Hurricane Ian’s damage will reach up to $65 billion

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(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Ian flooded major cities and devastated homes after it made landfall in Florida — but the damage isn’t done.

After temporarily becoming a tropical storm, Hurricane Ian accelerated to Category 1 strength on Thursday night as it barreled toward South Carolina, with landfall expected on Friday.

In all, the economic damage wrought by the hurricane could reach up to $65 billion, according to a projection released on Thursday by data firm Enki Research, which studies the financial impact of storms.

The estimate put the best-case scenario for storm damage at $55 billion, Enki Research said.

The historic storm demolished homes and businesses, damaged infrastructure like roads and bridges and appears to have harmed citrus fruit trees that make up a key industry in the state.

Florida accounts for 70% of citrus fruits — such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines — produced in the U.S.

Fixtures of the state’s tourism industry, like Disney World and Universal Orlando, temporarily closed as the storm approached earlier this week. On Friday, the parks announced that they would begin to reopen in phases.

President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a major disaster declaration for Florida, allowing additional federal aid to flow to the state.

Speaking on Thursday, Biden vowed support for state and local officials as they assess the damage caused by the storm, saying the federal government will cover the full cost of clearing debris and of rebuilding public buildings like schools and state fire stations.

The government will also be providing support to people with destroyed or damaged homes.

More than 8,700 people have registered for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

On Wednesday, the then-Category 4 hurricane sustained wind speeds of 150 mph as it made landfall on Florida’s west coast.

The storm struck the coastal city of Fort Myers, and affected nearby cities of Tampa Baby and Sarasota, before traveling east across the peninsula toward Orlando.

“It’s definitely going to be one of the stronger storms and more damaging storms,” Chuck Watson, Enki Research founder and director of research and development, told Bloomberg on Tuesday.

Hurricane Charley, a major storm that struck Florida in 2004, caused damage that today would amount to between $20 billion and $25 billion, Watson said.

The projected costs for Hurricane Ian would amount to less than half of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, which totaled $161 billion.

While it caused major damage, Hurricane Ian avoided a large disruption of the U.S. oil and gas industry, which would have come about if the storm had traveled toward Texas and Louisiana, industry analysts previously told ABC News.

The state doesn’t host any oil refineries and accounts for about 6,000 barrels of oil production each day, said Andy Lipow, a longtime oil analyst and president of Lipow Oil Associates.

That output makes up a tiny fraction of overall U.S. oil production, which amounts to 11.8 million barrels per day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported this month.

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Turkey prices soar ahead of Thanksgiving, what consumers can expect

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(NEW YORK) — The centerpiece for Thanksgiving tables across the country will cost more than ever this holiday season.

The American Farm Bureau Federation announced Wednesday that “families can expect to pay record high prices at the grocery store for turkey” due to bird flu and inflation.

The organization analyzed turkey costs in their latest Market Intel, finding retail prices on fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound in September, which is up 112% from 2021. The previous record high price was $5.88 per pound in November 2015, during the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak.

“This is particularly challenging for turkey production, because it takes a really long time to grow a turkey to its market weight of about 30 pounds. So when we saw these significant shocks to supply this spring, we’re now seeing it in grocery stores reflected in those prices today,” American Farm Bureau Federation senior economist Veronica Nigh told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

With inflation at a near 40-year high, retail food prices were up 11.4% in August compared to the same time last year.

Despite higher prices, farmers and retailers believe there should be enough turkeys to meet the holiday demand.

“All of us are feeling the pain of higher prices at the grocery store,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “HPAI outbreaks in the spring and an uptick in cases in the fall are taking a toll, but farmers remain dedicated to ensuring America’s food supply remains strong.”

Over 40 states have confirmed cases of bird flu, which has wreaked havoc on 46 million birds in the U.S.

In Minnesota, the top turkey supplier in the U.S., the situation has gotten so dire with the deadly outbreak that Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order to waive trucking regulations in an effort to help fight the spread.

“If your turkeys end up with bird flu, any other poultry on the farm, whether it’s meat chickens, egg layers, they all have to be exterminated and that’s not only a huge financial loss that’s just a really sad situation,” Nellie Lovenduski of Slate River Farms told local affiliate WXXA-TV.

