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Consumers Are Taking Inflation in Stride, Strong Retail Sales Show

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

American consumers are dour about the economy and worried about inflation.

But that isn’t keeping them from spending.

Retail sales jumped in October for the third straight month, the government said on Tuesday, as Walmart and Home Depot both reported strong results for their latest quarters. The reports bolster the view that consumers are absorbing higher prices and splurging on a range of goods, from electronics to home improvement projects.

Rising prices were partly responsible for the 1.7 percent gain in spending, which was bigger than economists had expected. But even when adjusted for inflation, consumer spending is higher than it was before the start of the pandemic, government data shows.

The results highlight the resilience of the U.S. economy after a year and a half of disruptions, and the success of the government’s economic response in insulating many families from the damage of the pandemic. Helping consumers ride out the rise in prices, for now at least, are rising wages and savings balances that grew during the pandemic — in part because of government stimulus programs that put cash directly in people’s bank accounts.

Monthly retail sales

But the high rate of spending, particularly on goods rather than services, is also contributing to the economy’s problems, exacerbating supply-chain bottlenecks and shipping delays. That, in turn, is pushing up prices: Inflation in October hit its highest annual rate in more than three decades.

The sizable jump in October’s spending also likely reflected an early start to the holiday shopping season, analysts said, a shift driven by consumers’ concerns that supply chain shortages would mean that gifts would not arrive in time for the holidays.

That push “trumped the shock” of higher prices, said Beth Ann Bovino, the chief U.S. economist at S&P Global.

“This October reading was the grand opening of shopping for the holidays in December,” she said. “I’m sure some folks started looking earlier because of worries that they won’t be able to find the item they’re looking for once everybody gets out to shop.”

The gains were led by rises in spending on electronics, building materials and e-commerce, the Commerce Department reported on Tuesday. September sales were also revised higher to show a 0.8 percent jump that month.

The increase in sales was broad in October, the data showed. Spending at gas stations rose about 4 percent in October, while auto sales climbed 1.8 percent. Sales at sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores also saw a 1.5 percent increase.

The report follows other data that shows signs of life in the American economy. Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that hiring in October jumped after a summer lull, which could also help bolster sales.

But spending, which is a key driver of economic activity in the United States, remains threatened by shortages and rising prices. Consumer prices jumped 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier, its fastest pace in three decades, the Consumer Price Index showed, and the cost of food, gasoline and other essential household goods has risen even faster.

Manufacturing giants including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Danone have raised the prices for products including food and cosmetics this year, blaming the rising costs on supply chain constraints.

Big retailers, such as Walmart and Home Depot, began chartering their own ships to circumnavigate shipping congestion. Walmart reported that supply chain issues and labor costs were adding to expenses but that they were being offset by sales growth. Walmart reported in its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday that its revenue climbed 4.3 percent during the three months ending October, while Home Depot reported that sales rose 9.8 percent to $36.8 billion in its third quarter compared with the same period last year.

That jump in prices has been taking its toll on consumers’ expectations for the future. A recent survey by the University of Michigan, which measures consumer expectations and optimism regarding the economy, showed sentiment had fallen to its lowest level in a decade.

Even the early start of holiday shopping is a risk to future sales, said Michelle Meyer, the head of U.S. economics at Bank of America.

“If the holiday shopping season is earlier and showing strength in the beginning, there could be concerns that by the end of the season there could be a tapering of demand, especially as prices continue to increase,” Ms. Meyer said.

Emily Kask for The New York Times

In a difficult retail environment of rising prices and snarled supply chains, Walmart said on Tuesday that its third-quarter sales rose and earnings topped Wall Street’s expectations.

The giant retailer reported that its sales in the United States grew 9.2 percent while total revenue rose 4.3 percent to $140.5 billion.

Walmart reported earnings per share of $1.45, beating the $1.40 that many analysts had been expecting. The better-than-expected earnings were driven by continued growth in the company’s grocery and e-commerce business and its strategy of keeping prices low as consumers face inflation in just about every category of spending, from food to fuel. Walmart’s shares were up about 1 percent in premarket trading.

“Our omni-channel focus is pushing digital penetration to record levels,’’ said chief executive Doug McMillon in a statement. “We gained market share in grocery in the U.S., and more customers are returning to our stores and clubs around the world.”

