For the fourth time in five years, students at The University of Texas at Arlington have won a prestigious national award for noise control engineering.
Credit: UT Arlington
For the fourth time in five years, students at The University of Texas at Arlington have won a prestigious national award for noise control engineering.
Ross Everett and Bret Johnson, mechanical engineering students who graduated in May 2023, earned the Leo Beranek Student Medal for Excellence in the Study of Noise Control from the Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA for their work to decrease cabin noise in the autonomous rideshare cars owned by May Mobility that operate around UTA’s campus. The institute awards the medal annually to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students at North American colleges and universities that have courses for noise control engineering.
“We’re proud and happy to earn this award and to have been part of a team of people who made it possible,” Johnson said. “It really makes the hours feel worth it, and there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from being recognized not just by our peers and the University, but also by people with no connection to us or our project.”
The duo and their senior design team—Nicholas McDonald, Amir Yonan, Fernando Alejandre and Grant Roney—worked with May Mobility to reduce loud noise from a computer fan mounted in the front passenger seat area of May Mobility’s vehicles, which created an unpleasant environment for riders. The team also published a paper, “Soundproofing Autonomous Vehicle Computers for Passenger Comfort,” in the Proceedings of the National Conference on Noise Control Engineering.
“We primarily focused on where the noise was coming from and applied soundproofing foams to surround the computer as necessary so that it wouldn’t overheat and the foam wasn’t visible,” Everett said. “We were very proud of our work, and seeing it come full circle was a really big honor.”
“I am glad to see the students were able to apply their knowledge and testing skills to solve a real-world problem and have a direct impact on the local community,” said Yawen Wang, an assistant professor of research and director of the Vibro-Acoustics and Sound Quality Research Laboratory at UTA. “Their work is important to the improvement of the autonomous driving experience and the further advancement of urban mobility. The award is a testament to their hard work and excellence in the study of noise control engineering.”
The Vibro-Acoustics and Sound Quality Research Laboratory develops integrated computational, experimental and analytical approaches to powertrain/structure dynamics, vibro-acoustics, active noise and vibration control, and data-driven techniques for condition monitoring and prognostics. Wang and his team work with companies such as Caterpillar, Daimler, Dana, Ford, General Motors, John Deere, Toyota, Oracle and many others.
Two of the previous three winners of the Leo Beranek Medal were graduate students. Ashish Dev Kotian, a master’s graduate in mechanical engineering, was honored in 2019 for his work designing, fabricating and testing a muffler for the University’s Formula SAE team, and Chia-Ching Lin, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering, was honored in 2020 for his research in hypoid gear noise and vibration control in automotive rear axle systems. Manya Singh, a senior undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, was honored in 2022 for her approach to decreasing cabin noise in the May Mobility cars.
The expenditure weight in the CPI market basket for OER is based on the following question that the Consumer Expenditure Survey asks of consumers who own their primary residence: “If someone were to rent your home today, how much do you think it would rent for monthly, unfurnished and without utilities?”
Note that these responses are not used in estimating price change for the shelter categories, only the weight.
People quote that question as if that is how the BLS measures prices. It doesn’t. Prices, except for minor, irrelevant imputations, are based on actual measured rents.
No One Pays OER
The problem with OER is the weight not the measure. No one actually pays OER. Rather, people pay mortgages.
Yet, OER it is the single largest component of the CPI with a weight of 26.769 percent. Rent has a weight of 7.671 percent.
Many people conclude that the CPI is overstated because no one pays OER. The problem with this idea is home prices are at record highs and home prices are not in the CPI at all.
Homes are not in the CPI because economists consider them a capital expense not a personal expense.
But so what? Inflation matters not just consumer inflation. The Fed has made a big mess of things by ignoring obvious housing bubbles.
30-year mortgage Rates
Mortgage rates courtesy of Mortgage News Daily, annotations by Mish
When the Fed slashed interest rates to zero, mortgage rates fell below 3.0% for an extended period allowing everyone to refinance at 3.0 percent or below. Most did.
OER rose from 332 to 403 between January of 2020 and January of 2024. That’s a gain of 21.4 percent.
Rent rose from 338 to 412. That’s a gain of 21.9 percent.
Whereas the renter is struggling, the homeowner refinanced lower putting extra money in his pocket every month.
Home owners also benefitted from rising wages, rising value of their home and a stable, not rising mortgage payment.
