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Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy as Russia Slices Supply

Seven natural gas investments to buy have gained appeal as Russia recently slashed supplies to Europe as cold winter weather approaches. The seven natural…



Seven natural gas investments to buy have gained appeal as Russia recently slashed supplies to Europe as cold winter weather approaches.

The seven natural gas investments to buy could benefit from price increases if the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that transports Russian gas to Germany reduces production further than it already has thus far. A full stop to Nord Stream 1 would leave Germany particularly vulnerable if energy protectionism grows, likely causing gas inventories to struggle to hit 2021 highs and storage to fall “perilously low” by season’s end, according to BofA Global Research.

It is unclear how much faith to put into a claim by Russia’s Gazprom that part of the reason for its reduced supply of natural gas to Europe is due to “extended maintenance” of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The cuts to Europe’s flow of natural gas from Russia are occurring as the country’s attack of neighboring Ukraine extends past six months and has been met by a successful counteroffensive in the past week.

Inadequate paperwork for the recently maintained Nord Stream 1 gas turbine is the most recent in a “laundry list of issues” that Russia has given as reasons not to flow gas to Europe, BofA reported. As uncertainty about Russian supplies grows, Europe’s natural gas spot and forward prices are settling into a higher range, the investment firm reported.

Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy Offer Inflation Protection

Despite Russia’s supply cuts, storage of natural gas in Europe has been built back to a five-year average, according to BofA. Key reasons for preventing a collapse in natural gas supply include high year-over-year exports of the energy source from Norway, strong U.K. output and a significant jump in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from nations other than Russia, BofA added.

LNG, created by cooling natural gas and reducing its volume to make it easier, safer and more efficient to ship around the world, has endured price hikes that have caused consumption to drop 12% year over year, BofA wrote in a recent research note.

Natural gas investments offer protection against inflation and the Fed’s interest rate hikes, since such companies wield pricing power with goods and services that are necessities for customers to heat their homes or buildings. The buyers of such essential products and services may be willing to accept a small or even larger increase in price.

Russia’s Export Cuts Fortify Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy

Russia cut its export of gas from the pipeline to 40% of capacity in June and to 20% in July, while shutting off supply to European nations such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. The supply squeeze also applied to other nations in apparent retaliation for opposing Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Gazprom has scaled back its flows via other pipelines since Russia attacked its neighboring nation in what the country’s President Vladimir Putin described as a “special military operation.” However, military action against a sovereign country like Ukraine violates international law, under Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter.

Pre-war Russia Supplied about 40% of Europe’s Natural Gas

Russia typically supplies about 40% of Europe’s natural gas, mostly by pipeline. Deliveries in 2021 totaled around 155 billion cubic metres (bcm).

Bob Carlson, a pension fund chairman who also leads the Retirement Watch investment newsletter, said recently added Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund (MLOAX) to all of his portfolios.

“Natural gas should continue to be a good investment, as long as Europe is looking for ways to reduce dependence on Russia,” Carlson told me. “In addition, the natural gas drillers in the U.S. are focused on increasing cash flow and earnings. They’re not inclined to maximize drilling expenses in the short run to increase output.”

Bob Carlson, who leads Retirement Watch, meets with Paul Dykewicz.

Good investment opportunities can be found with companies that provide the pipelines, storage facilities and other infrastructure needed to supply the world with natural gas and other energy sources, Carlson continued.

“One of the attractive qualities of these investments is that their revenues are independent of the prices of the commodities,” Carlson counseled. “The firms charge fees for their services, and the fees often are adjusted for inflation. Their revenues and earnings depend on the volume of commodities passing through their facilities, not the price of the commodity.”

The total returns of “leading” energy service companies are aided by current income and price appreciation, using investments in energy-related master limited partnerships (MLPs) and securities of industry companies, Carlson said. Those businesses are expected to derive at least 50% of their revenues or operating income from exploration, production, gathering, transportation, processing, storage, refining, distribution or marketing of natural gas, crude oil and other energy resources.

Chart courtesy of 

The Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund recently held 49 positions and had 53% of the fund in the 10 largest positions. Top holdings of the fund were Enbridge (NYSE: ENB), Cheniere Energy (NYSEAMERICAN: LNG), Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB), Energy Transfer (NYSE: ET) and Pembina Pipeline Corp. (NYSE: PBA).

