In business, disruption can promote innovation, growth, and agility. But, what impact is continuous change and instability having on people, especially younger generations? Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Survey takes a look at the human side of disruption and its effects on millennials and Gen Zs. Learn more about the survey’s key findings in the infographic below. For more information and the full report, click here.
Let us take a minute to salute the international companies, those that have gone multi-market or are on that path. They deserve our applause and respect. When I led market entry programs , I observed that these international firms tended to outperform the purely domestic firms, but for a reason you might not expect.
Companies that were operating in many markets tended to do better than those that had a presence only in their home market, but this had more to do with the international journey than the additional revenue.
The process of going international forced a company to adapt for each new market. As a result, the international firm became a learning organization which encompassed several different successful models, and the lessons from each new market could be applied in other markets. So the international company tended to develop a feedback mechanism and process improvements more readily than the purely domestic company.
Indeed, if you ask the leadership of that purely domestic firm what they want to do tomorrow, you are more likely to hear that they want to do tomorrow what they did yesterday. In other words, many business people (like all of us) have a bias for the familiar. We all like patterns of behavior and we like to stay in our comfort zone. I see this regularly when I discuss China opportunities. We will have a nice conversation with a lovely mid-size company, but unless it has an international culture it will have an overwhelming focus on building out a successful domestic model. The management philosophy at these firms tends to be:
— Reliant on the organic growth that has served them well over the years;
— Highly structured organization, task-driven, with people looking at monthly and quarterly results;
— Heavily product-focused.
These companies tend to dominate their space or be a segment leader. All of this means these companies have a strong incentive not to expand their current set of activities, and not to think about what changes might be in order. The key principle at these firms is MOTS – More of the Same. We do what we did last year, but we do more.
More revenue, more customers, more market share, more net. A pretty common-sense approach. But this is not a strategy. This is a behavior pattern. Let’s do what we have always done, presumably because it has more-or-less worked. This approach makes sense if the world is static. If the world is standing still, if society is standing still, if technology is standing still, and if competitors are standing still– then it is ok if the business stands still as well. But there are moving pieces out there, so you had better move as well. Unless the business incorporates a bit of a change culture, it risks falling behind.
Therefore, some sort of strategy is in order. Strategy can mean the allocation of resources without the normal formula for a return, displaying some capacity for experimentation. Strategy can mean you are doing something different, and the constituency for this change has not yet been established. Strategy can mean clearer costs than benefits.
Strategy can mean a journey into the unknown. You are taking steps that require you to stretch beyond current capabilities. A new product launch could represent a strategy. A new sales channel. Or a new market.
For most companies, the decision to go into a new market is a matter of strategy, because growth is no longer MOTS. The best expression of this might be a decision to go to China. On any given day it might not make sense to have a strategy. It makes sense to do what you did yesterday. But cumulatively, this could lead to a disaster.
On any given day, it might not make sense to go into a new market. But over the long run it could cripple the company to stay only in its home market. I caught up with Jack Ma recently at the Forbes Global CEO Conference. Jack has stepped down as Alibaba ($BABA) chairman, but he is still fiercely passionate about helping companies enter the China market. I had not seen him in almost a year, but we immediately saw this issue eye-to-eye.
Sooner or later, every company needs an international strategy. Sooner or later, every company needs a China strategy. Strategy is possible. Cost-free strategy is not. Those companies that are taking the international journey, we salute you.
Whether in banking, communications, trade negotiations, or e-commerce, my professional life is helping companies enter and succeed in new markets, with a particular focus on China. As Founder and CEO of Export Now, I run the largest international firm in China e-commerce. Export Now provides turn-key services for international brands in China e-commerce, including market strategy and competitive analysis, regulatory approval, store operations and fulfillment, financial settlement and remittance. Previously, I served as Asia Pacific Chair for Edelman Public Affairs and in my last role in government, I served as Undersecretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Previously, I served as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. Earlier, I served in Hong Kong and Singapore with Citibank and Bank of America and on the White House and National Security Council staff. New market book: http://amzn.to/2py3kqm WWII history book: http://amzn.to/2qtk0wK
China’s third quarter growth rate has fallen to 6%, says Beijing. No it hasn’t. It’s more like 3%, says Morningstar’s China economics team led by Preston Caldwell in a report dated October 29.
