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    Maui Economy, 6 Months After Wildfire, Is Still Reeling

    Twisted and charred aluminum mixed with shards of glass still lines the floor of the industrial warehouse where Victoria Martocci once operated her scuba diving business. After a wildfire tore through West Maui, all that remained of her 36-foot boat, the Extended Horizons II, were a pair of engines.That was six months ago, but Ms. Martocci and her husband, Erik Stein, who are weighing whether to rebuild the business, which he started in 1983, said the same questions filled their thoughts. “What will this island look like?” Ms. Martocci asked. “Will things ever be close to being the same?”In early August, what began as a brush fire burst into the town of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination, all but leveling it, destroying large swaths of West Maui and killing at least 100 people in the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.The local economy remains in crisis.Rebuilding the town, according to some estimates, will cost more than $5 billion and take several years. And tense divisions still remain over whether Lahaina, whose economy long relied almost entirely on tourism, should consider a new way forward.Debates about the ethics of traveling to decimated tourist destinations played out on social media after an earthquake in Morocco and wildfires in Greece last year. But the situation is particularly dire for Maui.State and federal officials scrambled last summer to find shelter for thousands of residents who had lost their homes, relocating people to local hotels and short-term rentals where many still live, often sharing a wall with vacationing families whose realities feel far from their own. Other displaced residents live in tents on the beach, and some restaurant owners pivoted to working out of food trucks.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    How Nevada Is Pushing to Generate Jobs Beyond the Casinos

    Before the pandemic brought everyday life to a halt, Joe Kiele supported himself through the industry that dominates Nevada’s economy. He waited tables at a steakhouse inside a casino in Reno.Four years later, Mr. Kiele, 49, remains in Reno, yet he now spends his workday inside a factory. In place of worrying about the doneness of a customer’s rib-eye, he trains people on the proper handling of industrial chemicals.His employer, Redwood Materials, is constructing an enormous complex across a lonely stretch of desert. There, the company has begun recycling batteries harvested from discarded smartphones and other electronics. It extracts critical minerals like nickel, lithium, copper and cobalt, and uses them to manufacture components for electric vehicle batteries.Not coincidentally, the plant sits only eight miles from a major customer — a Tesla auto factory.Mr. Kiele’s shift from restaurant server to chemical operator parallels a transformation long championed by Nevada’s leaders seeking to make their economy more diverse, reducing its reliance on the hospitality industry for jobs. In recent years, they have tried to secure investment from companies engaged in the transition toward green energy.The Redwood Materials plant, which occupies roughly 300 acres and is expected to require some $2 billion in investment over the next decade, looms like a monument to Nevada’s aspirations. For the employees, the factory is evidence that there are ways to pay bills besides dealing cards and delivering food.“We’re not based on consumerism,” Mr. Kiele said. “We’re dealing with industry.”This is not the first time that Nevada has sought to broaden its economy. The state has a history of betting its fate on the bounty flowing from a single industry.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Why Are Americans Wary While the Economy Is Healthy? Look at Nevada.

    Toni Irizarry recognizes that the economy has improved. Compared with the first wave of the pandemic, when Las Vegas went dark, and joblessness soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression, these are days of relative normalcy.Ms. Irizarry, 64, oversees a cafe at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, a property just off the Las Vegas Strip that caters mostly to locals. Guests have returned, filling the blackjack and roulette tables amid the cacophony of jingling slot machines — the sound of money.She started in the hospitality industry busing tables when she was only 16. Her paychecks have allowed her to purchase a home, raise three children and buy each of them their first car. But as she contemplates the future, she cannot shake a sense of foreboding.The outlook of people like Ms. Irizarry could be crucial in determining who occupies the White House. Nevada is one of six battleground states that are likely to decide the outcome of November’s presidential election. Its economic centerpiece, Las Vegas, was constructed on dreams of easy money. That proved a winning proposition for generations of working people, yielding middle class paychecks for bartenders, restaurant servers, casino dealers and maids. Yet over the last two decades, a series of shocks have eroded confidence.Nevada remains heavily reliant on the willingness of people around the world to spend their money at casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues.First, a speculative bonanza in real estate went spectacularly wrong, turning the city into the epicenter of a national foreclosure crisis. The Great Recession inflicted steep layoffs on the hospitality industry, demolishing the notion that gambling was immune to downturns. Then in 2020, the pandemic turned Las Vegas into a ghost town.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    A City Built on Steel Tries to Reverse Its Decline