UNG Earns Spot on List of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy

Carlson’s other LNG recommendation is United States Natural Gas (UNG), an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in natural gas futures contracts and related contracts on natural gas prices. The contracts are collateralized with cash and treasury securities.

The fund is designed to track, in percentage terms, the movements of natural gas prices. UNG issues shares that can be bought and sold on the NYSE Arca.

The investment objective of UNG is for the daily percentage changes of its shares’ net asset value (NAV) to reflect daily changes in the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana. Those prices are measured by the daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract, less UNG’s expenses.

The Benchmark is the futures contract on natural gas that is traded on the NYMEX. If the near-month contract is within two weeks of expiration, the Benchmark will be the next month contract to expire. The natural gas contract pertains to natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub in Louisiana.

UNG invests primarily in listed natural gas futures contracts and other natural gas related futures contracts. The fund also may invest in forwards and swap contracts. These investments will be collateralized by cash, cash equivalents and U.S. government obligations that have remaining maturities of two years or less.

Chart courtesy of 

Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy Feature MLP

Bryan Perry, who leads the Cash Machine investment newsletter, proposes investing in energy through the Alerian MLP Exchange Traded Fund (NYSE: AMLP). That fund seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index. The index is a capped, float-adjusted, capitalization-weighted composite of energy infrastructure Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) that earn most of their cash flow from midstream activities such as the transportation, storage and processing of energy commodities.

Paul Dykewicz interviews Bryan Perry, head of the Cash Machine investment newsletter.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, with MLPs providing exposure to long-lived assets that generate inflation-protected cash flows. Plus, MLPs have low correlations to other yield-oriented investment such as bond and utilities.

Dividend lovers will appreciate that Alerian MLP ETF offers a current dividend yield of 7.4% and paid $2.94 per share in the past year. The dividend is paid every three months and the last ex-dividend date was Aug. 11, 2022.

The MLP does not require investors to contend with a notoriously troublesome K-1 document at tax preparation time. I once asked a senior accountant at an industry-leading firm for his advice if an investment sends a K-1 to shareholders in preparing their taxes. “Sell it,” he responded.

Chart courtesy of 

Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy Include Exxon Mobil

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) zoomed during its time as a recommendation in the Cash Machine investment newsletter between July 2021 and May 17, 2022, providing investors with exposure to liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil refining and strong returns. The company ranks as the world’s second-largest supplier of natural gas and jumped about 55% since its addition to the newsletter’s Safe Haven Portfolio.

Perry, who leads the Cash Machine investment newsletter, focuses on high-income investments. For that reason, Perry wrote that he recommended the stock’s sale when the company’s dividend yield dipped below his 4% minimum. 

With tight energy supply, Perry predicted XOM’s share price would remain well supported by investors seeking an alternative to the sagging stock market so far in 2022, even if Exxon Mobil no longer fit his requirement for a high-yield dividend stock. The company is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas worldwide.

Chart courtesy of 

In 2021, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest refiner, produced 2.3 million barrels of liquids and 8.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. At the end of 2021, its reserves reached 18.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 66% of which were liquids. The company’s global refining capacity totals 4.6 million barrels of oil per day and ranks as one of the biggest manufacturers of commodity and specialty chemicals.

Oil prices have soared due to a combination of robust demand and constricted supply partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Fast Money Alert advisory service co-led by Mark Skousen and Jim Woods. They wrote that the “smart money” is betting on higher energy prices. Even smarter, faster money is betting on XOM, they added.

Skousen, editor of the Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter, recently wrote to his subscribers that he is recommending two stocks that are positioned to ride the wave of interest in natural gas. One is Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD), with a return of 28.9% so far in 2022.

EPD has benefited substantially from increased demand for natural gas and is amassing liquid natural gas (LNG) from processing natural gas at its facilities. It has 19,079 miles of natural gas pipelines and 19 processing facilities, storage and related LNG marketing activities.

Enterprise Products Partners is one of the largest publicly traded partnerships and a key North American provider of midstream energy services to producers and consumers of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, refined products and petrochemicals. In addition, the company’s services include natural gas gathering, treating, processing, transportation and storage.

The company further provides NGL transportation, fractionation, storage and import and export terminals. It also offers crude oil gathering, transportation, storage and terminals, along with petrochemical and refined products transportation, storage and terminals, as well as a marine transportation business.

