December 21, 2020
This is the last edition published in 2020. The final edition for 2020 (Week 53) will be published early in first week of the New Year. We wish you happy and safe holidays!

Trend Watch and New This Week

US virus trends are showing signs of stabilization after spiraling higher for the weeks surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (slide 3). Still, they remain problematic and require continued diligence.

We updated the percentage of US hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (slide 5). It appears to be cresting as the number of states above 20% has declined, but there are a handful of states that continue to climb, most of which are in the West.

We chart US COVID cases and deaths by age (slide 6), which shows that the bulk of COVID cases are younger people, but deaths are devastating older folks. Also, women have a higher infection rate, but a much lower death rate than men.

We also revisit the staffing index (slide 7), which is now at its highest level of 2020 as companies continue to supplement with temporary workers.

We highlight apartment rental payments data (slide 8). Rental payments have been surprisingly steady, which we believe is bolstered by the support from the CARES Act as well as the solid wage and income trend.

Lastly, there is a growing backlog of container ships awaiting offload at key US ports, which broke a new all-time record in October and continued to climb through November based on preliminary data. In December, container ships bound for LA, the largest US port, are anchoring offshore more than 4 days waiting to offload, which is typically less than a day.

Bottom Line

The cross currents from mixed data continues. Negative data, including the US virus-related trends, are regularly followed by positive data such as the staffing index, freight & logistics and housing.

Importantly, the deployment of two vaccines has begun in the US and 18 have reached the final stages of testing globally. Moreover, it appears that Congress is nearing additional COVID relief.

We maintain our general optimism about the US recovery. While it is steadily improving, the recovery will continue to be uneven—both by industry and region.