Like other retailers, Walmart has been struggling with a tight labor market and a snarled supply chain. The company has recently raised its starting wage to $12 an hour. It pays as high as $17 in some stores to attract and retain workers.

In recent months, the company began chartering its own ships to circumnavigate the shipping congestion and has been pushing to hire 150,000 additional workers ahead of the holidays. The company said on Tuesday that it was managing supply chain issues by rerouting products to less congested ports and extending overnight hours to help unload cargo.

Walmart said supply chain issues and labor costs were adding to expenses, but they were being offset by sales growth.

Some of its competitors have reported problems with empty shelves and spotty inventory, but Walmart noted that its inventory in the United States was 11.5 percent higher heading into the holiday season.

“The holiday season is here and we are ready,” Mr. McMillon said in a call with analysts.

The company is also feeling optimistic heading into the final quarter, which is typically the most critical for retailers, raising its full earnings year guidance to $6.40 per share up from a prior guidance of $6.20 to $6.35 per share.

Netflix

“Red Notice,” the Netflix movie starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, is a hit, and the third season of “Narcos: Mexico” is off to a hot start.

That’s what Netflix reported on Tuesday, when it unveiled a new website dedicated to viewership data.

The streaming company had provided audience data before — but haphazardly. Now it will provide more detailed numbers on a strict weekly schedule.

The new site, “Top 10 on Netflix,” will reveal the service’s 10 most popular series or films — a ranking that includes the company’s original content, as well as the movies and shows it has licensed.

The regular top 10 listing is the latest step in a gradual evolution for Netflix, which had a policy of keeping its data private until January 2019, when it started releasing viewing data for select shows and films.

In the past, the company also sneered at attempts by outside parties that took a crack at measuring Netflix ratings. This year, as part of the change, Netflix’s co-chief executive Reed Hastings endorsed a new metric by the research firm Nielsen to compare how much people are streaming versus, say, watching cable television.

In the nearly three years that it has been releasing some data, Netflix offered up some viewership data four times a year, around the time of its quarterly earnings, with occasional off-schedule data dumps for unexpected hits.

The new site will be updated 52 weeks a year. It will include lists dedicated to TV series and films, as well as English and non-English titles. There will also be a way to search the most popular titles in more than 90 countries, providing a more detailed look than the daily top 10 list available to Netflix subscribers.

“This is an important step forward for Netflix, the creators we work with and our members,” Pablo Perez De Rosso, a vice president for content strategy at Netflix, wrote in a blog post announcing the rankings. “People want to understand what success means in a streaming world, and these lists offer the clearest answer to that question in our industry.”

There will still be no sense of how the majority of Netflix’s original content fares — only the top performers will be listed. And the data won’t provide clues on how Netflix content compares with TV series or films on other networks or streaming services.

Still, the move could raise pressure on HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming platforms, which offer audience data in an even more piecemeal fashion than Netflix.

The series and lists will be ranked by total hours watched — arguably a more accurate look than Netflix’s previous go-to measurement, which counted a fraction of a series or movie as a “view.” Nielsen, which releases a weekly ratings ranker for streaming content, also uses hours watched to rank programs.

To help bolster the list’s credibility, Netflix announced that it had commissioned the accounting firm EY to conduct an audit of its rankings and to prepare a report on its findings, to be released next year.

Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

Elon Musk’s Twitter post about taking Tesla private is still dogging him, more than three years later.

On Monday, JPMorgan Chase sued Tesla in federal court, seeking $162 million that the bank says the electric automaker owes it under a stock options contract the companies signed in 2014. At the heart of the dispute is a provision in the contract that allows JPMorgan to tweak its details after any “extraordinary events” at Tesla.

The bank is claiming that an Aug. 7, 2018, tweet — in which Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share — filled the bill because it significantly lowered Tesla’s share price. Tesla’s leaders disagree.

JPMorgan’s lawsuit says Tesla sold JPMorgan stock warrants in 2014 “as part of a larger capital markets transaction.” According to the agreement, if Tesla’s stock was at or above a certain price on the day the options expired seven years later, it would have to pay JPMorgan a certain amount of money — the difference between the actual share price on that date and the “strike price” that the two sides had set.