Chart courtesy of 

I bought shares of Enterprise Products Partners shortly after the 2020 stock market crash to profit from what I perceived as an inevitable recovery. The surge in oil and natural gas prices since then has turned that decision into a nicely profitable one with the stock still on the ascent.

Cheniere Energy Is One of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy

Another way to profit from the growing demand for LNG is to invest in energy companies that export liquid natural gas. One of them is Cheniere Energy (NYSE American: LNG). Based in Houston, Texas, Cheniere Energy is the largest liquefied natural gas exporter in the United States.

Business is booming. Revenues surged 165% in the past year to $8.1 billion, and second-quarter earnings per share hit $2.90, compared to only 54 cents a year earlier.

Guidance is strongly positive — there is increasing demand from European customers looking to replace Russian gas. It recently has signed long-term contracts to deliver some 140 million tons of liquid natural gas through 2050. Cheniere Energy also is exiting its Corpus Christi Stage 3 project.

Chart courtesy of

Starting in November of last year, Cheniere Energy began to pay a modest dividend of 33 cents per share. To further enhance shareholder value, Cheniere Energy also has repurchased 4.1 million shares worth $540 million in the most recent quarter.

Mark Skousen, a descendent of Benjamin Franklin, meets with Paul Dykewicz.

EOG Resources Joins Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy

The U.S. LNG inventory remains below its five-year average for this time of year by double-digit percentages, said Michelle Connell, CFA, president and owner of Portia Capital Management, of Dallas, Texas. A key issue for the U.S. LNG industry is that production of that commodity has never been profitable on its own, but it is as a byproduct of oil production, she added.

“There isn’t enough oil being produced,” Connell said. “Currently, only 11.6 million barrels/day are being produced. Pre-pandemic, we produced 13 million barrels/day.”

Instead of investing to expand capacity, oil companies have focused on hiking their dividends, Connell continued. If they pivot, these companies face a backlash from investors who could sell their shares and crush the market value of these companies, Connell added.

Former portfolio manager Michelle Connell, CEO, Portia Capital Management

EOG Resources Makes List of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy

LNG companies cannot boost production quickly, Connell cautioned. Oil companies need a minimum of six to eight months to increase their oil and LNG output, Connell added. 

Production of oil via shale recently created the largest share of the America’s natural gas reserves, Connell continued. Unfortunately for proponents of increasing output to meet rising demand, shale production has “decreased exponentially” since the pandemic began and the buildup of LNG reserves has slid, Connell counseled.

However, Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) is producing substantial amounts of oil via shale, and LNG. Its Chief Executive Officer Ezra Yacob called the company’s recent financial results “outstanding” and said 2021 was a “tremendous year” for EOG with record earnings, record free cash flow and return of cash that places it near industry leaders.

Income investors will appreciate that the company’s long-standing focus on free cash flow led to payment of another $1.00 per share special dividend while also strengthening its balance sheet.

Chart courtesy of

Connell’s reasoning for favoring EOG includes: 

-Wall Street investment firms such as Wells Fargo and Raymond James raised future earnings estimates and target prices on EOG, despite strong performance so far in 2022;

-Based on its fundamentals and increased energy demand, the 12-month estimated upside has jumped from 25% to 35%;

-The company is on a roll with a gain of 14% in the past month, 45% so far in 2022 and 97% in the past 12 months.

Connell raised a concern about whether EOG is too generous with its dividend payouts that equal 27% of profits. She wondered aloud whether it is leaving enough cash for reinvestment.

Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Raises Questions about What’s Next

Ukraine launched a potent counterattack last weekend that reportedly allowed it to take back more than 2,317 sq. miles, or 6,000 sq. km., from Russia’s control. In the Kharkiv region, the towns of Izyum and Kupiansk were regained by Ukraine last Saturday after that they previously had been seized by Russia and used as key hubs to supply invading forces in the Donbas region.

Even though Russia still holds about one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory, the counterattack is showing that the defenders of freedom are gaining ground. Whether those lands can be retained or even enlarged will be critical to the ultimate outcome.

Inflation Affects Energy Pricing Significantly

Another uncertainty is inflation. The U.S. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.1% in August, on a seasonally adjusted basis, after no change in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. For the last 12 months, the index for all items jumped 8.3% before seasonal adjustments.