    Gary, Ind., was once a symbol of American innovation. The home of U.S. Steel’s largest mill, Gary churned out the product that built America’s bridges, tunnels and skyscrapers. The city reaped the rewards, with a prosperous downtown and vibrant neighborhoods.Gary’s smokestacks are still prominent along Lake Michigan’s sandy shore, starkly juxtaposed between the eroding dunes and Chicago’s towering silhouette to the northwest. But now they represent a city looking for a fresh start.More than 10,000 buildings sit abandoned, and the population of 180,000 in the 1960s has dropped by more than half. Poverty, crime and an ignoble moniker — “Scary Gary” — deter private investors and prospective homeowners.As U.S. Steel stands at a crossroads — a planned acquisition would put it under foreign control — so does the city that was named for the company’s founder and helped build its empire. A new mayor and planned revitalization projects have rekindled hope that Gary can forge an economic future beyond steel, the kind of renaissance that many industrial cities in the Midwest have managed.In theory, the potential is there. Gary sits in the country’s third-largest metropolitan area, astride major railroad crossings and next to a shipping port. A national park, Indiana Dunes, is a popular destination for park-loving tourists and curious drivers.“We have the recipe for success,” said Eddie Melton, the newly elected mayor. “We have to change the narrative and make it clear to the world that Gary is open to business.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    U.S. Leading Soft Landing for Global Economy

    Economies all over the world are lowering inflation while avoiding serious recession — but growth in the United States stands out.The world is starting 2024 on an optimistic economic note, as inflation fades globally and growth remains more resilient than many forecasters had expected. Yet one country stands out for its surprising strength: the United States.After a sharp pop in prices rocked the world in 2021 and 2022 — fueled by supply chain breakdowns tied to the pandemic, then oil and food price spikes related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — many nations are now watching inflation recede. And that is happening without the painful recessions that many economists had expected as central banks raised interest rates to bring inflation under control.But the details differ from place to place. Forecasters from the Federal Reserve to the International Monetary Fund have been most surprised at the remarkable strength of the U.S. economy, while growth in places like the United Kingdom and Germany remains more lackluster. The question is why America has pulled out ahead of other developed economies in the pack.The I.M.F. said this week that it expected the United States to grow 2.1 percent, a sharp upgrade from the previous estimate of 1.5 percent. Other major advanced economies are also expected to grow, albeit less quickly. The euro area is expected to notch out 0.9 percent growth, as is Japan, and the United Kingdom is forecast to expand by 0.6 percent. “This is a good situation, let’s be honest, this is a good economy,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said at a news conference this week — two of nearly 20 times that he called the data “good” during his remarks.Evidence of that strength continued on Friday, when a blockbuster jobs report showed that employers had added 353,000 jobs in January and wages grew at a rapid clip.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Global Economy Is Heading Toward ‘Soft Landing,’ I.M.F. Says

    The International Monetary Fund upgraded its growth forecasts and offered a more optimistic outlook for the world economy.The global economy has been battered by a pandemic, record levels of inflation, protracted wars and skyrocketing interest rates over the past four years, raising fears of a painful worldwide downturn. But fresh forecasts published on Tuesday suggest that the world has managed to defy the odds, averting the threat of a so-called hard landing.Projections from the International Monetary Fund painted a picture of economic durability — one that policymakers have been hoping to achieve while trying to manage a series of cascading crises.In its latest economic outlook, the I.M.F. projected global growth of 3.1 percent this year — the same pace as in 2023 and an upgrade from its previous forecast of 2.9 percent. Predictions of a global recession have receded, with inflation easing faster than economists anticipated. Central bankers, including the Federal Reserve, are expected to begin cutting interest rates in the coming months.“The global economy has shown remarkable resilience, and we are now in the final descent to a soft landing,” said Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the chief economist of the I.M.F.Policymakers who feared they would need to hit the brakes on economic growth to contain rising prices have managed to tame inflation without tipping the world into a recession. The I.M.F. expects global inflation to fall to 5.8 percent this year and 4.4 percent in 2025 from 6.8 percent in 2023. It estimates that 80 percent of the world’s economies will experience lower annual inflation this year.The brighter outlook is due largely to the strength of the U.S. economy, which grew 3.1 percent last year. That robust growth came despite the Fed’s aggressive series of rate increases, which raised borrowing costs to their highest levels in 22 years. Consumer spending in America has held strong while businesses have continued to invest. The I.M.F. now expects the U.S. economy to grow 2.1 percent this year, up from its previous prediction of 1.5 percent.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    World Bank Warns of Energy Price Surge if Mideast War Spreads