The strike price was initially set at just over $560 a share. Then came Mr. Musk’s tweet about a deal to take Tesla private at $420 a share — a significant premium over the company’s stock price the time. The tweet initially sent Tesla’s share prices soaring. But they sank when it quickly became clear that no such deal had been reached.

Tesla executives scrambled to explain the tweet to shareholders and regulators. Mr. Musk and Tesla later paid $20 million each to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission case over the matter, and he agreed to step aside from his role as chairman for three years.

Just after the crisis began, JPMorgan wanted to reset the strike price in its contract. Ten days after Mr. Musk’s tweet, the bank told Tesla that it had reset the price to $424 a share. A week later, the bank raised the price slightly, to $484.35 a share.

Tesla did not respond to the changes until early 2019, when its lawyers wrote to JPMorgan claiming that the bank’s strike price adjustments had been “unreasonably swift and represented an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of changes in volatility in Tesla’s stock.”

The two sides were still in a deadlock in 2020 when Tesla’s five-for-one stock split prompted JPMorgan to adjust the strike price a third time, lowering it to $96.87.

Tesla never accepted any of these changes. Starting in June this year, Tesla paid JPMorgan only the “undisputed” portion of the two sides’ agreement. (Tesla shares traded for more than $600 for much of that month; the stock was worth $1,013.39 a share at Monday’s close.)

“We have provided Tesla multiple opportunities to fulfill its contractual obligations, so it is unfortunate that they have forced this issue into litigation,” a spokeswoman for the bank, Tasha Pelio, said in an email to The New York Times.

Mr. Musk and Ryan McCarthy, an attorney for Tesla, did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The approval process to certify Nord Stream 2, an undersea gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany that has sparked concerns about Russian influence in Europe, ground to a halt on Tuesday when a German regulator said the owners of the pipeline had failed to file the necessary paperwork.

The action means that the recently completed pipeline will not begin supplying gas to Germany anytime soon, and it comes against the backdrop of a politically charged jump in energy prices in Europe and rising tensions between Moscow and Europe over a refugee crisis in Belarus and Russian troops gathering near Ukraine.

The news caused a jump in European natural gas markets, with the price of U.K. natural gas futures soaring more than 17 percent on Tuesday, amid concerns that Europe will run short of gas this winter.

It also comes as Germany finds itself in political limbo, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a firm supporter of the pipeline project, reduced to a caretaker role while leaders from the Social Democratic, Green and Free Democratic parties debate the makeup of a new government, one that has the potential to be less favorable to its predecessor’s pet energy project.

The problem stemmed from the pipeline’s foreign ownership. Nord Stream 2 AG is based in Switzerland and is wholly owned by Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas company. In order to manage the German portion of the operation, Nord Stream 2 needed to set up a subsidiary in the country.

The German regulator, the Federal Network Agency, which oversees essential infrastructure, said that Nord Stream 2 AG had failed to file the proper paperwork to establish the subsidiary. Once the subsidiary has met the necessary bureaucratic requirements, an evaluation can begin anew.

A German subsidiary is necessary “to ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations” Jens D. Mueller, a spokesman for Nord Stream 2 AG, said in an email. He declined to comment on the impact the suspension would have on the ability to get the pipeline up and running.

The agency had previously set a Jan. 10 deadline for the completion of its approval process. But it does not have the final say in the project, which also requires approval from the European Commission that can be taken up only once the German agency has signed off — meaning Europe could be well into spring before any gas flows.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has pushed for the German regulators to approve the pipeline as a way of easing Europe’s natural gas crisis, telling an energy conference in October that Moscow would “expand supplies” along the 750-mile pipeline once it received regulatory approval. Many in Europe suspect that Mr. Putin has deliberately held back natural gas to create pressure to approve the new pipeline.

But when Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, threatened to cut off Russian natural gas that flows through his country to Europe — a retaliation for recent European Union sanctions over fraud in claiming a sweeping re-election victory in August and for harsh suppression of dissent — Mr. Putin chastised him, telling Europeans that he had spoken in anger.

The United States opposed Nord Stream 2 for years, but in July, the Biden administration waived a threat to impose sanctions to block the project after concluding that the pipeline could not be stopped without a counterproductive fight with Germany.