Increases in the shelter, food, and medical care indexes were the largest of the broad-based monthly all-items advance. These increases were mostly offset by a 10.6% decline in the gasoline index.

The food index rose 0.8% for the month, but the energy index fell 5.0% in August as the gasoline index dipped, while the electricity and natural gas indexes climbed. The index for all items, other than food and energy, jumped 0.6% in August, a larger rise than in July. 

The all-items index increased 8.3% for the 12 months ending in August, smaller than the 8.5% increase for the period ending July. The energy index increased 23.8% for the 12 months ending August, short of the 32.9% rise for the 12-month period ending in July.

U.S. COVID Cases Near 95.4 Million

COVID-19 cases and deaths can affect supply and demand for products such natural gas, especially since the fuel can be obtained worldwide. Investors are wise to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns that can cause supply chain problems. As of Sept. 12, more than 70 cities in China were under full or partial lockdown as the country enforces its policy of zero tolerance of cases, even as the morbidity has decreased compared to earlier stages of the virus.

U.S. COVID-19 deaths rose for the seventh consecutive week by more than 3,000, jumping to 1,051,277, as of Sept. 13, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cases in the United States climbed to 95,387,374. America remains the nation with the largest number of COVID-19 deaths and cases.

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths in the last week dipped to about 12,000, compared to 14,977 during the previous week and more than 33,000 the week before that one, to total 6,517,721, as of Sept. 13, according to Johns Hopkins. Global COVID-19 cases slowed to a gain of just below 3.4 million in the past week, down from almost 4 million from the previous week. The new worldwide case total is 609,577,548.

Roughly 79.2% of the U.S. population, or 263,103,582, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of Sept. 7, the CDC reported. Fully vaccinated people total 224,367,691, or 67.6%, of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. The United States also has given at least one COVID-19 booster vaccine to 109.0 million people, up 200,000, compared to roughly 300,000 for the prior two weeks.

The seven natural gas investments to buy have strong potential to rise. With high inflation, recession risk after 0.75% rate hikes by the Fed in June and July, as well as possibly another in September, the seven natural gas investments to buy could fuel portfolios in the months ahead.

Paul Dykewicz,, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street JournalInvestor’s Business DailyUSA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of and, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Paul also is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is great as a gift and is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many othersCall 202-677-4457 for multiple-book pricing.


The post Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy as Russia Slices Supply appeared first on Stock Investor.

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Copper Soars, Iron Ore Tumbles As Goldman Says “Copper’s Time Is Now”

Copper Soars, Iron Ore Tumbles As Goldman Says "Copper’s Time Is Now"

After languishing for the past two years in a tight range despite recurring…



Copper Soars, Iron Ore Tumbles As Goldman Says "Copper's Time Is Now"

After languishing for the past two years in a tight range despite recurring speculation about declining global supply, copper has finally broken out, surging to the highest price in the past year, just shy of $9,000 a ton as supply cuts hit the market; At the same time the price of the world's "other" most important mined commodity has diverged, as iron ore has tumbled amid growing demand headwinds out of China's comatose housing sector where not even ghost cities are being built any more.

Copper surged almost 5% this week, ending a months-long spell of inertia, as investors focused on risks to supply at various global mines and smelters. As Bloomberg adds, traders also warmed to the idea that the worst of a global downturn is in the past, particularly for metals like copper that are increasingly used in electric vehicles and renewables.

Yet the commodity crash of recent years is hardly over, as signs of the headwinds in traditional industrial sectors are still all too obvious in the iron ore market, where futures fell below $100 a ton for the first time in seven months on Friday as investors bet that China’s years-long property crisis will run through 2024, keeping a lid on demand.

Indeed, while the mood surrounding copper has turned almost euphoric, sentiment on iron ore has soured since the conclusion of the latest National People’s Congress in Beijing, where the CCP set a 5% goal for economic growth, but offered few new measures that would boost infrastructure or other construction-intensive sectors.

As a result, the main steelmaking ingredient has shed more than 30% since early January as hopes of a meaningful revival in construction activity faded. Loss-making steel mills are buying less ore, and stockpiles are piling up at Chinese ports. The latest drop will embolden those who believe that the effects of President Xi Jinping’s property crackdown still have significant room to run, and that last year’s rally in iron ore may have been a false dawn.