Winners and Losers
The homeowners are generally doing OK. The home ownership rate is 65.7 percent.
The 34.3 percent who rent are generally not doing OK.
The study did not break things down by home owners vs renters, but I suspect most of the use is by renters.
According to the latest CPI report, rent was up at least 0.4 percent for the 29th straight month. Shelter, a broader category, rose 0.6 percent. Food rose 0.4 percent.
CPI data from the BLS, chart by Mish
Whereas home owners have a fixed payment, likely refinanced lower than their initial mortgage, renters faces huge increases, not every month, but once a year, big bang.
Those struggling with rent are more likely to Millennials and Zoomers than Generation X, Baby Boomers, or members of the Silent Generation.
The same age groups struggling with credit card and auto delinquencies.
On Average Everything is Great
Average it up as Fed and all the clueless economic and political writers do, and things look great.
This is why we have seen countless stories attempting to explain why people should be happy.
Krugman Blames Partisanship
With the recent rise in consumer sentiment, time to revisit this excellent Briefing Book paper. On reflection, I'd do it a bit differently; same basic conclusion, but I think partisan asymmetry explains even more of the remaining low numbers 1/ https://t.co/4lqm7X4472
Powell: When high inflation really threatens to become persistent, we use our tools to bring down inflation. It’s very important for that young couple — and particularly for younger couples starting out who may not have great financial means, that we succeed in this effort.
60 Minutes: You’re asking the American people for patience?
Powell: Yes. And I think people have been patient and have been through a pretty difficult time. And I think now we’re coming through that time and starting to feel a little bit better about things.
Powell, Krugman, and most of the economic writers, even at the Wall Street Journal have not managed to figure out over a third of the nation is struggling.
Many Are Addicted to “Buy Now, Pay Later” Plans
Buy Now Pay Later, BNPL, plans are increasingly popular. It’s another sign of consumer credit stress.
Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting
We already know that the Biden administration and the BLS are ignoring the massive layoffs happening across corporate America in favor of pushing some asinine narrative that 'Bidenomics', whatever that even means, is somehow creating jobs other than 2nd and 3rd jobs for senior citizens driving Uber when they should be retired.
Now, it's becoming clear that 2024 could be the year when corporations continue 'cost cutting', which could mean a number of strategies, almost all of which result in less employees and less pay instead of more.
Executives from various industries, including toy, cosmetics, and technology sectors, are cutting costs and jobs, even in profitable companies such as Mattel, PayPal, Cisco, Nike, Estée Lauder, and Levi Strauss, CNBC wrote this week.
Macy's plans to shut five stores and cut over 2,300 jobs, while airlines like JetBlue and Spirit offer buyouts, and United reduces in-flight services. This trend is driven by consumer caution and investor pressure for companies to adapt to changing demand and higher expenses, the report says.
Significant labor contracts in sectors like airlines and UPS have raised costs, challenging businesses accustomed to passing these on to consumers. Remember those celebrations people were having about UPS drivers winning their new contracts just months ago? UPS is already laying off drivers as a result.
Walmart is expanding its store network, contrasting with the broader cost-cutting movement. Major banks have already reduced their workforce significantly, anticipating economic shifts. U.S. companies announced significant job cuts in January, indicating a focus on profit optimization amid steady earnings reports without relying on substantial price or sales increases.
A full list of major companies that have laid off workers or implemented strategies to cut costs include:
Meta (parent of Facebook and Instagram)
Alphabet (parent of Google)
Warner Bros. Discovery
Comcast (parent company of NBCUniversal)
Delta Air Lines
Meta's restructuring in 2023 set a precedent for tech giants like Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Cisco to reduce their workforces. But the trend extends beyond tech, with UPS cutting 12,000 jobs and others in retail and entertainment also announcing layoffs.
Significant cost savings have been announced by major corporations, including Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, with the latter aiming for $7.5 billion in savings.
Paramount Global and NBCUniversal have also trimmed their staffs. Cost-cutting measures have reached various sectors, including airlines adjusting services and deferring expenses, and automakers scaling back investments due to challenges in demand and EV adoption.
“You’re seeing a rebalancing happening in the labor markets, in the capital markets. And that rebalancing is still going to play out and gradually lead to a more sustainable environment of lower inflation and lower interest rates, and perhaps a little bit slower growth, said Gregory Daco, chief economist for EY.
