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(Photo: TFLcar) A dwindling rubber supply could cause long-standing issues for automakers. Even as sales dramatically rebound from a COVID-hit industry, new problems could cause greater supply issues than automakers are currently facing. This time, it’s not semiconductors (though we’ll feel the lingering effects there for awhile) — it’s rubber. According to a new Bloomberg report, natural rubber prices are hitting a four-year high and analysts say it’s a “structural” problem in the chain that won’t shift anytime soon. Supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are wreaking havoc in the rubber market, after availability and cost remained relatively stable over the past several years. Now, as prices skyrocket, U.S. firms are scrambling to snap up whatever stock they can before the market gets even more precarious. “It’s like paper towels early on during the COVID crisis,” said Steve Wybo, head of consulting firm Conway image source MacKenzie. “If you can get your hands on some plastic, or some rubber, you’re going to order more than you need because you don’t know when you’re going to be able to get it next.” As suppliers throughout the industry do just that, it dries up stock for the next buyers in line, and so on. While automakers aren’t sounding the alarm just yet, tightening demand create enormous problem for producers. Thailand is one of the world’s largest natural rubber exporters, and farmers struggled with low prices in the years leading up to the pandemic. They ultimately tapped more trees to compensate for lower per-volume income, and were discouraged from planting more trees. What’s more, because rubber trees take around seven years to mature, it’s not easy for the industry to quickly adjust to rapid fluctuations in pricing and demand. As with semiconductors, U.S. automakers had some access to rubber stocks after COVID lockdowns originally lifted last year. However, the global supply ultimately shrunk as China began stockpiling last year. The United States, for its part, finds itself in a tough position as firms did not stockpile, nor is there a national stockpile to serve as a safety net, and now face major price hikes. Not only that, but other industries that demand natural rubber, like gloves and packaging tape, also hit the available supply. It’s not just rubber either (as we’re seeing with the chip shortage) — precious metals also run the risk of supply shortfalls, as electronics demand spikes.

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KSU logo Kentucky State University Kentucky State University receives positive financial audit results FRANKFORT – The Kentucky State University Board of Regents received positive results from the University’s annual independent financial audit for the fiscal year 2019-20. The opinion issued by Crowe Horwarth LLP was an unmodified opinion, the highest opinion offered by public accounting firms. The audit showed a positive financial position for Kentucky State, with a budget surplus of $2.3 million in 2019-20. Kentucky State continues to be in sound financial position in spite of the health crisis and significant economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. From a financial perspective, Kentucky State University officials expect to be able to fully deliver all instruction and provide a robust array of services to students in the upcoming academic year despite a very challenging fiscal environment. Kentucky State’s conservative fiscal discipline over the years has resulted in healthy liquidity, ample reserves and a manageable debt burden, enabling Kentucky State to be in position to weather economic downturns. Like virtually all investment portfolios, Kentucky State’s endowment suffered losses in the first quarter of 2020.  Even with the plunge in financial markets, Kentucky State’s endowment increased nearly $3.5 million. Additionally, the University benefits from the ongoing generous philanthropy from loyal donors (many of whom are alumni) and new partners like Diageo, who recently gifted one million dollars for a scholarship program. Kentucky State officials said the University remains committed to a high-quality experience for students, sustaining the workforce, and taking care of the physical plant. Maintaining the physical plant will be a central priority as the pandemic continues.  Because of Kentucky State’s financial viability, officials said it is situated to deliver on that commitment in the face of the continued uncertainty and unprecedented upheaval. The audit found no material weaknesses in financial reporting or in internal control over federal grant awards. Kentucky State resolved three audit findings from the prior year. The audit resulted in only one finding, which resulted in $0 in questioned cost. The Kentucky State University Board of Regents approved the audit during an April 6 special-called meeting.