But farmers maintain that consumers can still find their Thanksgiving turkeys.

“I think at a minimum you’re going to see an increase in price in turkeys even in the big box turkey providers,” Lovenduski said.

But Nigh explained there’s still ways to save.

“We’re looking at ways to perhaps mitigate cheaper Thanksgiving dinner and maybe more side dishes to go along with that with that turkey and looking for substitutes at the grocery store,” she suggested. “Think about getting a frozen burger rather than a fresh turkey this year. Ways to really stretch that dollar and so that we can all be together but still have that traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”

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Many people evacuating Hurricane Ian face dire financial choices

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(NEW YORK) — Fleeing Hurricane Ian, Kallie Collins, her fiance and four of her children flew out of Tampa Bay on Tuesday hours before the airport halted flights. However, her fifth child, a 14-year-old boy, wasn’t on the plane with them.

Months earlier, the family had purchased plane tickets for an October visit to her parents in Minnesota. As the storm headed straight toward their Tampa Bay-area home, the airline allowed them to move up their departure date and evacuate.

But her eldest son hadn’t wanted to come along back when they scheduled the trip, and they couldn’t afford to add a ticket for him.

“Leaving your child behind in a situation like this is just horrible,” she said. “I felt so guilty.”

The family had spent all of its savings, a total $1,100, on hurricane preparations like storage for their valuables and medical supplies for her two children with special needs, Collins said. Ultimately, she found a brother-in-law who could shelter her son at his home in Jacksonville.

“With our savings depleted, plus inflation, we’re in a really, really tough financial spot,” Collins said. “I have no idea how we’re going to get through this.”

Collins is hardly the only person fleeing Hurricane Ian who faced dire financial choices in recent days.

More than 2.5 million Floridians fell under an evacuation order on Wednesday as the hurricane barreled toward the state, where 13% of people live in poverty and the median annual household income is about $58,000.

For low- and middle-income households, the costs of evacuation can force individuals to put themselves in harm’s way, go into credit card debt or rely on support from family members and charity, advocates and experts said.

“The insecurity that so many people in this country are facing — you see it play out during a hurricane,” Mechele Dickerson, a professor at the University of Texas Law School who has studied the costs of living through a hurricane, told ABC News.

“The evacuations show the same thing we saw during COVID,” she added. “As soon as everything was shut down, the disparities were on display.”

Evacuating Hurricane Ian is unaffordable for many

During Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas and Louisiana in 2017, hurricane evacuation cost households an average of $1,200, David Bierling, a researcher at A&M’s Texas Transportation Institute and Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, told the Texas Observer. Costs add up from transportation, lodging, food and lost wages, his research showed.

That sudden financial burden would prove out of reach for most Americans. More than half of people across the U.S. cannot afford to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a Bankrate survey in January.

Many people cannot afford to evacuate because they lack a car and the savings to pay for alternate transportation, Dickerson said, noting the costs of staying at a hotel also exceed many household budgets.

Further, people who work for hourly wages often cannot afford to miss days or weeks of work as they shelter elsewhere, Dickerson added. “If somebody could be making money if they stay, there’s also the income component,” she said.

‘For low-income people, this is a disaster’

Still, many people have chosen to evacuate from the path of Hurricane Ian, even as they struggle to afford basic needs, said Vanessa Tinsley, the executive director of a Miami-area food bank called Bridge to Hope.

A local influx of evacuees has dramatically increased the number of people seeking food, she said.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” Tinsley told ABC News. “The increased need is enormous.”

Bridge to Hope, which typically provides food to 100 clients by appointment each day, saw the number of appointments shoot up to 156 on Thursday, she added. Tinsley hired two additional staff members to work the food pantry, nearly doubling a staff that usually stands at three. The heightened need will continue for at least a month, she said.

“For low-income people, this is a disaster,” she said. “The food budget is the last flexible piece they have.”

“You can’t call the bank and say, ‘I need a lower car payment,'” she added. “You can’t lower your car insurance, the cost of your housing, your utility bill.”

Jasmine King, a customer service representative for Enterprise Rent-A-Car who makes $16 per hour, evacuated from the Western coastal city of Bradenton on Tuesday night with her five children.

