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Showing posts from 2021

Right-to-Work; Energy Crisis; Caving to Unions; Weaponizing the IRS

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Buried in the Budget Reconciliation Is the End of Right-to-Work, Independent Contractors; Climate Change Among the various major provisions of the PRO Act is effective nationalization of California's AB5 law that passed in 2019. This law makes hiring independent contractors much more difficult and specifies that contractors must be reclassified by businesses that hire them as employees, unless they meet specific and rigorous standards allowing them to stay independent. Read full article... Biden on Energy Crisis: Begging Others to Save Him From Himself It is on the costs of energy where Biden’s failures are most starkly visible. On his very first day in office, Biden scrapped the Keystone XL pipeline, killing 11,000 jobs in the process and making good on his campaign promise to be hostile to the fossil fuel industry. Continuing his assault on natural resource development, Biden suspended oil and natural gas leases in Alaska. Former President Donald Trump had propelled America to en

Democrat's destructive spending spree would turn America into European Social Welfare State

One of the current issues facing the U.S. economy is more demand than supply can keep up with. Part of the issue has been government programs that have incentivized workers to stay home, and the result is a labor shortage and a record number of job openings, while the workforce participation rate drops to the lowest in decades.  In the meantime, Democrats on Capitol Hill have been busily working on a new spending package.  The cradle-to-grave subsidies in the 2,448-page, $3.5 trillion spending bill that Democrats in Congress are crafting will create a welfare trap for millions more Americans, send inflation soaring, and drive our nation much deeper into debt. Economic policy professor Chuck Blahous of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University analyzed the health benefit proposals in the spending bill. He wrote that expanding Medicare, Medicaid, and “so-called Obamacare” will “represent a major escalation of the fiscal irresponsibility lawmakers have practiced for the past several

The problem hasn't been demand, but supply

As the months drag on, it's increasingly clear that Covid is more of a supply shock than a demand shock to the U.S. economy. Do you remember the endless stories about supply chain problems after the 2007-08 financial crisis? Nope. Neither do I. Because they didn't exist. Did we have soaring prices after 9/11? Nope. Container ship shortages after the dotcom collapse? Of course not. All the recent crises we've dealt with have been negative demand shocks to the U.S. economy. And that has empowered the Keynesian approach of filling demand drops with government stimulus--or consumer spending, as in the case of 9/11, when President Bush famously told families to go about their lives ("fly on airplanes...travel...Get down to Disney World") in order to keep the economy from worsening.  So naturally, when Covid hit, and people worried about a second Great Depression, policy makers threw more stimulus at the problem than ever before. But Covid is more and more a supply shoc

Producer price inflation not as hot as expected, jobless claims fall below 300,000 mark

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The Producer Price Index (PPI) showed prices at the wholesale level in September rose 0.5% month-over-month (m/m), below the Bloomberg consensus estimate calling for a 0.6% gain, and south of August's 0.7% increase.  The core rate, which excludes food and energy, gained 0.2% m/m, below estimates of a 0.5% rise and the prior month's 0.6% gain. Y/Y, the headline rate was 8.6% higher, just shy of projections of an 8.7% increase and compared to August's 8.3% gain. The core PPI increased 6.8% y/y last month, south of estimates calling for a 7.1% rise, and following August's 6.7% increase. Weekly initial jobless claims came in at a level of 293,000 for the week ended October 9, versus estimates of 320,000 and compared to the prior week's upwardly-revised 329,000 level. The four-week moving average fell by 10,500 to 334,250, and continuing claims for the week ended October 2 dropped by 134,000 to 2,593,000, below estimates of 2,670,000.  The four-week moving average of con

A Weak Jobs Report: The Devil Is In The Details

Stocks and U.S. Treasurys fell Friday after a weak jobs report added to speculation about the Federal Reserve's plan to taper its bond-buying program. September was the slowest month for job growth this year, with just 194,000 jobs added compared to consensus estimates for a half-million, signaling a slowing of the labor market recovery and perhaps complicating the Fed's decision on when to begin scaling back monetary support. Inflation concerns pushed long-term interest rates higher, with the benchmark 10-year yield rising to 1.61% after adding 15 basis points on the week. But the three major stock market indexes finished modestly higher for the week, recovering from steep early losses after the U.S. Senate agreed to raise the debt ceiling for at least a few more weeks. The unemployment rate fell, but so did the important labor force participation rate, which has remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020. And the number of people who are no

I'm in Debt. How Do I Get Myself Out of This Mess?

