Have you recently found it harder to make ends meet? Well, a lot of people might be in the same boat.The New York Times recently published a piece pointing out that while average American income remained flat during the last quarter of 2013, spending increased.If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah…it’s the holiday season. I was spending more than usual too.” The reality is that this might be pointing to a larger economic trend that’s affecting millions.For the last 3 months of 2013, consumer spending rose faster than it has in the previous 3 years, all while wages and salaries remained the same.Who is driving this spending increase if wages have been slowing down?Another recent New York Times article might provide some insight. According to the piece, upscale retail chains are replacing discount stores while fine-dining establishments thrive and more casual chain restaurants, such as Red Lobster, struggle to remain open. In other words, the middle class isn’t doing so well. The article goes on to explain that the current economic recovery has been driven predominantly by the top 20% of earners.With all of this, economists are still predicting that 2014 will see growth of up to 3% this year and are confident that the Fed’s halt in tens of billions in additional spending cuts will help the economy improve.The question is, are freelancers contributing to this expected economic growth? If the answer is yes, it wouldn’t be the first time that freelancers were left out of the conversation. Is this a similar situation?What differences have you seen? In the last couple of months, have you been spending more and making less? Has the recent economic shift affected your freelance business?
zoomIllustration; Source: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license Escalating trade hostilities between the US and China spells bad news for the Transpacific container trade but should also result in higher volumes of intermediate goods, according to shipping consultancy Drewry.Potential losers in this trade war will be those countries that provide the raw materials and semi-finished goods to China that go into the re-export of the final products to the US. The US itself could suffer as China uses up some of its exports for re-exports, the consultancy explained.China has developed its manufacturing capacity to such an extent that it barely needs inputs from the rest of the world to support its exports, which should limit the collateral damage.Drewry noted that China’s hogging of production is partly responsible for the slowdown in world trade witnessed in the past few years and its ever-growing self-sufficiency diminishes the fears of the spill-over effects from the trade war on global container flows.“This should be a fairly isolated affair with the Transpacific bearing the brunt, compensated to some degree by trade diversion.”However, Drewy explained that this does not mean the end of China’s export dominance.“While we do foresee some erosion of its market share in outbound container flows to the US, the sheer size of its export machine means that it cannot be replaced overnight. China was responsible for around one-third of all US finished goods imports last year, when measured in bilateral trade, twice as much as the rest of East Asia combined.”Summarizing, Drewry said that some short-term disruption to the container market is expected as new trading links are developed, but further fragmentation of production would boost the need for shipping, assuming demand levels are sustained.“For the foreseeable future China will remain the world’s container export hub, albeit a slightly smaller one.”