Staying with her kids at a hotel near the Miami airport, King faces $178 per night for lodging as she suffers lost wages from missing her job. In all, King’s savings have dwindled to $240, she said on Thursday, adding that she hopes to go home as soon as possible when the roads are navigable.

“This experience has been an eye-opener,” she told ABC News. “It’s not just the glitz and glam of living in a state like Florida, but do you have a financial backup plan if something goes wrong?”

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Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida’s home insurance industry

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(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida’s already-fragile homeowners insurance market. Experts say a major storm like Ian could push some of those insurance companies into insolvency, making it harder for people to collect on claims.

Since January 2020, at least a dozen insurance companies in the state have gone out of business, including six this year alone. Nearly 30 others are on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s “Watch List” because of financial instability.

“Hurricane Ian will test the financial preparedness of some insurers to cover losses to their portfolios, in particular smaller Florida carriers with high exposure concentrations in the impacted areas,” Jeff Waters, an analyst at risk analytics company RMS and meteorologist, told ABC News. Waters said Florida is a peak catastrophe zone for reinsurers, and those with exposure will likely incur meaningful losses.

More than 1 million homes on the Florida Gulf Coast are in the storm’s path, and while Ian’s track and severity can change in the coming days, one early estimate pegs the potential reconstruction cost at $258 billion, according to Corelogic, a property analytics firm.

Industry analysts say years of rampant and frivolous litigation and scams have brought Florida’s home-insurance market to its knees, with many large insurers like Allstate and State Farm, reducing their exposure to the state in the past decade.

“Insurers most exposed to the storm will be the Florida-only insurers, which we define as insurance companies with at least 75% of their homeowners and commercial property premiums written in Florida,” according to a report from Moody’s Analytics submitted to ABC News.

The state-run, taxpayer-subsidized Citizens Property Insurance Corp. stands to lose the most. As more local insurance companies in Florida have closed their doors, Citizens has seen its number of policyholders swell from 700,000 to more than 1 million in just the past year.

Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg and a vocal critic of Florida’s insurance industry, warns that if Citizens can’t pay its claims, Floridians should brace for assessments to go up on their own insurance policies under a state law that allows it to assess non-customers to pay out claims.

“Every policy holder in the state of Florida, home and auto, should be watching this storm very carefully because it could have a direct impact on their pocketbooks,” said Brandes. He predicts policy holders will see rate hikes of up to 40% next year as a result of Ian.

A spokesperson for Citizens did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Florida is already home to the highest insurance premiums in the U.S., something Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor running against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis, blames on his opponent.

“Gov. DeSantis let these insurance companies double Floridians’ rates and they’re still going belly up when homeowners need them most. You pay and pay and pay, and the insurance company isn’t there for you in the end anyway,” Crist said in a statement Monday.

A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

In May, DeSantis signed a bipartisan property insurance reform bill into law that poured $2 billion into a reinsurance relief program and $150 million into a grant program for hurricane retrofitting. Among other things, it prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on the age of a roof and limits attorney fees on frivolous claims and lawsuits.

At a news conference Tuesday, DeSantis said a lot of the damage from Ian would be from flooding and storm surge. DeSantis said the danger with the Tampa Bay area is that the water has no place to go, noting that the area has close to 1 million residents enrolled in a national flood insurance program.

Homeowner policies typically do not cover flood damage, and most homeowners located in a flood zone often get coverage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Most private property insurance companies insure primarily for wind damage.

President Joe Biden on Thursday approved DeSantis’ request for a disaster declaration for a number of counties in the state. It includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

“The expense will be higher because of higher construction costs and overall inflation,” Denise Rappmund, the vice president of Moody’s Public Project and Infrastructure Finance Group, told ABC News. “FEMA is the key source of aid following a natural disaster, but much of the costs to repair and rebuild damaged property will be borne by property insurers who will benefit from $2 billion of state-funded reinsurance.”

Analysts say Hurricane Ian has the potential to be among the four costliest storms in U.S. history, mostly because Florida’s population has exploded in recent years.

