Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

The Headline Animator

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Makes You Want to Holler

Financial Review

Makes You Want to Holler

DOW – 15 = 20,934
SPX – 3 = 2381
NAS + 0.71 = 5900
RUT + 3 = 1386
10 Y + .01 = 2.52%
OIL – .07 = 48.79
GOLD + 6.10 = 1226.80

President Trump will ask the Congress for cuts to many federal programs, and more money to bulk up defense spending. Trump’s budget outline is a blueprint covering just “discretionary” spending for the 2018 fiscal year starting on October 1.

It boosts spending for defense, homeland security and veterans’ affairs; the Defense Department budget would increase by $54 billion, which will raise defense spending to $639 billion for fiscal year 2018.

The Environmental Protection Agency faces cuts of 31% and the Department of Agriculture would see funding cuts more than 20; State Department 28%; Health and Human Services would be cut 16%; Education faces cuts of 14%.

Trump’s budget proposes eliminating discretionary funding altogether for at least 19 agencies and 61 other programs. Plans for new NASA missions, climate change research, aid for low-income families, funding for commercial flights to rural airports, public broadcasting, and Meals on Wheels would all be on the chopping block.

The spending cuts that Trump proposes come from those agencies that fund education programs, social services, environmental protection, health research, housing and food assistance, national parks, land management, and countless other endeavors. As it is, spending on non-defense discretionary programs is already historically low.

As a share of the economy it’s at its lowest level since 1998 and is well below where it was 50 years ago, per data from the Congressional Budget Office. The net effect is no change in the national deficit. The budget proposal is the first volley in what is expected to be an intense battle over spending in coming months in Congress.

President Trump’s second travel ban was blocked by a federal court in Hawaii hours before it was to go into effect. A federal judge in Maryland also ruled against the ban on the day it was supposed to take effect. The administration has promised to appeal the rulings.

The speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and the ranking Democrat on the committee all said that they’ve seen no evidence of President Donald Trump’s accusation that he was wiretapped last year by his predecessor.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr and ranking member Mark Warner issued a statement, saying “based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “no such wiretap existed,” citing intelligence reports to House leaders. “We don’t have any evidence,” says the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “No evidence,” says his Democratic counterpart.

The statement from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee marks the clearest and strongest refutation of Trump’s allegations since the President first made them two weeks ago. The senators statement also addresses Trump’s more recent statement that he was not merely speaking about wiretapping specifically.

The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have said they have yet to see any evidence of wiretapping, but have yet to flatly rule out all surveillance. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Wednesday that it was possible that Trump aides were surveilled via “incidental” collection.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte defeated far-rightist Geert Wilders in the first of a series of European elections this year in which populist insurgent parties are hoping to rock the establishment. The center-right prime minister had trailed in opinion polls for much of the campaign but emerged the clear victor of Wednesday’s election, albeit with fewer seats than before.

It’s rare for a Dutch election to attract international attention, but the performance of Wilders is being seen as a bellwether for the ascent of populism around Europe, particularly with the National Front’s Marine Le Pen set to reach the run-off in the French presidential election late next month. Germans will vote later in the year.

The Bank of Japan is sticking with its ultra-loose monetary policy even as the Federal Reserve tightens. Japan’s economy is recovering with the help of a weaker yen but growth and inflation remain low. The Bank of Japan to keep its target for 10-year Japanese government bond yields at around zero, a policy it calls “yield-curve control.” It left the short-term interest rate on some yen deposits held by commercial banks at minus 0.1%.

The Bank of England held interest rates at the record low level of 0.25 percent and maintained asset purchases at £435 billion. The UK economy has shown strength since last June’s Brexit referendum and the government revised its forecasts for domestic growth in 2017 sharply higher. That might be wishful thinking.

The UK has not yet felt the full impact of Brexit, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. The big question is whether London’s financial institutions will lose access to the single market of the Euro Union after the UK leaves the EU.

The main argument is as follows: since London plays a key financial role in Europe, any disruption would endanger the financing of the EU economy and would ultimately pose a threat to financial stability in the bloc.

My guess is that argument plays better in London than Brussels. That’s not just speculation. The number of new available jobs listed in the UK’s financial center fell 17% in February year-on-year to 6,945.  Or simply, Brexit is Brexit.

Yesterday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to raise the range of the federal funds rate to 0.75% and 1.00%, citing progress in labor market growth, business fixed investment and inflation. The Fed indicated they are still looking at 2 more rate hikes in 2017, which matches the guidance they provided in December.

In a press conference yesterday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said, “The simple message is, the economy is doing well. We have confidence in the robustness of the economy and its resilience to shocks.”

The labor market has been a strong part of the economic recovery. In the last monthly jobs report, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, but one weak spot was wages, which have flatlined. Once again, adjusted for inflation, there has likely been no growth whatsoever in real wages YoY.

For wages to increase, workers need job mobility, the ability to take a new job for more pay. Each month the Labor Department publishes the JOLT survey, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover; and in January, the number of Americans quitting their jobs rose to a seasonally-adjusted total of 3.22 million, the highest number since February 2001. The quits rate rose in January to 2.2%.

People quitting their jobs in droves is a sign of confidence among workers, as folks are unlikely to quit a job unless they are confident they can get another one. Openings totaled 5.63 million in January, above the prior month’s reading of 5.5 million.

The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 241,000 for the week ended March 11. It was the 106th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

US home-building jumped in February as unseasonably warm weather helped boost the construction of single-family houses to near a 9-1/2-year high. Housing starts increased 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million units last month.

Home-building was up 6.2 percent compared to February 2016. Single-family home-building, which accounts for the largest share of the residential housing market, surged 6.5%. Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment fell 3.7%.

The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s minimum wage increase to $10 an hour. Voters approved the increase in November, and the challenge was brought by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups.

The state Supreme Court unanimously rejected the challenge. Proposition 206 raised the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in January 2017. Incremental increases continue until 2020, when it will increase to $12.

Four people have been indicted in a 2014 cyber-attack on Yahoo email accounts. The indictment charges two officers of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, and two hackers who allegedly worked together with them to crack 500 million Yahoo user accounts.

Cyber security specialists have long said the Kremlin employs criminal hackers for its geostrategic purposes. They say the arrangement offers deniability to Moscow and freedom from legal troubles for the hackers.

3M said it would buy Johnson Controls’ safety gear business, Scott Safety, in deal valued at $2 billion. Scott Safety makes respiratory and protective equipment and other safety products for firefighters, industrial workers, police squads and the US military.

Oracle’s cloud business had a huge quarter. The business-software maker announced better-than-expected adjusted revenue and profit, helped by sales at its cloud business surging 62% to $1.19 billion

Adobe Systems stock jumped after the company delivered earnings and revenue that beat expectations.

Cold weather luxury apparel retailer Canada Goose’s stock rocketed 25 percent in its first day of trading. The stock trades under the ticker GOOS.

Amazon is ready to do to the local liquor store what it did to the local book store. It is rolling out free beer and wine 2-hour delivery and $7.99 1-hour delivery for Prime Now members, starting in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.

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