While Donald Trump and his economic advisor Larry Kudlow try to convince Wall Street today that trade talks are going well and the two sides will still ink their so-called Phase 1 mini-deal this year, investors are noticing something awry in China. Companies are sourcing product elsewhere in modest, yet increasing numbers. China’s usual high fixed asset investment numbers are falling. Economic policy makers could be afraid of debt burdens and don’t want to overstimulate the economy. Growth is slowing. Industrial production is contracting.
To make matters worse, the full brunt of tariffs hasn’t quite been felt fully by China. The average incremental tariff rate increased to about 12% in the third quarter from about 9% in the second quarter. If Phase 1 talks result in no signed agreement anytime soon, Morningstar predicts it would send the average U.S. tariff rate on Chinese imports to over 20% by the first quarter of 2020.
The dollar/yuan exchange rate has helped offset some of the tariff costs. The yuan has weakened by about 5% since the end of the first quarter. For exporters, China is still cheap.
The bulk of the third quarter decline was due to the consumer durables index component of the Morningstar proxy for measuring GDP. It contracted 4.1% from 3.8% growth in the second quarter. Morningstar analysts believe there is a chance that the locals may be temporarily pulling back on spending in anticipation for new government subsidies. Still, slowing durables consumption matches the trend in place since early 2017. And stimulus has been trickling in since.
Two of the other Morningstar proxy components that brought them to the 3% figure also saw a marked decline in the third quarter. Their power proxy index is now in line with the other index components after being a positive growth outlier for about two years.
But it appears the real drag that brought Morningstar’s number down to 3% is industrial production. Industrial profits are down 5.3% year over year versus August’s contraction of 2%.
“Neither a surprise nor a market mover,” says Brendan Ahern, CIO of KraneShares in New York. “U.S. tariffs are still exacting their toll on export-focused manufacturers.”
The industrial sector slowdown might also be understated, especially if China is over-estimating inflation, Morningstar report authors warned.
Meanwhile, China’s dependence on credit to sustain economic growth has so far thwarted Xi Jinping’s attempts to convince the provincial governments to deleverage. Debt growth remains above nominal GDP growth rates.
“We’re not surprised that China’s economy has failed to recover, given that credit growth stalled after a slight rebound in the first quarter,” Morningstar analysts wrote.
China-bound investors will be watching for solid Singles Day sales on November 11. If they disappoint, emerging market funds who are mostly overweight China could finally start shifting positions.
China’s A-shares have been outperforming the MSCI Emerging Markets Index all year. Only Russia, as measured by the VanEck Russia (RSX) exchange traded fund, is beating the CSI-300, an index tracking mainland China equities listed on Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges.
Official consumer spending showed a mixed picture in the third quarter. Nominal retail sales grew 7.8% year over year in September versus a high of 9.8% growth back in June. Real retail sales fell only 30 basis points from August.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics’ household survey data suggests that most of the spending went towards education, entertainment, and “miscellaneous services.”
Morningstar said that their own sampling of alternative consumer sales data such as box office revenue, telecom revenue, and air passenger volume suggests tepid consumer services growth. China’s number crunchers are more upbeat on that and Morningstar’s team is not, which brings their forecast so much lower than official figures.
E-commerce giant Alibaba – the company behind Singles Day – announced this week that Taylor Swift will be performing at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai where the shopping spree will have their telethon-like tally of sales. If Swift can hype Singles Day shoppers to spend, the China consumer bull narrative will remain in tact. If she fails, and Singles Day ends up being mediocre, all bets are on for more stimulus in the months ahead out of Beijing.
If you are trying to figure out how much money you need to save for retirement, there’s an easy rule of thumb that you can use: simply multiply your expected annual expenses in retirement by twenty-five.
For example, if you expect to spend $100,000 annually once you’re retired, you’ll want to have a $2.5 million portfolio saved up. If you’d like to play around with the numbers to estimate your own retirement needs, you can use this simple retirement calculator.
This retirement savings rule of thumb is based on the 1998 landmark study conducted by Carl Hubbard, Philip Cooley and Daniel Walz, in their seminal study known as the Trinity Study. They built on the 1994 work of William Bengen, who originally coined the ‘4% Rule’.
The Trinity Study evaluated safe retirement withdrawal rates, and found that 4% was sufficient for the majority of retirees. A safe withdrawal rate simply refers to the amount of money that can be taken out of an account and allow you to reasonably expect the portfolio to not fail, or run out of money. In this case, the 4% withdrawal rate refers to the amount of money that will be withdrawn from the balance of the retirement portfolio in the first year of retirement. In subsequent years, the balance withdrawn will simply be an inflation adjusted number based on the total dollar amount withdrawn the year prior.