No state in the eastern U.S. has grown faster in population than Florida in the past decade and the state’s fastest growing cities: Tampa, Fort Myers and Sarasota, are all in the storm’s path. Analysts warn that more people and more homes mean that a major storm could become more destructive and costly.

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What Hurricane Ian means for food and gas prices

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(NEW YORK) — As elevated prices for oil and gas strain U.S. households, the country faces a weather event that some fear will send the costs of these essentials even higher: Hurricane Ian.

The category 4 hurricane on Wednesday sustained wind speeds of 150 miles per hour as it made landfall on Florida’s west coast.

Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, President Joe Biden warned oil and gas companies against raising prices amid the storm.

“Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people,” he said.

Americans need not worry about price increases for gasoline as a result of the hurricane, industry analysts told ABC News, noting that the path of the storm has averted key oil-producing states, such as Texas and New Orleans.

The storm will not cause widespread food price hikes, either, since Florida isn’t a major producer of food, analysts said. However, the state is a top exporter of citrus fruit — such as oranges and grapefruits — which could experience price hikes depending on the extent of damage, an analyst said.

Here’s what to know about the impact Hurricane Ian will have on gas and food prices:

The impact of Hurricane Ian on gas prices

Hurricane Ian will not affect gasoline prices, industry analysts said.

“I don’t think it’ll have any impact at all,” Andy Lipow, a longtime oil analyst and president of Lipow Oil Associates, told ABC News.

Florida, the analysts said, simply doesn’t produce much oil. The state doesn’t host any oil refineries and accounts for about 6,000 barrels of oil production each day, Lipow estimated. That output makes up a tiny fraction of overall U.S. oil production, which amounts to 11.8 million barrels per day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported this month.

“Just as a matter of geography, there is no direct effect on the oil and gas market,” Pavel Molchanov, a senior energy analyst at Raymond James, told ABC News. “Florida is not an energy-producing state in the way Texas and Louisiana are.”

Hurricane Ian did cause temporary disruption of major oil platforms in the gulf of Mexico, however. As a precaution, BP and Chevron on Monday cut production at offshore oil platforms, evacuating personnel as the storm grew in strength, Lipow said.

Those facilities produce 485,000 barrels per day and represent 27% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico but less than 5% of overall U.S. oil production, Lipow said.

But the disruption is temporary. BP began working to return personnel to its offshore platforms on Tuesday, the company said.

“Once they get the people out there, it’s back to production within a day,” Lipow said.

The effect of Hurricane Ian on food prices

Similarly, the hurricane won’t cause large-scale hikes in food prices, since Florida doesn’t play a major role in the sector, industry analysts said.

“It’s just one state in the union and a state that really does not produce a lot of food,” Kenneth Scott Zuckerberg, lead economist for grain and farm supply with CoBank, told ABC News. “In the grand scheme of things, this is well within the context of what happens in the agricultural sector.”

However, the state does factor significantly in the production of two items: fertilizer and citrus fruit, the analysts said.

Phosphate, a key ingredient of fertilizer, is mined and manufactured in the Tampa Bay-area, where a single company, Mosaic, produces 50% of North American phosphate fertilizer, the company says.

Damage to phosphate-related facilities could disrupt the tight market for fertilizer, but farmers typically accept smaller profit margins rather than pass the cost increases along to consumers, Zuckerberg said.

Another top export in Florida, citrus fruit, accounts for 70% of such foods produced in the U.S. Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and the juices derived from them could undergo a hike in prices in a matter of weeks if the hurricane damages crops, said Arlan Suderman, a chief commodities analyst for financial services firm StoneX.

“The market is anticipatory,” Suderman told ABC News. “As soon as the hurricane goes through and they make an assessment, they’ll be pricing in expectations.”

If damage to citrus trees proves significant, Suderman said, the recovery of the citrus supply could take “several years.”

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How low the stock market could fall and what investors should do, according to experts

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(NEW YORK) — A year of sharp declines for the stock market reversed over the summer, giving stocks a much-needed rebound. But a bout of deep losses across the major stock indices in recent weeks has renewed fears of further decline.

The S&P 500 on Monday closed at a lower point than it has on any other day of 2022. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, fell officially into bear market territory, meaning it had dropped at least 20% from its most recent peak.