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg notes, on Friday there were fresh signs that weakness in China’s industrial economy is hitting the copper market too, with stockpiles tracked by the Shanghai Futures Exchange surging to the highest level since the early days of the pandemic. The hope is that headwinds in traditional industrial areas will be offset by an ongoing surge in usage in electric vehicles and renewables.

And while industrial conditions in Europe and the US also look soft, there’s growing optimism about copper usage in India, where rising investment has helped fuel blowout growth rates of more than 8% — making it the fastest-growing major economy.

In any case, with the demand side of the equation still questionable, the main catalyst behind copper’s powerful rally is an unexpected tightening in global mine supplies, driven mainly by last year’s closure of a giant mine in Panama (discussed here), but there are also growing worries about output in Zambia, which is facing an El Niño-induced power crisis.

On Wednesday, copper prices jumped on huge volumes after smelters in China held a crisis meeting on how to cope with a sharp drop in processing fees following disruptions to supplies of mined ore. The group stopped short of coordinated production cuts, but pledged to re-arrange maintenance work, reduce runs and delay the startup of new projects. In the coming weeks investors will be watching Shanghai exchange inventories closely to gauge both the strength of demand and the extent of any capacity curtailments.

“The increase in SHFE stockpiles has been bigger than we’d anticipated, but we expect to see them coming down over the next few weeks,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, said by phone. “If the pace of the inventory builds doesn’t start to slow, investors will start to question whether smelters are actually cutting and whether the impact of weak construction activity is starting to weigh more heavily on the market.”

* * *

Few have been as happy with the recent surge in copper prices as Goldman's commodity team, where copper has long been a preferred trade (even if it may have cost the former team head Jeff Currie his job due to his unbridled enthusiasm for copper in the past two years which saw many hedge fund clients suffer major losses).

As Goldman's Nicholas Snowdon writes in a note titled "Copper's time is now" (available to pro subscribers in the usual place)...

... there has been a "turn in the industrial cycle." Specifically according to the Goldman analyst, after a prolonged downturn, "incremental evidence now points to a bottoming out in the industrial cycle, with the global manufacturing PMI in expansion for the first time since September 2022." As a result, Goldman now expects copper to rise to $10,000/t by year-end and then $12,000/t by end of Q1-25.’

Here are the details:

Previous inflexions in global manufacturing cycles have been associated with subsequent sustained industrial metals upside, with copper and aluminium rising on average 25% and 9% over the next 12 months. Whilst seasonal surpluses have so far limited a tightening alignment at a micro level, we expect deficit inflexions to play out from quarter end, particularly for metals with severe supply binds. Supplemented by the influence of anticipated Fed easing ahead in a non-recessionary growth setting, another historically positive performance factor for metals, this should support further upside ahead with copper the headline act in this regard.

Goldman then turns to what it calls China's "green policy put":

Much of the recent focus on the “Two Sessions” event centred on the lack of significant broad stimulus, and in particular the limited property support. In our view it would be wrong – just as in 2022 and 2023 – to assume that this will result in weak onshore metals demand. Beijing’s emphasis on rapid growth in the metals intensive green economy, as an offset to property declines, continues to act as a policy put for green metals demand. After last year’s strong trends, evidence year-to-date is again supportive with aluminium and copper apparent demand rising 17% and 12% y/y respectively. Moreover, the potential for a ‘cash for clunkers’ initiative could provide meaningful right tail risk to that healthy demand base case. Yet there are also clear metal losers in this divergent policy setting, with ongoing pressure on property related steel demand generating recent sharp iron ore downside.

Meanwhile, Snowdon believes that the driver behind Goldman's long-running bullish view on copper - a global supply shock - continues:

Copper’s supply shock progresses. The metal with most significant upside potential is copper, in our view. The supply shock which began with aggressive concentrate destocking and then sharp mine supply downgrades last year, has now advanced to an increasing bind on metal production, as reflected in this week's China smelter supply rationing signal. With continued positive momentum in China's copper demand, a healthy refined import trend should generate a substantial ex-China refined deficit this year. With LME stocks having halved from Q4 peak, China’s imminent seasonal demand inflection should accelerate a path into extreme tightness by H2. Structural supply underinvestment, best reflected in peak mine supply we expect next year, implies that demand destruction will need to be the persistent solver on scarcity, an effect requiring substantially higher pricing than current, in our view. In this context, we maintain our view that the copper price will surge into next year (GSe 2025 $15,000/t average), expecting copper to rise to $10,000/t by year-end and then $12,000/t by end of Q1-25’

Another reason why Goldman is doubling down on its bullish copper outlook: gold.