Poland and other Eastern European countries have also argued against Nord Stream 2, fearing additional reliance on Russia. Ukrainian leaders have argued that the pipeline could cost the country $2 billion in annual transit revenue it earns from a pipeline from Russia that runs through its territory and would make it more susceptible to energy extortion by Russia.

German opponents of the pipeline, including lawmakers from the Green party that will be part of the next government, welcomed the announcement of the delay.

“There is always the impression that Gazprom does not take the German and European laws seriously,” Oliver Krischer, a senior lawmaker with the Greens, told the Rheinische Post newspaper. “This will mean a considerable delay to the pipeline coming online, so that it most likely will not play a role this winter.”

Marco Bello/Reuters

The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that oil supplies were catching up with demand, potentially easing upward pressure on prices. The agency, which is based in Paris, said that the oil market remained “tight by all measures but that a reprieve from the price rally could be on the horizon.”

A drop in oil prices would come as a relief to consumers, who have seen prices at the pump surge by nearly 50 percent over the past year. Home heating bills are also on track to be the highest in years. Higher energy prices ripple through the economy, raising the cost of manufacturing and shipping all kinds of goods, and ultimately driving up prices for consumers.

Still, oil supply constraints are only one of an array of factors that have pushed inflation to its highest level in decades. Pandemic-driven shifts in work and spending have led to supply-chain bottlenecks, labor shortages and other issues around the world, pushing up prices for many items. Many economists, including policymakers at the Federal Reserve, expect those forces to recede along with the pandemic, but that will take time.

The International Energy Agency reported that global production increased by a hefty 1.4 million barrels per day in October, or more than 1 percent of supplies, and that it expected another 1.5 million barrels a day to come on the market over November and December.

The report said growth in demand was strengthening as countries including the United States opened their borders for international travel, spurring consumption of jet fuel, which has so far lagged other petroleum products.

The forecast could also lend support to the arguments of the oil producers’ group known as OPEC Plus, which in recent meetings has shrugged off requests from the Biden administration to accelerate production increases.

OPEC Plus, which is led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, agreed in July to raise output by a modest 400,000 barrels per day each month. OPEC Plus has expressed concern that bigger increases could result in supplies outstripping demand next year, potentially causing prices to plummet.

The group has also argued that although oil prices may have risen sharply this year — currently about $82 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark, and $81 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. standard — the increases have been modest compared with the rocketing prices of other energy, including natural gas and electric power.

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

More than 100 New York Times workers and their supporters protested outside The Times’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, accusing the company of delaying contract talks.

The demonstration was attended by members of the Times Guild, which represents about 1,300 journalists; the Wirecutter Union, which is made up of employees from the Times-owned product review website; and the Times Tech Guild, which includes software engineers, data analysts and product managers. All three groups are affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York.

The Times Guild has been negotiating for a new contract since March 2021. The Wirecutter Union, formed in 2019, has yet to reach a contract. The Times has not recognized the Times Tech Guild, which was organized in April and has since filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board.

Bill Baker, the Times Guild unit chair, said at the rally that he had seen The Times “do the right thing” in his 16 years with the union, but now “everywhere I look, management is fighting union members at this company.”

The Wirecutter Union said last week that its members would not work from Black Friday, on Nov. 26, to Cyber Monday, on Nov. 29, if it had not reached a deal by then. Nick Guy, a union chair, said that the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week after Times management refused to provide wage information to the union.

“We’re actively working with The New York Times NewsGuild and the Wirecutter Union to put in place collective bargaining agreements that fairly reward our employees for their work and contributions to The Times’s success,” Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, said Tuesday. She also said the company would respect the N.L.R.B. process for a Times Tech Guild election.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Amazon has agreed to pay $500,000 to help enforce California’s consumer protection laws after the company was accused of concealing Covid-19 case numbers from its workers, officials said on Monday.

The judgment, which is subject to court approval, is the first of its kind nationwide and is in line with a California “right to know” law that was designed to keep workers safe during the pandemic, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office.

Under the arrangement, Amazon must also tell its warehouse workers within a day about the exact number of new Covid-19 cases in their workplaces, ensure that notifications adequately inform workers of the company’s disinfection and safety plans, tell health officials about new cases and submit to monitoring by the attorney general’s office regarding its Covid-19 notifications.