He continued, telling CNBC: “You are in an environment where cost fatigue is very much part of the equation for consumers and business leaders. The cost of most everything is much higher than it was before the pandemic, whether it’s goods, inputs, equipment, labor, even interest rates.”
Even Chipotle is experimenting with robots to boost efficiency. These adjustments reflect a broader recalibration after the pandemic's disruptions, with companies aiming for a sustainable balance in a potentially slower economic growth environment.
Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About "Choiceful" Consumers Spending Less
Walmart shares hit a new all-time high after the largest bricks and mortar retailer reported earnings that beat expectations despite providing guidance that was marginally softer, as choosy shoppers nevertheless kept buying in its stores.
Here is what the company report for the final quarter of 2023:
Adjusted EPS $1.80 (excluding impact, net of tax, from a net gain of $0.23 on equity and other investments) vs. $1.71 y/y, beating estimate of $1.65
Total US comparable sales ex-gas +3.9%, estimate +3.2%
Walmart-only US stores comparable sales ex-gas +4%, estimate +3.12%
Sam's Club US comparable sales ex-gas +3.1%, estimate +2.99%
Change in US E-Commerce sales +17%, beating estimate +15.5%
Adjusted operating income $7.25 billion, beating estimate $6.79 billion
Of the metrics reported, however, the most important one is that Walmart’s same-store sales (ex fuel), rose 4% YoY for US stores (of which net sales was 3.% and eCommerce added 17%). Wall Street was expecting 3.1% so the number was clearly a beat and was driven by "strength in grocery, health and wellness, offset by softness in general merchandise", and was the result of higher transactions (+4.3%) offsetting average ticket prices, which dropped 0.3% YoY. Still, the number is a far cry from the 8.3% comp sales a year ago.
In keeping with the noted softness in general merchandise, the world’s largest retailer delivered softer guidance for the current fiscal year, as it expects consumers to be selective in their spending:
For full-year 2025, WMT sees
Net sales +3% to +4%, slower than growth from the prior year, and adjusted EPS $6.70 to $7.12, slightly disappointing vs the median consensus estimate of $7.09
Capital expenditures approximately 3.0% to 3.5% of net sales
For Q1, 2025, WMT sees sees adjusted EPS $1.48 to $1.56.
Discussing the quarter, CEO Doug McMillan said that "we crossed $100 billion in eCommerce sales and drove share gains as our customer experience metrics improved, evenduring our highest volume days leading up to the holidays"
Commenting on customer "selectivity", CFO John Rainey said that “they are being choiceful" as consumers continue to spend less per trip but have been shopping frequently, adding that the company expects some resilience to continue for the rest of the year.
There was more good news: Walmart is gaining share in nearly every category, according to Rainey, with e-commerce among the factors driving growth as the company trims losses associated with handling online orders. Furthermore, while deflation is still a possibility, the company expects it to be less likely based on what it observed during the latest quarter.
That said, while grabbing more spending with low-priced groceries and other basics, Walmart has been cautious in recent months about the health of the consumer amid persistent inflation and higher interest rates. As noted above, US consumers have been buying cheaper products and seeking value, as they pull back from discretionary products like general merchandise. That has resulted in softer sales for some retailers, including Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. Other big-box retailers are set to report their quarterly earnings in the coming weeks.
As Bloomberg notes, the recent moderation in inflation is another challenge for Walmart and other retail operators that have passed down price increases to consumers over the past few years. This has contributed to higher dollar sales for companies, followed by an uptick in revenue during the pandemic when people bought more groceries and home goods. Such increases are slowing overall, though inflation remains stubborn in some areas like groceries and shelter.
Similar to all of its major competitors, Walmart has been beefing up automation in warehouses and stores in recent years, while remodeling locations to make them more modern. Pickup and delivery businesses continue to expand, driving share gains among upper-income households and fueling growth of the Walmart+ membership program.
Separately, Walmart said it agreed to buy smart-TV maker Vizio Holding Corp. for about $2.3 billion. The deal would accelerate the retailer’s advertising business, called Walmart Connect, and help Walmart and its advertisers engage more with customers. Walmart has been expanding Walmart Connect and other nonretail businesses that have faster growth and better margins. The deal announcement confirmed a Wall Street Journal report from last week. Vizio shares soared 15% in Tuesday premarket trading.
As for WMT, the Bentonville, after the stock gained 16% over the past year, it jumped another 5.7% on Tuesday rising to a new all time high as investors were clearly satisfied with what they saw.