The sharp rally in gold price since the beginning of March has ended the period of consolidation that had been present since late December. Whilst the initial catalyst for the break higher came from a (gold) supportive turn in US data and real rates, the move has been significantly amplified by short term systematic buying, which suggests less sticky upside. In this context, we expect gold to consolidate for now, with our economists near term view on rates and the dollar suggesting limited near-term catalysts for further upside momentum. Yet, a substantive retracement lower will also likely be limited by resilience in physical buying channels. Nonetheless, in the midterm we continue to hold a constructive view on gold underpinned by persistent strength in EM demand as well as eventual Fed easing, which should crucially reactivate the largely for now dormant ETF buying channel. In this context, we increase our average gold price forecast for 2024 from $2,090/toz to $2,180/toz, targeting a move to $2,300/toz by year-end.

Much more in the full Goldman note available to pro subs.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/15/2024 - 14:25

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The millions of people not looking for work in the UK may be prioritising education, health and freedom

Economic inactivity is not always the worst option.




Taking time out. pathdoc/Shutterstock

Around one in five British people of working age (16-64) are now outside the labour market. Neither in work nor looking for work, they are officially labelled as “economically inactive”.

Some of those 9.2 million people are in education, with many students not active in the labour market because they are studying full-time. Others are older workers who have chosen to take early retirement.

But that still leaves a large number who are not part of the labour market because they are unable to work. And one key driver of economic inactivity in recent years has been illness.

This increase in economic inactivity – which has grown since before the pandemic – is not just harming the economy, but also indicative of a deeper health crisis.

For those suffering ill health, there are real constraints on access to work. People with health-limiting conditions cannot just slot into jobs that are available. They need help to address the illnesses they have, and to re-engage with work through organisations offering supportive and healthy work environments.

And for other groups, such as stay-at-home parents, businesses need to offer flexible work arrangements and subsidised childcare to support the transition from economic inactivity into work.

The government has a role to play too. Most obviously, it could increase investment in the NHS. Rising levels of poor health are linked to years of under-investment in the health sector and economic inactivity will not be tackled without more funding.

Carrots and sticks

For the time being though, the UK government appears to prefer an approach which mixes carrots and sticks. In the March 2024 budget, for example, the chancellor cut national insurance by 2p as a way of “making work pay”.

But it is unclear whether small tax changes like this will have any effect on attracting the economically inactive back into work.

Jeremy Hunt also extended free childcare. But again, questions remain over whether this is sufficient to remove barriers to work for those with parental responsibilities. The high cost and lack of availability of childcare remain key weaknesses in the UK economy.

The benefit system meanwhile has been designed to push people into work. Benefits in the UK remain relatively ungenerous and hard to access compared with other rich countries. But labour shortages won’t be solved by simply forcing the economically inactive into work, because not all of them are ready or able to comply.

It is also worth noting that work itself may be a cause of bad health. The notion of “bad work” – work that does not pay enough and is unrewarding in other ways – can lead to economic inactivity.

There is also evidence that as work has become more intensive over recent decades, for some people, work itself has become a health risk.

The pandemic showed us how certain groups of workers (including so-called “essential workers”) suffered more ill health due to their greater exposure to COVID. But there are broader trends towards lower quality work that predate the pandemic, and these trends suggest improving job quality is an important step towards tackling the underlying causes of economic inactivity.


Another big section of the economically active population who cannot be ignored are those who have retired early and deliberately left the labour market behind. These are people who want and value – and crucially, can afford – a life without work.

Here, the effects of the pandemic can be seen again. During those years of lockdowns, furlough and remote working, many of us reassessed our relationship with our jobs. Changed attitudes towards work among some (mostly older) workers can explain why they are no longer in the labour market and why they may be unresponsive to job offers of any kind.