The recent drop marks the latest swing of this year’s market seesaw. Bouncing back from a historic plunge over the first half of 2022, the S&P 500 rose more than 15% during a two-month period beginning in mid-June. Over that same period, the tech-heavy Nasdaq spiked more than 17% and the Dow rose nearly 14%.

In recent weeks, the stock market has soured, however, over indication from the Federal Reserve that it intends to continue an aggressive series of borrowing cost hikes until it brings inflation under control — a policy approach that heightens the risk of tipping the U.S. economy into a recession, market analysts told ABC News.

Still, investors and retirees shouldn’t sell their stock holdings in a panic. In fact, some investors should buy additional shares, anticipating that low-priced stocks will eventually recover and yield significant gains, the analysts said.

“Recessions, as painful as they are, ultimately lead to discounted prices,” Dan Ives, managing director and senior equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities, told ABC News. “Investors that can navigate that risk could be rewarded on the other side of the dark storm.”

Here’s what you need to know about why stocks are falling, how much further the decline could go and what investors and retirees should do in response:

Why are stocks falling?

Stocks are falling because the Fed has put forward a string of aggressive interest rate hikes in recent months.

The policy approach aims to slash price increases by slowing the economy and choking off demand. But the move risks tipping the U.S. into a recession and putting millions out of work.

A recession poses a serious threat to the stock market because it could dramatically cut corporate profits, the key focus for stock forecasters. As workers lose their jobs and consumers cut back on spending, business gains dry up.

“The main reason stocks remain vulnerable in recessionary environments is that corporate profitability is affected,” Christine Benz, the director of personal finance at financial research firm Morningstar, told ABC News. “That makes prevailing stock prices harder to justify if corporate profitability is sinking.”

Typically, the market has climbed in response to news about slowing inflation and a potential softening of rate increases; inflation spikes and rate moves are a common cause of selloffs.

Inflation data released earlier this month revealed that prices rose unexpectedly in August, sending the market tumbling. Last week, the Federal Reserve instituted a 0.75% rate hike, which sent stocks falling even further.

How far will the stock market fall?

It’s difficult to predict the specific length of a market slide, the analysts said. But history suggests the downturn could last for several more months and possibly more than a year and that stock prices may fall even further.

Keith Lerner, co-CIO and chief market strategist for Truist Advisory Services, said the rate hikes instituted by the Fed would weigh on the economy for at least 6 to 12 months and potentially even longer.

“Even if the Fed changes course, the rate increases they’ve just done this year haven’t had their full impact,” Lerner told ABC News. “With that backdrop, we think it will continue to be a volatile market and the economy will be weakened.”

If the U.S. falls into a recession, those losses could be even more pronounced, Lerner added.

Since 1950, the average decline for the S&P 500 during a recession is about 29%, he said. So far this year, the S&P 500 has fallen nearly 24%.

“The market is pricing a mild recession into stocks,” said Ives of Wedbush Securities.

The plummet in the S&P 500 this year qualifies it for bear market territory, which offers another lens for assessing the index’s historical performance.

In the 26 bear markets since 1929, the S&P 500 has lost an average of 35.6% of its value over a typical duration of 289 days or about 9-and-a-half months, according to a report from Hartford Funds.

What should investors and retirees do?

Investors, including those nearing or in retirement, shouldn’t sell their stock holdings out of panic, the experts said.

“Often when you make changes in response to the market activity, you find that the market recovers not long thereafter,” said Benz. “My advice is for investors to have long-term strategic asset allocation that makes sense for them and stick with it.”

Take, for instance, a 45-year-old investor with a portfolio made up of 70% stocks and 30% bonds, Benz said. The declining value of the stock market may send the balance awry, shrinking the share made up of stocks and raising the share made up of bonds.

Such an individual should buy more stock holdings in an effort to bring the proportions back into alignment with the initial portfolio balance, she added.

“It doesn’t feel great – you’re adding to the asset class that hasn’t performed well,” Benz said. “The virtue of the strategy is that it enforces discipline for this idea of putting money into the market when stocks are down and arguably cheaper.”

Added Lerner: “The price of admission in the stock market are drawdowns. There are drawdowns every year – some are bigger than others.”