The Trinity Study has become so well-known, that it has been adopted by hopeful retirees from all walks of life, including those hoping to retire early. The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a lifestyle movement with the goal of allowing individuals to retire as early and quickly as possible.
However, one detail that the movement is getting wrong and completely missing, is the fact that the Trinity Study’s 4% rule of thumb was based on a 30 year retirement period. This time horizon was determined to be on the conservative end of retirements by the authors of the study. If you work until you’re 65, having a 30 year retirement seems pretty reasonable. I don’t think many would argue that living until the age of 95 is a short life by any means.
The problem arises due to the FIRE movement seeking a much longer retirement period. If you retire at 45 years old, you may need a portfolio that will survive another 45 to 50 years in order to avoid running out of money. In this case, making a judgement error could end up meaning re-entering the workforce at an advanced age. For this reason, relying on a 4% withdrawal rate is an extremely risky decision if you plan to retire early.
This begs the question of what a more appropriate withdrawal rate is if you plan to retire early. The answer is that it depends. In general, the study found that as the balance between stocks and bonds shifts towards equities, a portfolio is more likely to withstand the test of time. So inherently, your risk tolerance will need to be factored into the equation. If you are comfortable with 75%+ of your portfolio being in stocks (and stomaching the increased risk), you might be safe with a 3% withdrawal rate. If you prefer less volatile investments, a lower rate is more conservative.
This is bad news for a lot of you hoping to retire early.
For one, it would mean having to save an additional $833,000 if you hope to spend $100,000 annually like in the example above. Unless you are an exceptionally high earner, it’ll likely mean having to work for several additional years or having to continue to earn additional income even after retirement.
With the buzz surrounding the gig economy and the seemingly endless ‘side-hustle’ opportunities available, this seems like a surmountable hurdle. The deficit in retirement savings required also highlights the impact of having to save for retirement as efficiently as possible.
This means fully taking advantage of your 401(k), IRA, and other tax-advantaged accounts. It also means evaluating whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans or not. Avoiding credit card interest fees and other forms of high interest debt are a must. In addition, maximizing your earning potential will also help safeguard your nest egg from market turbulence and economic uncertainty.
Just as important, you’ll also want to avoid making costly investment mistakes. One that comes to mind is erroneously viewing your vehicle as a sound investment. Another pitfall is picking individual stocks in lieu of index funds or ETFs. To set yourself up for success, minimizing fees and diversifying your investments is the name of the game.
Does all of this mean that the 4% rule is futile and should be completely ignored? Absolutely not. The authors of the Trinity Study ran simulations to find what the safe withdrawal rate would be for varying time horizons. But at the end of the day, they were just that: simulations. Even if you only had an expected 15 year retirement and used a conservative withdrawal rate, there is always the chance that your portfolio could fail. The same is true in the opposite direction: there’s always the chance that a 4% withdrawal could be sufficient for a 50 year retirement.
The question you have to answer is whether you are comfortable taking that risk. I know I’m not.
Are you wondering about those updated per diem rates? The new per-diem numbers are now out, effective October 1, 2019. These numbers are to be used for per-diem allowances paid to any employee on or after October 1, 2019, for travel away from home. The new rates include those for the transportation industry; the rate for the incidental expenses; and the rates and list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method.
I know, that sounds complicated. But it’s intended to keep things simple. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows the use of per diem (that’s Latin meaning “for each day” – remember, lawyers love Latin) rates to make reimbursements easier for employers and employees. Per diem rates are a fixed amount paid to employees to compensate for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses incurred when traveling on business rather than using actual expenses.
Here’s how it typically works: A per diem rate can be used by an employer to reimburse employees for combined lodging and meal costs, or meal costs alone. Per diem payments are not considered part of the employee’s wages for tax purposes so long as the payments are equal to, or less than the federal per diem rate, and the employee provides an expense report. If the employee doesn’t provide a complete expense report, the payments will be taxable to the employee. Similarly, any payments which are more than the per diem rate will also be taxable.
The reimbursement piece is essential. Remember that for the 2019 tax year, unreimbursed job expenses are not deductible. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated unreimbursed job expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor for the tax years 2018 through 2025. Those expenses include unreimbursed travel and mileage.
