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Even with Fed Decision, Data Shows Investors….Timid…

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share buybacks

Even with Fed Decision, Data Shows Investors “Timid”

For nearly the entire course of relevant history, investors reward businesses that buy back shares by pushing the stock price higher. Date suggest this is changing.

With the change brings to light that the stock market has been on a 7 year tear and since 59% of fund managers see the end, the fed’s rate decision may not last as long as it once may have.

We got the full scoop from WSJ’s Steven Russolillo:

The corporate buyback binge continues at full tilt. But, perhaps with good reason, investors may be losing faith in its ability to propel share prices.

U.S. companies authorized $158 billion of new stock buyback programs in January and February, according to Birinyi Associates Inc. While there is no guarantee the rest of 2016 will maintain such a pace, it marked the best start to a year since the research firm started tracking this data in 1984.

February, in particular, stood out, as cash-rich companies said they would continue rewarding shareholders rather than investing. It was the fourth strongest month on record. Cisco Systems Inc. and Gilead Sciences Inc. led the pack with the heftiest announcements.

Even so, the S&P 500 Buyback Index, which contains stocks with the highest ratio of buybacks to market value, has fallen by 7% over the past year. That compares with a slight gain for the S&P 500 on a total-return basis.

The explanation may be that investors know how buyback booms end: When the market loses momentum, companies tend to get skittish about spending money on their own shares, even though they are on sale.

For example, in booming 2007 when the last bull market peaked, buybacks totaled $761 billion. That plunged to $387 billion in 2008 and just $149 billion in 2009, according to Birinyi.
[buffet_recommended]

Based on what companies have announced, and also some evidence of what they have spent, such a pullback hasn’t happened this time. But the fact that a company says it will repurchase stock doesn’t mean it will. In 2015, companies bought back about four-fifths of the authorized amount.

So, one explanation for the sputtering Buyback Index is that investors smell trouble. Another explanation is more benign: That investors are optimistic about the economy and are rewarding companies that plow money into productive assets.

After all, if a company can get a higher return on a dollar than one returned to investors, it should retain and spend it. Capital expenditures, research and development and even wage increases have largely taken a back seat in this bull market.

The buyback express isn’t slowing. But more investors want to switch trains.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/buybacks-arent-what-they-used-to-be-1458153648

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Business

IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor Give Guidance on Small Business Leave and Tax Credit

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IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor give guidance on small business leave and tax credit

The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) have announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.

The Act will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members.

The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

Key Takeaways

* Paid Sick Leave for Workers

* For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.

* Complete Coverage

* Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.

* Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.

* Employers face no payroll tax liability.

* Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.

* Fast Funds

* Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.

* An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided

* Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

* Small Business Protection

* Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.

* Easing Compliance

* Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.

To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.

Background

The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.

Paid Leave

The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.

Paid Sick Leave Credit

For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days. For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Child Care Leave Credit

In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave

When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.

Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.

Examples

If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.

If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.

Equivalent child care leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.

Small Business Exemption

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or child care unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.

Non-Enforcement Period

Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.

For More Information

For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov. Information regarding the process to receive an advance payment of the credit will be posted next week.

© Copyright 2020, The Courier, All Rights Reserved.

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Consumers

US Consumer Spending Up Modest 0.2% in February

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US consumer spending up modest 0.2% in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their spending by a modest amount in February but the expectation is that spending will be hit hard in coming months reflecting the shutdown of the American economy by the coronavirus.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that spending edged up 0.2% in February, matching the January gain but below the 0.4% increase in December.

Personal incomes rose a solid 0.6 percent in February, matching the January gain. Those strong increases are likely to fall-off as millions of Americans lose their jobs although the Senate has passed a $2.2 trillion economic relief package that would cushion the blow by providing checks of up to $1,200 to individuals and expanding unemployment benefits.

The hope is that the relief package, which was expected to clear the House Friday, will keep the economy from falling into a deep recession because of the shutdowns. The Federal Reserve has also moved to slash its key interest rate to a record low near zero and is providing billions of dollars in support to keep credit flowing.

Economists have said all these efforts will not be enough to keep the country out of a downturn, but they could help promote a stronger and quicker rebound once the virus is contained.

A key inflation measure was up 1.8% for the 12 months ending in February, according to the latest data, below the Fed’s 2% target. The absence of inflation worries has allowed the central bank to focus on supporting economic growth.

Consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity but surveys are already showing the virus is having a big impact on the biggest driver of the economy. Coresight, a data research firm, found that almost half of U.S. consumers — 47% — are now extremely concerned about the outbreak, up 10 percentage points in just one week.

“With high-frequency data showing a collapse in economic activity over the past couple of weeks, overall consumer spending is likely to have plummeted in March,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Hunter said he was expecting around a 40% decline in consumer spending in the April-June quarter.

Many economists believe that a recession has already begun although they are forecasting it could be a short one, lasting only two quarters, if the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus are successful.

The Trump administration is hoping to get the new programs in the $2.2 trillion relief package up and running quickly. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday he wanted to get a program to supply small businesses with bank loans operational in a week and IRS payments of up to $1,200 per individual being sent to households in three weeks.

Asked in an interview on Fox Business Network about the record 3.3 million applications for unemployment benefits reported on Thursday, Mnuchin said, “These numbers matter because people are losing their jobs.” But he said the government programs in the rescue bill should either get people back to work or supply financial support until they can find new jobs.

The 1.8% 12-month rise in the inflation gauge tied to consumer spending has been below the Fed’s 2% target for more than a year and now is expected to fall even lower with the drop-off in economic activity and a big fall in energy prices.

The spending report said that the personal saving rate rose in February to 8.2% of after-tax income, the highest level in 11 months and up from 7.9% in January.

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Economy

Stocks Close Higher Again, Cap Best 3-Day Run Since 1931

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Stocks Close Higher Again, Cap Best 3-Day Run Since 1931

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed more than 1,300 points on Thursday to close the day up 6.4%, continuing its record run and tallying its biggest three-day gain since 1931.

The Dow has climbed more than 20% in the past three days and the S&P 500 is also up more than 20% since Monday’s close as well.

Stocks got a double shot of good news on Thursday, as the Senate passed the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill that will help the country recover from the devastation caused by the coronavirus.

The House of Representatives will try to get the bill passed today, although it will require a voice vote, since most of the representatives have left Washington amid the outbreak. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill will be passed “with strong bipartisan support.”

If the bill passes as expected, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin hopes to get the stimulus checks into the hands of Americans within three weeks.

“We’re determined to get money in people’s pockets immediately,” Mnuchin said.

Also helping push stocks higher were comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who hinted that there’s more the Fed can do if called upon to help the economy recover.

Appearing in the Today show, Powell said “We still have policy room in other dimensions to support the economy. We’re trying to create a bridge from a very strong economy to another place of economic strength.”

He added, “When it comes to this lending, we’re not going to run out of ammunition, that doesn’t happen.”

Some investors, however, aren’t convinced that the rally is sustainable.

Ken Berman, a strategist at Gorilla Trades says “Even though equities were squeezed higher into the close, credit markets continue to diverge substantially. You could almost smell the burning shorts on Wall Street [Thursday], but as credit spreads remain wide, one has to wonder how much ‘real’ buying is behind this week moves, besides the bailout-induced short-covering.”

And Gregory Faranello, the head of US rates trading at AmeriVet Securities, adds “This is going to be an economic fallout. We’re seeing in two weeks what we would normally see maybe in a year and a half or two years.”

Much of the doubt surrounding the market’s ability to sustain a rally comes from the abysmal weekly jobless claims report yesterday.

Despite a record number, the market, at least temporarily, shrugged off the historically bad number.

The reason?

It wasn’t as bad as expected.

The Labor Department reported that jobless benefit claims had soared to 3.28 million last week, marking the worst week ever by a very large margin.

The previous record was 695,000 set in October 1982 during the recession.

Yesterday’s report more than quadrupled that number, yet the market still surged higher because it wasn’t as bad as the 4 million claims that some expected, including Citibank.

Even with a record number of jobless claims yesterday and expectations for things to get much worse in the second quarter, the stock market shrugged off the bad news.

There’s a reason for that, according to Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

“The markets and the economy don’t run in parallel. The market’s running way ahead of the economy. The markets don’t care about what’s happening today, the market cares about what’s happening six months from now.”

Time will tell if the stock market can continue to be optimistic about the future if the reported numbers keep deteriorating and millions of Americans become unemployed.

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