 I got this question on Quora today. It's a common question. The answer I provided is below.  I got into debt young as I didn’t realize how important it was to have a good credit score. How can I get myself out of this mess? I’m worried it’s going to affect future relationships. You really must to want to be debt-free. There is no other way. It’s a process, of both knowledge of personal finance, and modifying your financial behavior. But it is something you can achieve, if you create a plan and follow the steps of sound financial planning. I’m going to tell you up front that it will take quit a bit of work and effort on your part, depending on how much debt you have, and what you are willing to do. We had a saying in the military about what needed to be done do accomplish our mission: “Whatever is necessary.” This will be the same kind of thing. So you have to develop the same mindset. Be hungry. Personal finance is 20 percent knowledge, and 80 percent behavior. When I started I h

Global Energy Crisis; Good for My Portfolio

About 18 months ago, I overloaded (30 percent) my portfolio in energy, with ETFs FENY, VDE, and IEZ, along with pipeline and delivery plays AMLP and MPLX. These are increasing in value as energy prices are on the increase and are paying decent dividends along the way. This was a contrarian play; because traditional energy was going out of favor, I felt that over the next few years, it would increase in value. I was right, and Biden's anti-oil policies have only helped me.  Energy prices continue to surge to fresh records as renewed fears stoke panic of the worst shortage in decades. India has warned it has only four days of coal reserves left, German power plants are running out of fuel and China just unloaded an Australian coal shipment despite an import ban and icy relations. Supply is just not there as economies rebound from a pandemic-induced lull, while problems like logistical logjams and transport bottlenecks are adding to the pressure. OPEC+ didn't come to the rescue ye

60% of millennials earning over $100,000 say they're living paycheck to paycheck

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I always suspected that living paycheck to paycheck did not involve your income, but was influenced by bad behavior and outright ignorance of how to handle your personal finances. And throw in some vanity, and you've got a recipe for eating cat food in retirement. Or maybe you'd prefer dog food.  Been there, done that, so I'll include myself in this category, until I shook off the insanity and put things right. I'm on a ribeye diet, nicely retired, thank you. Here are some facts, as reported by Business Insider. In a survey this June, 60% of millennials earning over $100,000 said they live paycheck to paycheck. Some of these millennials - known as HENRYs - prefer a comfortable, expensive lifestyle. In today's economy, $100,000 is considered middle class in the US. High-earning millennials feel broke. Sixty percent of millennials raking in over $100,000 a year said they're living paycheck to paycheck, found a survey this June by PYMNTS and LendingClub, which ana

Biden's Tax-And-Spend Agenda Accelerates America's Fiscal Decline

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In a study just published by the Club for Growth Foundation, co-authored with Robert O'Quinn (former Chief Economist at the Department of Labor), they estimated the likely economic impact of President Biden's so-called Build Back Better plan to expand the welfare state. Here are the main findings: A loss of $3 trillion of economic output over the next 10 years A loss of $1.6 trillion of worker compensation over the next 10 years A loss of more than $10,000, on average, in compensation for workers over the next 10 years A lifetime drop in living standards of almost four percent for young workers What's especially noteworthy about the study is that they based their analysis on research published earlier this year by the Congressional Budget Office . In other words, a very establishment source. Biden's fiscal agenda would made the United States more like Europe and the economic data unambiguously demonstrate that Europeans suffer from significantly lower living standards

Housing Market Remains Hot

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Below are some interesting charts that show how hot the housing market has been. While I'm reading lots of articles about this abating, the market hasn't slowed yet.  Housing starts for August rose 3.9% month-over-month (m/m) to an annual pace of 1,615,000 units, above the Bloomberg consensus forecast of 1,550,000 units, and compared to July's upwardly-revised pace of 1,554,000 units. Building permits, one of the leading indicators tracked by the Conference Board as it is a gauge of future construction, gained 6.0% m/m at an annual rate of 1,728,000, north of expectations calling for 1,600,000 units, and compared to the downwardly-revised 1,630,000 unit pace in July. These numbers may help with the supply shortage, but that affect is several months away. 

