With President Donald Trump’s appointment of hawkish triad Jay Powell, Marvin Goodfriend and Loretta Master, how is the stock market today? Read on and find out from Mr. Malcolm Berko the state of stock market today.
Dear Mr. Berko:
What’s your opinion of the current stock market? Why has the market collapsed so much the past month?
Some investors blame President Donald Trump’s appointment of hawkish Jay Powell, Marvin Goodfriend and Loretta Mester to guide the Federal Reserve. Others say that 2018 will be good for the economy. Others predict a slight decline in corporate revenues and earnings and a runaway deficit. Others say it’s a normal reaction to a market that’s run up too fast. This is very scary.
Will stocks recover from this ghastly crash?
The other question on most minds is: How do we protect what we have? Can you make any sense of what’s happened and what will happen?
— MT, Bettendorf, Iowa
Janet Yellen was a swell Federal Reserve chair, and many investors who were comfortable with her policies are uncomfortable with what they know about Powell, Goodfriend and Mester. But they’re more uncomfortable with what they don’t know about these three musketeers. Each of them is a strong advocate of rising interest rates, and they probably will be more aggressive than Yellen in raising rates. The appointment of these three to super-powerful and sensitive positions at the Fed concerns most investors and me, too. It’s kind of like appointing a new coach and staff to run a professional football team when new hires were not necessary. Jumpin’ Jack Flash, mama mia, Jiminy Christmas, oy vey and blimey. My friend Knobby Walsh always reminded me, “If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The Fed, running smoothly under Yellen, wasn’t broken, so these appointments take the cupcake. Perhaps this is why cryptocurrencies are becoming popular.
This year will be a good year for the economy and for most Americans. During the fourth quarter of 2017, the Fortune 500 companies reported a year-over-year average increase in revenues of 8.2 percent and a 14.4 percent average increase in earnings. The Fed said inflation ran at 2.1 percent for 2017 and to expect inflation at 2.5 percent in 2018. And economists are suggesting good metrics this year.
In a recent survey by The Wall Street Journal, economists predicted that the United States’ gross domestic product will grow by 2.8 percent this year, versus 2.5 percent last year. They also projected that unemployment will fall below 4 percent this year.
Yes, interest rates will rise. Historically, yields on 10-year Treasury notes have been roughly the equivalent of the growth in GDP plus the rate of inflation. Historical precedent suggests that the 10-year Treasury rate last year should have been 4.6 percent rather than 2.8 percent. And historical patterns suggest that this year’s 10-year Treasury notes should trade at 5.3 percent. Resultantly, the bond market may be roiling. Holders of U.S. Treasurys, which currently yield 2.8 percent, are reluctant to hold them because rising rates could cause their principal to fall by 30 to 35 percent. Certainly, investors would rather hold hot coals in their hands than Treasurys. It’s a definite maybe that rates will be higher in 2018, and that makes the investors nervous as Porky Pig in a bacon factory.
The pullback in the market was long overdue and is helpful. It brings investors back to earth from their unfettered optimism and dampens the price hype from those high flyers that keep traders in Cohibas, whiskey and bubbles. Higher rates will continue to challenge the Dow Jones industrial average, but higher corporate revenues, strong corporate profits and nicely increasing dividends should bring balance to the Dow. Be mindful that the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 32 percent between the November 2016 election and late January 2018, so a 10 percent decline is not a disaster but rather a correction. And mind you, we’ve had plenty of those in the past 30-plus years and recovered nicely from each.
Stay the course if you own good names, and don’t ascribe long-term consequences to short-term events. Meanwhile, investors who bought many of the income/growth stocks recommended in this column are sitting well. As their AT&T, W.P. Carey, AmeriGas and Southern shares decline, the increasing dividends make those stocks easy to hold.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM
Pump Prices to Edge up After Attack on Iranian General, but Long-Term Effect Unclear
Motorists soon will see the effects of President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a prominent Iranian general. Whether pump prices rise a little or a lot depends on how quickly international tensions intensify.
Florida gas prices climbed an average of 7 cents a gallon in the past three days and could increase an additional 5 cents, AAA – The Auto Club Group said Monday.
The 7-cent increase was coming even before the U.S. air strike Thursday that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. That hike was a result of a rise in the price of crude oil in December.
News of the targeted killing of Soleimani sent crude oil surging nearly $2 per barrel on Friday. An increase of that magnitude typically translates to a 5-cent hike at the pump, AAA said.
The U.S. benchmark for crude oil traded Monday just above $63 per barrel, the highest level since May 2019. The price of oil makes up about half the price of a gallon of gas.
“What happens in the Middle East can have a direct impact on Americans’ daily lives by influencing what they pay at the pump,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “Crude prices rise when there’s a threat of war, because of concerns over how the conflict could hamper supply and demand.”
Oil analyst Tom Kloza of energy firm OPIS agreed that pump prices in Florida likely will rise about 5 cents a gallon in the coming days.
“Then I have a hunch that things are going to calm down,” Kloza said Monday. “I don’t think we’re looking at $3 gas.”
The national average pump price Sunday was $2.585, while the Florida average was $2.526, AAA said.
Kloza expects only modest increases in part because of the timing of the attack. January is always a slow month for gas consumption in the United States.
There’s also the reality that sanctions leave Iran unable to export oil. Complicating the calculus is Iraq’s response to the U.S. attack. The drone strike on Soleimani took place in Baghdad, and some Iraqi politicians considered the assault an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.
While there’s no Iranian oil supply to be disrupted by a war, Iraq is an important producer.
Trump keenly watches oil prices and realizes that a price spike might erode his support in this year’s presidential election, Kloza said.
At the same time, Kloza added, “This president has proven to be unpredictable.”
