Inflation, Rising Rates Curb Global Economic Growth
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Inflation, Rising Rates Curb Global Economic Growth

Slower reported growth due to rising prices and concerns over interest rates, survey finds.

By Paul Hannon
Thu, May 26, 2022 11:22amGrey Clock 3 min

Growth in the U.S. and global economies slowed in May as high inflation and rising interest rates dented demand, business surveys said Tuesday.

Business activity at services businesses in the U.S., eurozone, U.K. and Australia all grew more slowly in May amid rising prices, according to S&P Global surveys. The firm’s purchasing managers index surveys also reported Tuesday that factories in major global economies face supply-chain disruptions related to Covid-19 surges and the Ukraine war, as well as higher fuel costs and rising wages.

Separate U.S. figures on Monday pointed to slower growth in a segment of the housing market. The Commerce Department said purchases of newly built single-family homes declined in April for the fourth straight month, dropping 16.6% in April from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000. That marked the slowest pace of sales since April 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

New-home sales are a relatively narrow slice of all U.S. home sales, and sales figures can be volatile and subject to revisions. Still, the drop adds to signs the housing market is slowing amid record home prices and rising mortgage rates.

The global economy faces a series of obstacles this year, ranging from Covid-19 lockdowns in China, soaring energy and food prices, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a broadening drive by central banks to combat high inflation by increasing borrowing costs.

Some businesses are planning for a significant slowdown in growth or economic contraction.

Electronics retailer Best Buy Co. reported falling sales and profits for the latest quarter and said its results for the current fiscal year will be worse than it had previously predicted amid increased sales promotions and higher supply-chain expenses. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. swung to a quarterly loss, hurt by higher freight and product costs.

Retailers have posted mixed results for the first quarter. Last week, Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. posted weaker-than-expected earnings.

The surveys of purchasing managers at businesses in some of the world’s largest and richest economies indicate that activity continues to be supported by the easing of restrictions on the services sector as Western societies learn to live with Covid-19, with sectors such as tourism experiencing a strong recovery. Still, high inflation, geopolitical tensions and rising interest rates are clouding the outlook.

In the U.S., S&P Global said its composite purchasing managers index—which measures activity in both the manufacturing and services sectors—was 53.8 in May, down from 56.0 in April and the weakest rate of growth in four months. Separately, S&P Global said its index for the eurozone’s services and manufacturing sectors fell to 54.9 in May from 55.8 in April. A reading above 50.0 points to an expansion in activity, while a figure below that threshold points to a contraction.

While the surveys point to continued growth in the second quarter, they appear to have exaggerated the strength of the global economy during the first three months of the year.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, economic output in its 38 members was just 0.1% higher in the three months through March than it was in the final quarter of 2021, a sharp slowdown from the 1.2% growth recorded in the three months through December.

Economists at Capital Economics say that, based on their history, the PMIs pointed to growth in rich countries of around 0.5%.

“This partly reflected volatility in imports and inventories and the effects of Covid restrictions, all of which should fade from now on allowing the PMIs to give a more accurate steer,” wrote Ariane Curtis in a note to clients.

Facing the full brunt of the jump in energy prices triggered by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, European policy makers are preparing for tough economic times ahead.

“It’s now very clear that the economic toll of this war is world-wide,” said Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe after heading a meeting of eurozone treasury chiefs Monday. “High prices and disruption to food supplies are rippling across the world with very serious consequences for the most vulnerable in our societies.”

According to the surveys of purchasing managers, the U.K. has suffered the sharpest blow to activity in the wake of the invasion. S&P Global said its PMI for the country slumped to 51.8 in May from 58.2 in April to hit its lowest level in 15 months. Inflation hit a four-decade high in April as home energy prices surged.

“In the U.K., we are facing a very big negative impact on real incomes caused by the rise in prices of things we import, notably energy,” said Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, in a speech Monday. “We expect that to weigh heavily on demand.”

Citing the impact of the conflict on energy and food prices, the United Nations last week lowered its forecast for global economic growth in 2022 to 3.1% from 4%, and its forecast for U.S. economic growth to 2.6% from 3.5%.

Business leaders share those worries. A survey conducted by the Conference Board and released Tuesday found chief executive officers at 56 of Europe’s leading companies had become much more gloomy about their prospects in the six months since the last poll. The measure of confidence fell to 37 from 63, with a reading below 50.0 indicating that more CEOs are pessimistic than optimistic about the outlook.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 24, 2022.



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Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

By TRACY KALER
Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”

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