Sign on railings supporting NHS staff during pandemic.
COVID made many people reassess their priorities. Alex Yeung/Shutterstock

And maybe it is from this viewpoint that we should ultimately be looking at economic inactivity – that it is actually a sign of progress. That it represents a move towards freedom from the drudgery of work and the ability of some people to live as they wish.

There are utopian visions of the future, for example, which suggest that individual and collective freedom could be dramatically increased by paying people a universal basic income.

In the meantime, for plenty of working age people, economic inactivity is a direct result of ill health and sickness. So it may be that the levels of economic inactivity right now merely show how far we are from being a society which actually supports its citizens’ wellbeing.

David Spencer has received funding from the ESRC.

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Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

By Autumn Spredemann of The Epoch Times

Tens of thousands of illegal…



Illegal Immigrants Leave US Hospitals With Billions In Unpaid Bills

By Autumn Spredemann of The Epoch Times

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding into U.S. hospitals for treatment and leaving billions in uncompensated health care costs in their wake.

The House Committee on Homeland Security recently released a report illustrating that from the estimated $451 billion in annual costs stemming from the U.S. border crisis, a significant portion is going to health care for illegal immigrants.

With the majority of the illegal immigrant population lacking any kind of medical insurance, hospitals and government welfare programs such as Medicaid are feeling the weight of these unanticipated costs.

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border have jumped 48 percent since the record in fiscal year 2021 and nearly tripled since fiscal year 2019, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

Last year broke a new record high for illegal border crossings, surpassing more than 3.2 million apprehensions.

And with that sea of humanity comes the need for health care and, in most cases, the inability to pay for it.

In January, CEO of Denver Health Donna Lynne told reporters that 8,000 illegal immigrants made roughly 20,000 visits to the city’s health system in 2023.

The total bill for uncompensated care costs last year to the system totaled $140 million, said Dane Roper, public information officer for Denver Health. More than $10 million of it was attributed to “care for new immigrants,” he told The Epoch Times.

Though the amount of debt assigned to illegal immigrants is a fraction of the total, uncompensated care costs in the Denver Health system have risen dramatically over the past few years.

The total uncompensated costs in 2020 came to $60 million, Mr. Roper said. In 2022, the number doubled, hitting $120 million.

He also said their city hospitals are treating issues such as “respiratory illnesses, GI [gastro-intenstinal] illnesses, dental disease, and some common chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.”

“The perspective we’ve been trying to emphasize all along is that providing healthcare services for an influx of new immigrants who are unable to pay for their care is adding additional strain to an already significant uncompensated care burden,” Mr. Roper said.

He added this is why a local, state, and federal response to the needs of the new illegal immigrant population is “so important.”

Colorado is far from the only state struggling with a trail of unpaid hospital bills.

EMS medics with the Houston Fire Department transport a Mexican woman the hospital in Houston on Aug. 12, 2020. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Dr. Robert Trenschel, CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center situated on the Arizona–Mexico border, said on average, illegal immigrants cost up to three times more in human resources to resolve their cases and provide a safe discharge.

“Some [illegal] migrants come with minor ailments, but many of them come in with significant disease,” Dr. Trenschel said during a congressional hearing last year.

“We’ve had migrant patients on dialysis, cardiac catheterization, and in need of heart surgery. Many are very sick.”

He said many illegal immigrants who enter the country and need medical assistance end up staying in the ICU ward for 60 days or more.

A large portion of the patients are pregnant women who’ve had little to no prenatal treatment. This has resulted in an increase in babies being born that require neonatal care for 30 days or longer.

Dr. Trenschel told The Epoch Times last year that illegal immigrants were overrunning healthcare services in his town, leaving the hospital with $26 million in unpaid medical bills in just 12 months.

ER Duty to Care

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 requires that public hospitals participating in Medicare “must medically screen all persons seeking emergency care … regardless of payment method or insurance status.”

The numbers are difficult to gauge as the policy position of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is that it “will not require hospital staff to ask patients directly about their citizenship or immigration status.”

In southern California, again close to the border with Mexico, some hospitals are struggling with an influx of illegal immigrants.

American patients are enduring longer wait times for doctor appointments due to a nursing shortage in the state, two health care professionals told The Epoch Times in January.

A health care worker at a hospital in Southern California, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, told The Epoch Times that “the entire health care system is just being bombarded” by a steady stream of illegal immigrants.

