Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

The Headline Animator

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

About Face

Financial Review

About Face

DOW + 5 = 21,998
SPX – 1 = 2464
NAS – 7 = 6333
RUT – 11 = 1383
10 Y + .05 = 2.27%
OIL + .13 = 47.72
GOLD – 10.50 = 1272.10
BITCOIN + 0.72% = 4174.04 USD
ETHEREUM – 1.28% = 286.10

Several members of President Trump’s manufacturing jobs council resigned following what was widely considered an inadequate response from the president to violence in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend that led to three deaths.

The executives that have resigned include: Ken Frazier – CEO of Merck, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, and Scott Paul – President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. That makes 7 CEOs who have resigned from Trump’s councils this year.

The AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions that represent 12.5 million workers, said it was considering pulling its representative on the committee. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the council “has yet to hold any real meeting,” and “there are real questions” about its effectiveness.

Several other members of the council issued statements denouncing racism and bigotry. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon issued a statement saying the president “missed a critical opportunity to help bring out country together.” McMillon remains on the council for now.

Trump tweeted a response, “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place.” Although so far there have been no new additions to the council. That was followed by a tone-deaf tweet storm and a press conference in New York, where Trump said, “I think there’s blame on both sides.” Prompting a thank you tweet from David Duke.

CEOs are loath to alienate customers through politics and never want to be the target of a tweet storm from Trump. But corporate leaders who were once eager for a seat at the Trump table are increasingly deciding the costs outweigh the benefits. There is a herd effect. With each CEO’s announcement, it becomes easier for the next CEO to take a stand — and the pressure goes up to do so.

The Congressional Budget Office says ending government payments that help low-income people afford to use their Obamacare plans would raise total federal spending by billions of dollars over the next decade.

Halting the payments to insurers, known as cost-sharing reductions, would boost Obamacare premiums for mid-level Obamacare plans by 20 percent next year, and by about 25 percent in 2020, as insurers raise their charges to make up for the lack of payment.

Since Obamacare provides separate subsidies to individuals to help them cover the cost of premiums, the overall effect would be to boost government spending, to the tune of $194 billion over the next decade. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off the payments to force Democrats to negotiate changes to the program.

Without the payments, insurers have said they may drop out of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges or substantially raise premiums. Already, insurers have said uncertainty over how the Trump administration plans to run the law is contributing to large requested premium increases for next year.

Retail sales recorded their biggest increase in seven months in July as consumers boosted purchases of motor vehicles and raised discretionary spending. Retail sales jumped 0.6 percent last month, the largest gain since December 2016. Retail sales for June and May also were revised higher. Retail sales increased 4.2 percent in July on a year-on-year basis.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 2.8 percent annualized rate in the second quarter after a tepid 1.9 percent pace in the January-March period. That boosted GDP growth to a 2.6 percent rate in the second quarter.

Sales were likely boosted by hefty discounts as auto dealerships try to reduce inventory. Prices for new motor vehicles recorded their biggest drop in nearly eight years in July and have decreased for six straight months.

The retail sales report prompted the Atlanta Fed to raise its third-quarter GDP estimate by two-tenths of a percentage point to a 3.7 percent rate.

Americans are spending more and saving less. The saving rate has dropped to 3.8 percent in the second quarter of this year from a rate of 6.2 percent in the second quarter of 2015. Persistently sluggish wage growth has pushed Americans to dip into their savings to fund spending.

Americans’ debt level notched another record high in the second quarter. According to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report total U.S. household debt was $12.84 trillion in the three months to June, up $552 billion from a year ago.

The proportion of overall debt that was delinquent, at 4.8 percent, was on par with the previous quarter. However, credit card balances in delinquency “ticked up notably.” Total U.S. indebtedness is about 14 percent above the trough of household deleveraging brought on by the 2007 financial crisis.

Mortgage debt was $8.69 trillion in the second quarter, up $329 billion from last year. Student loan debt was $1.34 trillion, up $85 billion, while auto loan debt came in at $1.19 trillion, up $55 billion.