    A new economic report predicted a year of weak growth and said the world faced a decade of “wasted opportunity.”The global economy is at risk of a “wasted” decade and the weakest stretch of growth in 30 years, the World Bank warned on Tuesday, saying a sluggish recovery from the pandemic and crippling wars in Ukraine and the Middle East are expected to weigh heavily on output.In its semiannual Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank projected that the growth in world output will slow further in 2024, declining to 2.4 percent from 2.6 percent. Although the global economy has been surprisingly resilient, the report warned that its forecasts were subject to heightened uncertainty because of the two wars, a diminished Chinese economy and the increasing risks of natural disasters caused by global warming.The converging crises in recent years have put the world economy on track for the weakest half-decade in 30 years.“Without a major course correction, the 2020s will go down as a decade of wasted opportunity,” said Indermit Gill, the World Bank Group’s chief economist.Global growth is projected to slow for the third straight year in 2024. Developing countries are bearing the brunt of the slowdown, with high borrowing costs and anemic trade volumes weighing on their economies.Although policymakers have made progress in bringing inflation down from its 2022 high, the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is threatening to become a broader conflict that could spur a new bout of price increases by causing the cost of oil and food to spike.“The recent conflict in the Middle East, coming on top of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, has heightened geopolitical risks,” the report said. “Conflict escalation could lead to surging energy prices, with broader implications for global activity and inflation.”The recent drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia have already affected international commerce by pushing up oil prices and freight and insurance rates while diverting maritime traffic to a much longer and costlier route around Africa.Economists at Capital Economics wrote in a report this month that the redirecting of trade ships away from the Red Sea is unlikely to lead to a resurgence of global inflation, but they suggested that if the war became a broader regional conflict it could pose inflationary risks.The disruptions to shipping routes follow a year in which, other than during worldwide recessions, global trade growth was the slowest in the past 50 years, according to the World Bank.If the conflict in the Middle East does not widen, the World Bank expects that global oil prices will edge lower this year as growth weakens and production of oil increases.Beyond the ongoing wars, signs of fragility in the Chinese economy also remain a worry. World Bank economists pointed to lingering weakness in China’s property sector and lackluster consumer spending as evidence that the world’s second-largest economy will continue to underperform this year. They suggested that could pose headwinds for some of China’s trading partners in Asia.Chinese growth is expected to slow to 4.5 percent this year from 5.2 percent in 2023. Outside the pandemic-induced downturn, that would be China’s slowest expansion in 30 years.Europe and the United States are also poised for another year of weak output in 2024.The World Bank projects that economic growth in the euro area will rise to 0.7 percent in 2024 from 0.4 percent in 2023. Despite easing inflation and rising wages, tight credit conditions are expected to constrain economic activity.Growth in the United States is expected to slow to 1.6 percent this year from 2.5 percent in 2023. The World Bank attributes the slowdown to elevated interest rates — which are at their highest level in 22 years — and a pullback in government spending. Businesses are expected to be cautious about investing because of economic and political uncertainty, including around the 2024 election.Despite such slow growth, Biden administration officials say they deserve credit for corralling inflation while keeping the economy afloat.“I think we’ve made tremendous progress,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told reporters on Monday. “It’s very unusual to have a period in which inflation declines as much it has while the labor market remains strong.”She added: “But that’s what we’re seeing, and that’s why I say we’re enjoying a soft landing.” More

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    Red Sea Shipping Halt Is Latest Risk to Global Economy