“Our healthcare system is so overwhelmed, and then add on top of that tuberculosis, COVID-19, and other diseases from all over the world,” she said.

A Salvadorian man is aided by medical workers after cutting his leg while trying to jump on a truck in Matias Romero, Mexico, on Nov. 2, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A newly-enacted law in California provides free healthcare for all illegal immigrants residing in the state. The law could cost taxpayers between $3 billion and $6 billion per year, according to recent estimates by state and federal lawmakers.

In New York, where the illegal immigration crisis has manifested most notably beyond the southern border, city and state officials have long been accommodating of illegal immigrants’ healthcare costs.

Since June 2014, when then-mayor Bill de Blasio set up The Task Force on Immigrant Health Care Access, New York City has worked to expand avenues for illegal immigrants to get free health care.

“New York City has a moral duty to ensure that all its residents have meaningful access to needed health care, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay,” Mr. de Blasio stated in a 2015 report.

The report notes that in 2013, nearly 64 percent of illegal immigrants were uninsured. Since then, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have settled in the city.

“The uninsured rate for undocumented immigrants is more than three times that of other noncitizens in New York City (20 percent) and more than six times greater than the uninsured rate for the rest of the city (10 percent),” the report states.

The report states that because healthcare providers don’t ask patients about documentation status, the task force lacks “data specific to undocumented patients.”

Some health care providers say a big part of the issue is that without a clear path to insurance or payment for non-emergency services, illegal immigrants are going to the hospital due to a lack of options.

“It’s insane, and it has been for years at this point,” Dana, a Texas emergency room nurse who asked to have her full name omitted, told The Epoch Times.

Working for a major hospital system in the greater Houston area, Dana has seen “a zillion” migrants pass through under her watch with “no end in sight.” She said many who are illegal immigrants arrive with treatable illnesses that require simple antibiotics. “Not a lot of GPs [general practitioners] will see you if you can’t pay and don’t have insurance.”

She said the “undocumented crowd” tends to arrive with a lot of the same conditions. Many find their way to Houston not long after crossing the southern border. Some of the common health issues Dana encounters include dehydration, unhealed fractures, respiratory illnesses, stomach ailments, and pregnancy-related concerns.

“This isn’t a new problem, it’s just worse now,” Dana said.

Emergency room nurses and EMTs tend to patients in hallways at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital in Houston on Aug. 18, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Medicaid Factor

One of the main government healthcare resources illegal immigrants use is Medicaid.

All those who don’t qualify for regular Medicaid are eligible for Emergency Medicaid, regardless of immigration status. By doing this, the program helps pay for the cost of uncompensated care bills at qualifying hospitals.

However, some loopholes allow access to the regular Medicaid benefits. “Qualified noncitizens” who haven’t been granted legal status within five years still qualify if they’re listed as a refugee, an asylum seeker, or a Cuban or Haitian national.

Yet the lion’s share of Medicaid usage by illegal immigrants still comes through state-level benefits and emergency medical treatment.

A Congressional report highlighted data from the CMS, which showed total Medicaid costs for “emergency services for undocumented aliens” in fiscal year 2021 surpassed $7 billion, and totaled more than $5 billion in fiscal 2022.

Both years represent a significant spike from the $3 billion in fiscal 2020.

An employee working with Medicaid who asked to be referred to only as Jennifer out of concern for her job, told The Epoch Times that at a state level, it’s easy for an illegal immigrant to access the program benefits.

Jennifer said that when exceptions are sent from states to CMS for approval, “denial is actually super rare. It’s usually always approved.”

She also said it comes as no surprise that many of the states with the highest amount of Medicaid spending are sanctuary states, which tend to have policies and laws that shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration authorities.

Moreover, Jennifer said there are ways for states to get around CMS guidelines. “It’s not easy, but it can and has been done.”

The first generation of illegal immigrants who arrive to the United States tend to be healthy enough to pass any pre-screenings, but Jennifer has observed that the subsequent generations tend to be sicker and require more access to care. If a family is illegally present, they tend to use Emergency Medicaid or nothing at all.

The Epoch Times asked Medicaid Services to provide the most recent data for the total uncompensated care that hospitals have reported. The agency didn’t respond.

Continue reading over at The Epoch Times

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/15/2024 - 09:45

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