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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Already facing the uncertainty and increased costs of the trade war and a looming end of the business cycle, American companies are finding they now have a new foe to fight: prolonged, and in some cases unanticipated, extreme weather conditions.

Why it matters: The conditions have been awful for farmers, and the agriculture and commodities markets, and now companies ranging from retail to industrials are highlighting weather-related struggles weighing on sales and revenue.

What's happening: Across the Midwest and Central U.S., this spring has brought one atmospheric onslaught after another, from late season snowstorms to severe thunderstorms that have left rivers overflowing, exceeding historic flood benchmarks.

What they're saying:

  • "Weather was challenging during the quarter resulting in suppressed demand for our spring seasonal goods, which were down high single-digits," said Kohl's CFO Bruce Besanko, after the retailer's 3.4% same-store sales decline in the first quarter.
  • "The weather in February impacted our business. 17 of 19 regions were negative," said Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé after posting a 2.5% increase in same-store sales versus the 4.2% analysts expected.
  • "I don't think we could have envisioned ... what is now approaching record rainfall in Southern California or in California," said Bernard Acoca, president and CEO of El Pollo Loco, after the restaurant reduced guidance for the rest of fiscal 2019.
  • DowDuPont and UPS also cited the impacts of flooding and weather-related disruptions.

Between the lines: "Normally, we'd be highly skeptical of retailers blaming the weather for disappointing sales," Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, wrote in a note to clients.

  • "But this time, Mother Nature may indeed be at fault."

Meteorologists agree: "These events have likely affected businesses in varying ways: from either a delivery standpoint or the inclement weather making it difficult for consumers to actually get to the stores," Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist for Aon Benfield's Impact Forecasting division, tells Axios in an email.

Our thought bubble, from Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman: The extreme weather we've been seeing is consistent with a warming climate in which the atmosphere is able to hold more moisture.

  • Studies have shown an increase in heavy precipitation events during the past few decades in the Midwest and Central states, and other research shows a greater tendency for certain weather patterns to form that can lead to amplified extremes.

Go deeper ... Central U.S. storms: 3 die in Missouri, "violent tornado" hits Jefferson City

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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