“We’re glad to have this resolved,” Barbara Agrait, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said in an emailed statement. She said the attorney general’s office “found no substantive issues with the safety measures in our buildings,” only with technical aspects of how the company communicated broadly with its workers.

“We’ve worked hard from the beginning of the pandemic to keep our employees safe and deliver for our customers — incurring more than $15 billion in costs to date — and we’ll keep doing that in months and years ahead,” Ms. Agrait said.

A complaint filed in Superior Court in Sacramento maintained that Amazon’s actions had prevented employees and the public from gaining full access to information regarding Covid-19 cases.

The state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, said that such information was crucial for workers making difficult decisions regarding their health in the pandemic.

“Amazon’s practices led to workers not knowing if they had been potentially exposed to two, 20 or even 200 cases of Covid-19,” he said at a news conference on Monday. “This left many workers understandably terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones.”

“No corporation is too big to follow the law,” Mr. Bonta said. “This is a huge win for the safety and health of Amazon’s tens of thousands of warehouse workers, their families and our communities throughout this state.”

He said that the judgment sent a clear message that businesses must comply with the law, and that it was particularly important as the busy holiday season approached.

Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

It’s an annual tradition on Wall Street for bankers to negotiate bigger bonuses. This year, they’ll probably get their way.

A year and a half into the pandemic, American banking giants have made bumper profits from an economic recovery that has supercharged markets for deals and stock trading. That could translate into bonuses that are 30 percent to 35 percent higher for investment bankers who underwrite equity or bond offerings, according to estimates from Johnson Associates, a Wall Street compensation consultancy. Payouts may surge to the highest levels since before the 2008 financial crisis, it said.

Financiers who advise on mergers and acquisitions, as well as equities traders and salespeople, can expect bumps of 20 percent to 25 percent as financial firms pay up to keep top performers from leaving.

“There is a staffing shortage, so in addition to the pay levels, there’s a real demand for talent,” Alan Johnson, the managing director of Johnson Associates, said in an interview. “Every client we talk to is having difficulty getting recruits.”

The labor crunch extends well beyond Wall Street to industries where pay is significantly lower. Wages have jumped in recent months, especially in the service sector, and more workers are going on strike. In finance, the tight market means that high-performing bankers will probably go job shopping and jump ship in the first three months of the year after bonuses hit their accounts.

“When you have a crisis, you usually have a lull in turnover, people get risk averse, hold onto their jobs, hunker down,” Mr. Johnson said. “But as we go to the middle of ’21 and ’22, there’s going to be more turnover.”

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Google announced on Tuesday that it would invest $740 million in Australia over the next five years, promising to build a research hub, increase its cloud computing capacity and team up with government scientists to address challenges like expanding the use of green energy.

The investment — 1 billion Australian dollars — is the technology giant’s biggest commitment in the country since it opened its Sydney office in 2002, and it follows a bruising battle this year over legislation that eventually required the biggest American technology companies to pay for news appearing on their platforms.

Australia’s government continues to show interest in additional tech regulation, but on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised Google for making such a big bet on his country. He said that the company’s new program, the Digital Future Initiative, would create more than 6,000 jobs, triple what Google currently employs in Australia.

“We have to embrace and encourage and enable those seeking these new digital opportunities,” Mr. Morrison said.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said that Australia — where one of the most successful tech companies is Atlassian, the creators of the business software program Jira — can help lead the world’s next wave of innovation. Google’s plans include a partnership with the Sydney-based Macquarie University on quantum computing and expanded collaboration with Australia’s main government science agency on everything from natural hazard management to protection for the Great Barrier Reef.

“We believe a strong digital future is one where everyone has access to technology and the skills to use it,” Mr. Pichai said. “Where the internet economy fulfills its immense potential.”

Pool photo by Michel Euler

Hong Kong has granted Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, an exemption from one of the toughest pandemic quarantines in the world.

Mr. Dimon this week became the first head of a Wall Street bank to visit the city since the beginning of the pandemic. He was in town on Monday and Tuesday to meet with employees and regulators.

Even as other places loosen travel restrictions, Hong Kong has stuck with its lengthy quarantine mandates for most visitors, leaving little room for exceptions. The last public figure to be granted an exemption in Hong Kong was Nicole Kidman, whose visit to film a television series about rich expatriates prompted outcries, including debate in Hong Kong’s Legislature.