For investors nearing or in retirement, the choice is more difficult, since they may lack the long-term time horizon of younger investors. The economic headwinds this year have hurt bonds, a popular safe haven for retiree portfolios.

“This has been a really tough year for those in that age band,” Benz said.

She advised pulling out some cash reserves but also urged individuals against overdoing this strategy, especially in a high-inflation environment. People should cash out the “least-depressed assets” in their portfolio, such as short-term bonds or high-quality intermediate bonds, she added.

Retirees could also benefit from placing their money in savings accounts, which tend to offer higher interest rates as the Fed heightens borrowing costs, Benz said. Elevated yields on savings accounts, however, still remain well below the inflation rate.

“Shop around for savings accounts, because there is a huge disparity in terms of yields,” she said.

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Costco keeps hot dog and soda combo at $1.50 price possibly ‘forever’ CFO announces

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(NEW YORK) — If you grew up in a household with a Costco membership, chances are you can instantly recall sampling everything from spinach- and cheese-filled ravioli to electrolyte beverages and the feeling of freezing in the produce and refrigerator section, all to be rewarded with a post-shopping bite from the iconic food court where a crisp $5 bill could make you feel like royalty.

With 578 Costco warehouses across 46 states — more locations than The Cheesecake Factory, In-N-Out Burger or Wienerschnitzel, to name a few — thousands of U.S. consumers have come to know and love the Kirkland Signature hot-dog-and-soda combo, which has maintained the same $1.50 price since 1985.

And the company’s chief financial officer confirmed they are committed to keeping it that way.

During a presentation on Costco’s fourth-fiscal-quarter fiscal results, Richard Galanti told investors and reporters there are other areas, including Costco’s gasoline sales or travel business, where they could potentially turn more profit to help offset the low-priced food court meal.

When asked about Costco’s margins holding despite inflationary pressures and areas where they’re being more aggressive on pricing, Galanti said, “Lightning just struck me.”

“There are some businesses that are doing well with margin like gas business on a smaller way — in the travel business, those things help us be more aggressive in other areas,” such as “hold the price on the hot dog and the soda a little longer, forever,” he said.

Earlier this year, another Costco executive also said the hallmark item of the retailer’s prepared food court offerings would continue to hold at the same price.

Galanti also noted the strength in Costco’s fresh food business sales over a two-year period through this most recent quarter.

“The enormity of the improvement in the bottom-line, even now as we’re getting some of that back now, still net-net, were better than we were two years ago,” he explained of the company’s earnings. “So all those things help that process.”

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US consumer confidence rises more than expected in September, defying recession fears

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(NEW YORK) — U.S. consumer confidence rose more than expected this month, extending a rebound in sentiment that began with a jump in August.

The growing confidence in the U.S. economy defies recession fears on Wall Street less than a week after the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate and forecasted rising unemployment.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 108.0 this month from 103.6 in August. Consumer sentiment improved both for the current state of the labor market and business conditions.

Last week, the Federal Reserve escalated its fight against inflation by raising borrowing costs 0.75% — a repeat of the same hike it imposed at each of the last two meetings. Prior to this year, the Fed last matched a hike of this magnitude in 1994.

The central bank said additional rate hikes would likely follow.

The data from the Conference Board signals resilient consumer confidence, which could sustain consumer spending.

The Fed, which aims to fight inflation by slowing the economy, may see the data as a sign that it should continue its significant rate hikes. The approach, however, risks tipping the U.S. into an economic downturn and putting millions out of work.

Before the Consumer Confidence Index jumped in August, it had dropped for three consecutive months. It reached its lowest point of the year in July.

The present situation index, which measures consumer sentiment toward current business and labor market conditions, rose to 149.6 from 145.3 last month. The expectations index, which assesses the short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, jumped to 80.3 from 75.8.

The persistence of elevated prices has weighed on U.S. consumers and investors for well over a year. A higher-than-expected inflation report this month sent the S&P 500 tumbling for its worst day of 2022.

Inflation data showed that prices rose unexpectedly in August from the month prior but the overall year-over-year inflation rate fell slightly to 8.3%.