Trump’s response has been typically uneven. Delivering an official statement at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Trump’s tone was measured. He said the targeted killing was designed to pre-empt Soleimani’s planned attacks on American diplomats and soldiers.
“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday. “We did not take action to start a war.”
However, over the weekend, Trump took to Twitter to threaten attacks on Iranian cultural sites.
“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”
##IFRAME_1##Iran has vowed vengeance, but military experts say the nation isn’t powerful enough to wage a direct war against the U.S.
“It’s still far too early to know how much of an impact this conflict will have overall on prices at the pump,” AAA’s Jenkins said.
Stocks Rally Despite Impeachment News
Stocks rose on Thursday as investors looked past the news of President Donald Trump’s impeachment as well as mixed U.S. economic data.
The Dow Jones Industrials advanced 53.85 points to begin trading at 28.293.13
The S&P 500 recovered 4.93 points to 3,196.07
The NASDAQ added 19.39 points to Wednesday’s all-time record, at 8,847.12.
The S&P 500 is up nearly 7% since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry in September.
Cisco Systems was the best-performing Dow component, rising 1.6%. The consumer staples and real estate sectors led the S&P 500 higher, gaining 0.4% each. Micron Technology shares also contributed to Thursday’s move higher. Conagra shares surged more than 14% and were on pace for their biggest one-day gain since Oct. 16, 1989.
Micron shares climbed 3.5% on the back of strong quarterly results. The chipmaker posted earnings per share and revenue that topped analyst expectations.
On the economic data front, weekly jobless claims fell to 234,000 from 252,000 the week before. However, economists expected claims to fall to 225,000.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s business conditions index fell to 0.3 in December from 10.4 in the previous month. Economists expected the index to slip to 8.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump became only the third president to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors and will now face a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Prices for the 10-Year U.S. Treasury were lower, raising yields to 1.94% from Wednesday’s 1.93%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil prices gained seven cents to $61.00 U.S. a barrel.
Gold prices moved forward $1.80 at $1,480.50 U.S. an ounce. Copyright © 2019 Baystreet.ca Media Corp. All rights reserved.
Washington State OKs Some of the Nation’s Toughest OT Rules
SEATTLE — Washington state is adopting some of the nation’s most aggressive overtime rules, restoring protections for hundreds of thousands of salaried workers and taking what supporters say is a crucial step toward rebuilding the middle class.
The Department of Labor and Industries finalized the rules Wednesday and will phase them in by 2028. By that time, salaried workers making up to about $83,400 a year will be entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.
Workers making more than that could also get overtime unless they are certain types of professionals — such as those with higher degrees — or unless they are truly managers or executives, as demonstrated by their ability to and fire, direct other people’s work or make significant business decisions.
Many job categories will be affected, including shift managers at restaurants and retail establishments, office managers, some medical workers and other white-collar staff, officials said.
“We need to make sure the middle class shares in our state’s prosperity,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “Overtime protections ensure workers are fairly compensated when they work more than 40 hours in a given week — time that would otherwise be spent with their families and in their communities.”
Employees who are paid hourly have long been entitled to overtime. But salaried workers have generally been entitled to it only if they make less than a certain amount: about $23,660 under federal law, or more where state laws are more generous.
Those thresholds may have worked decades ago, when they meant that nearly two-thirds of salaried workers nationally were covered by overtime protections. But after a recession in the 1970s, lawmakers largely stopped updating them. Washington’s has been stuck at $13,000 since 1976.
As people’s salaries rose with inflation, they found themselves no longer eligible for overtime. Businesses have also been able to convert hourly workers into salaried ones who make just more than the threshold as a way to avoid additional staff or paying overtime.
In other cases, workers have been classified as managers when their actual duties more closely resemble those of hourly workers, officials said.
By some estimates, as few as 7% of salaried workers across the country are now entitled to overtime.
The federal government and several states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Massachusetts, have recently updated or started to update their overtime rules, but none have adopted a target threshold as high as Washington’s, said Paul Sonn, state policy program director with the National Employment Law Project.
The rules adopted by the Trump administration will raise the threshold to cover workers making up to $35,308 a year — a significant cut from the $47,000 limit proposed by the Obama administration.
“The overtime threshold is to the middle class as the minimum wage is to low-wage work,” said Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist whose think-tank , Civic Ventures, advocates for progressive economic policies. “It is the indispensable labour protection for middle class people.”
Business groups in Washington have agreed that the state’s rules needed to be updated, but they criticized the plans as drastic. The Association of Washington Business, warned when the proposed rules came out in June that they would be a shock to many businesses and that they could particularly hurt nonprofits.
The organization warned that many businesses might convert salaried workers to hourly ones, reducing scheduling flexibility.
After hearing extensive public comment, the department added two years to the phase-in period. The threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage — about $83,400 — by 2028. The rules will phase in more slowly for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
The department estimates that by the time they are fully implemented, the new rules will give overtime protections to about 260,000 workers who don’t have them and strengthen overtime protections for about 235,000 others. Affected workers will also become eligible for sick leave and retaliation protections.
At a news conference Wednesday, Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks gave an example of one type of worker who will be protected : a shift manager who makes $40,000 a year but is expected to work 60 hours a week.
Under the new rules, that worker will be paid overtime for the additional hours, or the business will need to additional staff.
“It’s fair, it’s right and it’s long overdue,” Sacks said.
Among those who might be helped is Victor Duran, a co-manager of a sports apparel store south of Seattle. He said he makes about $52,000 a year and doesn’t get overtime, but is required to work at least 45 hours per week — and up to 60 during the holidays.
“We say bye to the family at the beginning of the season and say we’ll see them after Christmas,” Duran said.
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