Mr. Dimon’s exemption was “justified to facilitate a short visit” of about 30 hours, a government spokesman said in an emailed statement, adding that Mr. Dimon’s trip was “considered to be in the interest of Hong Kong’s economic development.”

JPMorgan declined to comment.

Hong Kong has remained largely closed to the rest of the world and requires overseas visitors from “high-risk” countries, including the United States, to quarantine in a hotel for 21 days. Other visitors from overseas must quarantine in a hotel for at least 14 days. People coming from mainland China are the only visitors who can skip the quarantine.

Earlier this year, officials carved out exemptions for top bankers and other executives whose work they said was in Hong Kong’s economic interest. Those exemptions were mostly abandoned last month when Hong Kong’s top leader said the government needed to align itself with mainland China’s goal of complete elimination of the virus.

Hong Kong has made opening its border with mainland China a priority over opening its borders to overseas travel. It has reported just two local transmitted cases in more than five months.

During his visit, Mr. Dimon said Hong Kong’s quarantine rules were making it difficult to retain employees in the city, according to Bloomberg News.

His brief comments echoed those from the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Market, a top lobbying group for financial firms, which publicly urged Hong Kong to loosen rules and warned that the restrictions were threatening the city’s status as an international business hub.

Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) and Erin Woo (@erinkwoo), two of our tech reporters, are covering the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford University to create the blood testing start-up Theranos at age 19 and built it to a $9 billion valuation and herself into the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire — only to flame out in disgrace after Theranos’s technology was revealed to have problems.

Follow along here or on Twitter as she is tried on 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The trial is generally held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

 

Erin Griffith

Grossman spoke to Channing Robertson (Theranos board member, former Stanford professor) twice. Robertson said Theranos had no technical risk and that its technology inside the MiniLab was sound.

 

Erin Griffith

Grossman also wanted to talk to United Healthcare, which (apparently) had a contract with Theranos. Similar to Walgreens, Balwani said no. “It will look badly on us, if investors are asking to speak to someone at the company.”

 

Erin Griffith

Grossman asked to talk to Walgreens and Sunny Balwani told him he was “very uncomfortable” with that. He told Grossman it “would be a strange conversation, they have a great relationship, it wouldn’t look good.” “He had a series of responses along those lines.”

 

Erin Griffith

So we have walked through the same slideshow that Theranos presented to most of its investors including being “comprehensively validated by pharma companies.

 

Erin Griffith

Grossman: “They were emphatic that this was not another point of care testing company. This was the entire laboratory shrunk down into a box.”

It costs more and takes longer to move goods around the world these days. Not coincidentally, executives have discussed — or, in many cases, complained about — supply chain issues on earnings calls far more frequently than in the past, the DealBook newsletter reports.

A search of transcripts for mentions of “supply chain,” using the Sentieo data service, shows a clear trend:

Companies mentioning ‘supply chain’ on earnings calls

The supply chain has become a popular culprit for earnings challenges. The social media network Snap, for instance, cited it as one of its “headwinds” in the coming quarter. The reasoning: Companies have most of their goods on back order, so there will be no need to advertise on Snap to drum up demand.

Some companies are being accused of blaming supply issues to mask other problems. On Monday, the plant-based food company Oatly cut projected sales for the rest of the year. Executives told analysts that supply chain difficulties were slowing production of its oat-based milk. Oatly’s shares fell more than 20 percent after the news, and are now down nearly 50 percent from their May I.P.O. price.

Spruce Point Capital, which has been betting Oatly’s stock will fall, said the company’s real problem is not the supply chain, but demand. As evidence, Spruce points to Oatly’s reported inventory, which rose faster than sales in the quarter. (Oatly declined to comment.) Shares of Beyond Meat, the maker of plant based burgers and sausages, have also fallen sharply.

“A lot of companies are facing supply chain issues,” said Ben Axler, Spruce’s founder and chief investment officer. “But what we are seeing is that expectations were too high in terms of consumer end demand for plant foods.”

Hoi Chan

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide writes that our online experiences are shaped by the people who run our favorite Facebook group or Reddit forum.

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