Inflation: More Transitory than Expected

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We are experiencing inflation for the first time in a long time: at least four decades as a matter of fact. We are also experiencing scarcity in some goods and services. I am 69 years old—the only time in my life that I recall experiencing this level of scarcity was with gasoline in the 1970s because of the oil embargo.  From what I recall of the 70s, people were plenty grumpy about having to do even/odd days at gas stations and sit in hour-long lines. And the interest rate on my mortgage was north of 10 percent. Americans are generally great people. But we are not good at rationing scarce resources. It is every man for himself. If I think we are going to run out of cat food, I am not going to leave some in the store for my neighbor. My cats are more important. It’s simply supply and demand. Supply is shrinking for a variety of reasons, but a big reason is the shrinking labor supply—there simply aren’t enough people to transport it and stock it and put it on the shelves. People are sta

Democrats to Increase Taxes and Spending, Setting New Records

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Higher taxes and increased government spending will generally slow economic growth. This correlation has been supported throughout history many times, but it's something not generally discussed by Democrats or the mainstream media.  Here's some examples to get started on the subject. Not everyone is in agreement, but I generally take the position that higher taxes and/or higher government spending takes resources from the private sector, which has a moderating affect on growth: Higher business taxes and lower investment 'not a plan for growth' What Is the Evidence on Taxes and Growth? Tax Rates and Economic Growth Does Government Spending Affect Economic Growth? High Implicit Tax Rates Trap Poor People in the Quicksand of Government Dependency Regardless of where you'll end up deciding what is the "truth," the fact remains that the U.S. taxpayer spends too much money on taxes. According to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Americans s

Energy Prices Rise: Caps on Supply Affect Markets

By Kelly Evans The Exchange , CNBC The price of fossil fuels keeps surging. The situation in Europe is getting worse. Natural gas prices are spiking through the roof--even worse than they were   last week . Even oil is higher today as Goldman says $80 for U.S. crude could be next, up from about $70 where it's trading today. Why? Because there is "growing scarcity across physical markets," with demand for all energy except oil back at pre-pandemic levels  while "the system is becoming increasingly constrained in its ability to supply goods."    The crucial difference between the energy spike today and any prior one over the past couple decades is that this one comes as policymakers (and "ESG" investors) have  chosen to cap supply . Europe, as I've mentioned, has basically, depending on how you run the numbers to get to "net zero" emissions by 2050,  about 600 gigatons of carbon left  to produce. Even traders are taking the goal seriously t

What No One Is Saying About the Jobs Report

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By the Tax Foundation   Last week, a disappointing jobs report came out: only 235,000 jobs were added when closer to 720,000 were expected. President Biden blamed the Delta variant, but that is not the whole explanation. While the Delta variant is a contributor, it is likely companies are also unsure of what the future holds for them as the Biden administration’s international tax plan and the Wyden proposal are debated in Congress, so they’re putting hiring, expansion, and investments on hold. Vice President of Global Projects Daniel Bunn says, “The tax reform in 2017 was helpful in reversing the pressure that U.S. companies felt to shield profits from U.S. taxes. However, if the tax code changes in line with what President Biden has proposed, those incentives for investing in the U.S. would go away, and companies would again feel the pressure to offshore profits and potentially jobs and investment. “You can combat profit shifting by making your country’s tax code more attractive fo

Biden Plan: Highest Corporate Taxes in the OECD

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President Biden’s proposal to raise the federal corporate tax rate to 28 percent as part of his plan to fund infrastructure spending would increase the combined average top tax rate on corporate income to 32.4 percent, highest among industrialized countries in the OECD .