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How to save on pricey pumpkins as drought, inflation impacts farmers ahead of Halloween

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(NEW YORK) — As prices continue to climb on an array of goods due to inflation and increased production costs — like fuel for transportation — farm owners have warned that pumpkins could have a higher price tag this season.

With Halloween fast approaching, pumpkins used for jack-o’-lanterns and fall decor are up to $5.68 compared to $4.92 last year on average and may vary by location.

Farm owners from Texas to Maryland have seen a nearly 20% increase “mostly due to fuel costs increases,” Kama Bozeman of YesterLand Farm told Tyler, Texas, ABC News affiliate KTLV.

“The price of fuel has affected everything, the fertilizer for … pumpkins has been, you know, unbelievable,” Tammy Adkins, a farmer in Salisbury, Maryland, told ABC News affiliate WMDT. “It seems that everything has gone up and of course parents see that at the grocery store so it’s affected us as well.”

In addition to the rising costs, farmers have reported that drought conditions have also impacted some crops.

“We didn’t have much rain in August, so the hot weather — where it gets above 90 degrees — we didn’t get the pollination we should’ve got,” Gaylon Adkins the owner of Adkins Farm Market said. “So we’re looking at about probably a half a crop of pumpkins.”

The summer of dry weather has forced farmers like Adkins to get creative.

“I’ve already bought a few of pumpkins up in Delaware, I’ll probably get some in Pennsylvania,” Adkins continued. “I really need to finish picking my field and see what I got but I know I probably will not have enough.”

At Happy Day Farm in New Jersey, owner Tim Stockel said families can still get their hands on fall crops but said they may look different this year.

“Pumpkins this year are a little bit smaller due to the lack of rain,” Stockel told ABC News. “But they are healthy and we do have an abundance of amount to pick from.”

With Americans set to spend a record $10.6 billion celebrating Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation, and $3.4 billion of that on decorations, consumers will need to find ways to save without compromising on the staple squash.

Dr. Kerri Camp, a marketing professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, suggests “purchasing from local farms — because transportation costs will have less of an impact on the actual pumpkin prices.”

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Amazon Prime early access sale: Start saving big this October

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(NEW YORK) — Amazon has announced a second Prime event happening next month, just ahead of the busy holiday season.

The retail giant has introduced Amazon Prime’s early access sale which will take place Oct. 11-12, making it the first time there will be two Prime events in one year.

The 48-hour shopping event first took place in July and is back to give Prime members exclusive early access to holiday deals across all categories including electronics, fashion, home, kitchen, pets, toys and Amazon devices.

Amazon Prime’s early access sale will include deals on big-name brands including Peloton, New Balance, Philips Sonicare and more.

For the first time, the company is also planning to curate a top 100 selection of some of its best deals including offerings from iRobot, KitchenAid and Samsung. Prime members will have the added benefit of shopping up to 80% off select Fire TV smart TVs, as well as additional savings on Alexa-enabled devices and products from Adidas, LEGO, Ashley Furniture and more.

“We are so excited to help Prime members kick off the holiday season with Amazon’s new Prime Early Access Sale — an exclusive opportunity for members to get deep discounts on top brands we know they are looking for this time of year,” Jamil Ghani, vice president of Amazon Prime, said in a statement. “And members can start enjoying exclusive Prime benefits and offers now, plus find gift ideas for the family with our holiday gift guides and this year’s Toys We Love list.”

News of Amazon’s fall Prime shopping event follows other retailers rolling out their own early pre-Black Friday sales shopping events.

Target Deal Days is slated to kick off Oct. 6-8 offering thousands of deals on everything from toys and gifts to everyday essentials.

Additionally, Walmart has shared news that the company will be hosting a sales event similar to Amazon and Target, but further details and dates have not yet been confirmed.

Experts agree that these earlier-than-usual sales may be a result of rising inflation.

“First, by starting earlier, retailers are giving holiday shoppers longer durations of time to stretch those paychecks that are already tight,” ABC News technology and consumer correspondent Becky Worley said on Good Morning America.

“Because of inflation, consumers are buying fewer discretionary items like clothing, so expect sales there,” she added. “Then, there’s the whiplash effect with inventory which was scarce during COVID — in many cases, now there’s too much stock.”

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