    Next year could see increasing volatility as persistent military conflicts and economic uncertainty influence voting in national elections across the globe.The attacks on crucial shipping traffic in the Red Sea straits by a determined band of militants in Yemen — a spillover from the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza — is injecting a new dose of instability into a world economy already struggling with mounting geopolitical tensions.The risk of escalating conflict in the Middle East is the latest in a string of unpredictable crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, that have landed like swipes of a bear claw on the global economy, smacking it off course and leaving scars.As if that weren’t enough, more volatility lies ahead in the form of a wave of national elections whose repercussions could be deep and long. More than two billion people in roughly 50 countries, including India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, the United States and the 27 nations of the European Parliament, will head to the polls. Altogether, participants in 2024’s elections olympiad account for 60 percent of the world’s economic output.In robust democracies, elections are taking place as mistrust in government is rising, electorates are bitterly divided and there is a profound and abiding anxiety over economic prospects.A ship crossing the Suez Canal toward the Red Sea. Attacks on the Red Sea have pushed up freight and insurance rates.Mohamed Hossam/EPA, via ShutterstockA billboard promoting presidential elections in Russia, which will take place in March.Dmitri Lovetsky/Associated PressEven in countries where elections are neither free nor fair, leaders are sensitive to the economy’s health. President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision this fall to require exporters to convert foreign currency into rubles was probably done with an eye on propping up the ruble and tamping down prices in the run-up to Russia’s presidential elections in March.The winners will determine crucial policy decisions affecting factory subsidies, tax breaks, technology transfers, the development of artificial intelligence, regulatory controls, trade barriers, investments, debt relief and the energy transition.A rash of electoral victories that carry angry populists into power could push governments toward tighter control of trade, foreign investment and immigration. Such policies, said Diane Coyle, a professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, could tip the global economy into “a very different world than the one that we have been used to.”In many places, skepticism about globalization has been fueled by stagnant incomes, declining standards of living and growing inequality. Nonetheless, Ms. Coyle said, “a world of shrinking trade is a world of shrinking income.”And that raises the possibility of a “vicious cycle,” because the election of right-wing nationalists is likely to further weaken global growth and bruise economic fortunes, she warned.A campaign rally for former President Donald J. Trump in New Hampshire in December.Doug Mills/The New York TimesA line of migrants on their way to a Border Patrol processing center at the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigration will be a hot topic in upcoming elections.Rebecca Noble for The New York TimesMany economists have compared recent economic events to those of the 1970s, but the decade that Ms. Coyle said came to mind was the 1930s, when political upheavals and financial imbalances “played out into populism and declining trade and then extreme politics.”The biggest election next year is in India. Currently the world’s fastest-growing economy, it is jockeying to compete with China as the world’s manufacturing hub. Taiwan’s presidential election in January has the potential to ratchet up tensions between the United States and China. In Mexico, the vote will affect the government’s approach to energy and foreign investment. And a new president in Indonesia could shift policies on critical minerals like nickel.The U.S. presidential election, of course, will be the most significant by far for the world economy. The approaching contest is already affecting decision-making. Last week, Washington and Brussels agreed to suspend tariffs on European steel and aluminum and on American whiskey and motorcycles until after the election.The deal enables President Biden to appear to take a tough stance on trade deals as he battles for votes. Former President Donald J. Trump, the likely Republican candidate, has championed protectionist trade policies and proposed slapping a 10 percent tariff on all goods coming into the United States — a combative move that would inevitably lead other countries to retaliate.Mr. Trump, who has echoed authoritarian leaders, has also indicated that he would step back from America’s partnership with Europe, withdraw support for Ukraine and pursue a more confrontational stance toward China.Workers on a car assembly line in Hefei, China. Beijing has provided enormous incentives for electric vehicles.Qilai Shen for The New York TimesA shipyard in India, which is jockeying to compete with China as the world’s largest manufacturing hub.Atul Loke for The New York Times“The outcome of the elections could lead to far-reaching shifts in domestic and foreign policy issues, including on climate change, regulations and global alliances,” the consulting firm EY-Parthenon concluded in a recent report.Next year’s global economic outlook so far is mixed. Growth in most corners of the world remains slow, and dozens of developing countries are in danger of defaulting on their sovereign debts. On the positive side of the ledger, the rapid fall in inflation is nudging central bankers to reduce interest rates or at least halt their rise. Reduced borrowing costs are generally a spur to investment and home buying.As the world continues to fracture into uneasy alliances and rival blocs, security concerns are likely to loom even larger in economic decisions than they have so far.China, India and Turkey stepped up to buy Russian oil, gas and coal after Europe sharply reduced its purchases in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, tensions between China and the United States spurred Washington to respond to years of strong-handed industrial support from Beijing by providing enormous incentives for electric vehicles, semiconductors and other items deemed essential for national security.A protest in Yemen on Friday against the operation to safeguard trade and protect ships in the Red Sea.Osamah Yahya/EPA, via ShutterstockThe drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Houthi militia are a further sign of increasing fragmentation.In the last couple of months, there has been a rise in smaller players like Yemen, Hamas, Azerbaijan and Venezuela that are seeking to change the status quo, said Courtney Rickert McCaffrey, a geopolitical analyst at EY-Parthenon and an author of the recent report.“Even if these conflicts are smaller, they can still affect global supply chains in unexpected ways,” she said. “Geopolitical power is becoming more dispersed,” and that increases volatility.The Houthi assaults on vessels from around the world in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait — the aptly named Gate of Grief — on the southern end of the Red Sea have pushed up freight and insurance rates and oil prices while diverting marine traffic to a much longer and costlier route around Africa.Last week, the United States said it would expand a military coalition to ensure the safety of ships passing through this commercial pathway, through which 12 percent of global trade passes. It is the biggest rerouting of worldwide trade since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the impact of the attacks had so far been limited. “From an economic perspective, we’re not seeing huge increase in oil and gas prices,” Mr. Vistesen said, although he acknowledged that the Red Sea assaults were the “most obvious near-term flashpoint.”Uncertainty does have a dampening effect on the economy, though. Businesses tend to adopt a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to investment, expansions and hiring.“Continuing volatility in geopolitical and geoeconomic relations between major economies is the biggest concern for chief risk officers in both the public and private sectors,” a midyear survey by the World Economic Forum found.With persistent military conflicts, increasing bouts of extreme weather and a slew of major elections ahead, it’s likely that 2024 will bring more of the same. More