Analysts have been warning for years that subprime car loans pose a threat to lenders as delinquency rates have edged higher since reaching a post-recession low in 2012. But it wasn’t until last quarter that the least creditworthy borrowers started to show the kinds of late payment profiles that accompanied the start of the financial crisis.

Equifax data show that lenders are extending repayment periods and offering longer terms, with many starting to exceed seven years. There may also be loosening by all lenders on other factors, such as down-payment requirements, lack of third party validation of income and employment.

A second report from the New York Fed showed its Empire State general business conditions index climbed 15.4 points to 25.2 in August, the highest level in nearly three years. Manufacturers in the region reported a jump in new orders and said they were taking longer to deliver goods.

US import prices increased in July after two straight monthly declines, driven by rising costs for petroleum products and food, but underlying imported inflation remained muted. The Labor Department reports import prices edged up 0.1 percent last month after an unrevised 0.2 percent drop in June.

Last month’s increase was in line with economists’ expectations and left the 12-month increase at 1.5 percent. The year-on-year increase in import prices has slowed sharply since hitting 4.7 percent in February, which was the biggest advance in five years.

The report also showed export prices rebounded 0.4 percent in July, the biggest gain since December 2016, after falling 0.2 percent in June.

The Commerce Department that business inventories rose 0.5 percent in June after an unrevised 0.3 percent increase in May. Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product. Retail inventories gained 0.6 percent in June. Motor vehicle inventories increased 0.7 percent. Business sales rose 0.3 percent in June.

At June’s sales pace, it would take 1.38 months for businesses to clear shelves, up from 1.37 months in May.

Home Depot reported a better than expected profit, record quarterly sales and an improved outlook for the full year. This proves two things: The company is still Amazon-proof — and the housing market is still one of the brightest spots of the US economy.

Home Depot said that sales were up 6.6% at U.S. stores open at least a year. Net income jumped 9.5 percent to $2.6 billion, or $2.25 per share. Net sales rose 6.2 percent to $28.1 billion, the highest quarterly sales in company history. Home Depot raised its full-year forecasts but concerns over a looming slowdown in the U.S. housing market due to supply constraints pushed shares down 2.6%.

TJX reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and sales and raised its earnings forecast. As traditional retailers struggle in the face of changing consumer tastes and competition from Amazon, TJX has been posting strong sales for several quarters by offering sharp discounts. TJX said its comparable-store sales rose 3 percent in the second quarter.

Shares of General Electric were down 0.9 percent, at their lowest point since October 2015. While the S&P 500 returned more than 35% to investors over the past three years, GE returned less than 9%. A late Monday quarterly report from Berkshire Hathaway showed Warren Buffet sold his stake in GE.

Without the eye-popping returns of a few high-flying technology stocks, the performance of the market would look very different — and not in a good way; 45 days after the end of a quarter, hedge funds must file 13Fs to disclose their holdings. They are selling the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google).

Between the end of 2016 and July 24, the FAANGs gained some 36 percent as a group, compared with 9.39 percent for the S&P 500 Index. Since then, the FAANGs have under-performed, losing 2.63 percent to the S&P 500’s 0.18 percent decline.

Bill Gates has donated $4.6 billion or 64 million Microsoft shares according to a US Securities & Exchange Commission filing. The recipient of the gift was not specified but it is expected that the money will be directed to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he and his wife set up in 2000 with $5bn funding to improve global healthcare and reduce extreme poverty.

The shares donated represent about 5% of his current $90 billion fortune. The gift reduces Gates’s stake in Microsoft to just 1.3% from 24% in 1996. Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $35 billion since 1994. The Gates Foundation has grown to become the world’s largest private charity with $40.3 billion of funds, before the latest gift.

This latest donation is the biggest charitable gift made anywhere in the world so far, this year, overtaking a $3.2 billion contribution by investor Warren Buffett to the Gates foundation last month.

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