for a variety of both domestic and international reasons, as Reuters reports.  Good news for U.S. travelers abroad or those buying  imported goods; bad news for companies selling their wares abroad as a stronger dollar makes products more expensive to overseas buyers.  Again, an explainer on local gainers/losers as the dollars strengthens may be in order.

And interestingly, CNBC reports that U.S. oil may join the dollar and gold as a refuge for investors worried about Russian supplies.

Travel. Even the most stalwart flyer has to pause for a moment following the loss of several large passenger planes; CBS reports that “Trouble in the air causing fear of flying for many travelers,” and while most people probably will f orge on, it’s worth inquiring with airlines about cancelations from your market, and for evidence that any travelers are rebooking late summer, fall or holiday plans to domestic and/or driveable destinations.