It's All About Jobs: August Employment Report Misses

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for August came out today, and it was way below expectations. The economy added 235,000 jobs, about 500,000 fewer than expected. This year, monthly job growth has averaged 586,000 jobs, according to the report. This is probably due to the issue with the Covid-19 Delta variant.  Nonfarm payrolls rose by 235,000 jobs month-over-month (m/m) in August, well below the Bloomberg consensus estimate of a 733,000 rise, though July's figure was upwardly-adjusted to an increase of 1,053,000. Excluding government hiring and firing, private sector payrolls increased by 243,000, versus the forecasted rise of 610,000, after increasing by an upwardly-revised 798,000 in July.  The labor force participation rate remained at July's 61.7% rate, compared to forecasts of an increase to 61.8%. The Department of Labor said job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, private education, manufacturing, and other serv

Americans Still Stranded; Labor Day

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 Americans still stranded, including high school students. https://youtu.be/G7vnpqoR81o Larry Kudlow shreds Biden's 'anti-work' policies. https://youtu.be/_hFjJtuIpm8

Pandemic Has Consequences on Markets and Economy

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But is it really bad as it seems? While there seems to be an uptick in cases reported, and some hospitals are at capacity -- because most of them scaled back after the January peak -- are more people dying, as the media is reporting?  No. Not at levels seen in January 2021. Data from the CDC and other sources say not. 

Will There Ever Be a Top to the Market?

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The S&P 500 is up 20% this year, without a single 5 percent pullback or correction. Last week, we saw between 2 to 3 percent pullback and I advised staying the course . This week, markets were up about 3 percent. While there is no way to predict the future, at some point the market will correct. There's not a lot that the market seems troubled by: Afghanistan, Covid, or Inflation seems of little concern to investors right now. Actually, the economy is doing pretty well, all things considered, and business profits are looking OK. And ultimately, profits drive the market.  The Fed is not going to do anything until later this year. So interest rates will continue to be low. But look for a change near the end of the year, first of next year. That may change market dynamics if the Fed allows interest rates to rise.  Have a plan to exit the market if you're still fully invested. And not just equities. Watch bond prices. As the Fed tapers is bond purchases, the upward pressure on

"Build America, Buy America" Is Bad Policy

By Allison Schrager Bloomberg Opinion Printed in Stars and Stripes The infrastructure bill moving through the Senate takes more than 2,700 pages to lay out $1 trillion in spending. Many aspects of the plan will be popular. Americans love infrastructure; who doesn’t want nicer airports, roads, bridges, clean drinking water and access to cheap broadband? In theory at least, we not only enjoy better infrastructure, it’s an investment in our future — making the country safer, more resilient and boosting growth. But many of the potential economic benefits will be undermined by the nearly 60 pages of the bill dedicated to “Build America, Buy America.” Buy America requirements have been around since the Great Depression and are often a feature in U.S. infrastructure plans. They require that government-funded projects use domestically produced materials and are completed by American firms with American workers. This latest incarnation is similar to others before it. There are, of course, many

Market Review: What Should You Do?

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In my opinion, there is nothing to do. If you're a long-term investor and you have a plan, and the plan is still valid, I wouldn't change a thing. Based on a chart of the NASDAQ, there is no indication of a change of trend. The DJIA and SP500 look similar.   My portfolio allocation is: 40% Bonds, 30% Energy Stocks and MLPs, 18% Percent Large Cap Stocks; 10% REIT, and 2% Cash. The portfolio earns about 5.2% of market value in dividends.  Note: My portfolio is heavy in energy because 1) I know the industry, 2) there is good potential on the upside in the next three years, and 3) the dividend earnings are between 4% and 5%. I do not recommend this for everyone. Know what you invest in. 

Market Pauses, But For How Long?

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Stocks slipped on Tuesday and Wednesday morning following a drop in retail sales, which fell 1.1% in June, driven largely by a slump in car sales. Earnings reports from Home Depot ( HD ) and Walmart ( WMT ) didn't help investing sentiment either amid flattening revenue growth and slowing e-commerce trends. The retail bonanza continues this morning with earnings from Target ( TGT ), Lowe's ( LOW ) and TJX Companies ( TJX ). Fed minutes: Not a day goes by that there isn't some action, with the catalyst today being the Fed's most recent policy meeting. The minutes may show discussions about tapering monthly bond purchases, or just how divided FOMC officials are on the debate. Yesterday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the pandemic is "still casting a shadow on economic activity," and stock futures wavered around the flatline overnight as investors continued to size up the market. The bulls: "We remain bullish on stocks (particularly cyclicals/value) thanks to a