That also means that the business standard mileage rate (you’ll find the 2019 rate here) cannot be used to deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses for the 2018 through 2025 tax years. The IRS has clarified, however, that members of a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States, state or local government officials paid on a fee basis, and certain performing artists may still deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses as an adjustment to income on the front page of the 1040; in other words, those folks can continue to use the business standard mileage rate. For details, you can check out Notice 2018-42 (downloads as a PDF).
What about self-employed taxpayers? The good news is that they can still deduct business-related expenses. However, the per diem rates aren’t as useful for self-employed taxpayers because they can only use the per diem rates for meal costs. Realistically, that means that self-employed taxpayers must continue to keep excellent records and use exact numbers.
As of October 1, 2019, the special meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) per diem rates for taxpayers in the transportation industry are $66 for any locality of travel in the continental United States and $71 for any locality of travel outside the continental United States; those rates are slightly more than they were last year. The per diem rate for meals & incidental expenses (M&IE) includes all meals, room service, laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing of clothing, and fees and tips for persons who provide services, such as food servers and luggage handlers.
The rate for incidental expenses only is $5 per day, no matter the location. Incidental expenses include fees and tips paid at lodging, including porters and hotel staff. It’s worth noting that transportation between where you sleep or work and where you eat, as well as the mailing cost of filing travel vouchers and paying employer-sponsored charge card billings, are no longer included in incidental expenses. If you want to snag a break for those, and you use the per diem rates, you may request that your employer reimburse you.
That’s good advice across the board: If you previously deducted those unreimbursed job expenses and can no longer do so under the TCJA, ask your employer about potential reimbursements. Companies might not have considered the need for specific reimbursement policies before the new tax law, but would likely not want to lose a good employee over a few dollars – especially when those dollars are important to the employee.
Of course, since the cost of travel can vary depending on where – and when – you’re going, there are special rates for certain destinations. For purposes of the high-low substantiation method, the per diem rates are $297 for travel to any high-cost locality and $200 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States. The meals & incidental expenses only per diem for travel to those destinations is $71 for travel to a high-cost locality and $60 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States.
You can find the list of high-cost localities for all or part of the calendar year – including the applicable rates – in the most recent IRS notice. As you can imagine, high cost of living areas like San Francisco, Boston, New York City, and the District of Columbia continue to make the list. There are, however, a few noteworthy changes, including:
- The following localities have been added to the list of high-cost localities: Mill Valley/San Rafael/Novato, California; Crested Butte/Gunnison, Colorado; Petoskey, Michigan; Big Sky/West Yellowstone/Gardiner, Montana; Carlsbad, New Mexico; Nashville, Tennessee; and Midland/Odessa, Texas.
- The following localities have been removed from the list of high-cost localities: Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; Duluth, Minnesota; Moab, Utah; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- The following localities have changed the portion of the year in which they are high-cost localities (meaning that seasonal rates apply): Napa, California; Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Vail, Colorado; Washington D.C., District of Columbia; Key West, Florida; Jekyll Island/Brunswick, Georgia; New York City, New York; Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pecos, Texas; Vancouver, Washington; and Jackson/Pinedale, Wyoming.
You can find the entire high-cost localities list, together with other per diem information, in Notice 2019-55 (downloads as a PDF). To find the federal government per diem rates by locality name or zip code, head over to the General Services Administration (GSA) website.
Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.
Stocks have recovered from last fall’s crash, low interest rates stretch out to the horizon and the VIX volatility index is half what it was at Christmas. Sit back and coast to a comfortable retirement.
No, don’t, says Nancy Davis. This veteran derivatives trader runs Quadratic Capital Management, where her somewhat contrarian view is that investors, all too complacent, are in particular need of insurance against financial trouble.
The Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF, ticker IVOL, is designed to provide shelter from both inflation and recession. Its actively managed portfolio mixes inflation-protected Treasury bonds with bets, in the form of call options, on the steepness of the yield curve.
Those options are cheap, for two reasons. One is that, at the moment, there is no steepness: Yields on ten-year bonds are scarcely higher than yields on two-year bonds. The other is that the bond market is strangely quiet. Low volatility makes for low option prices.
“Volatility has been squashed by central bank money printing,” Davis says, before delving deep into the thicket of option mathematics. If volatility in interest rates rebounds to a normal level, her calls will become more valuable. Alternatively, she would get a payoff if the yield curve tilts upward, which it has a habit of doing when inflation surges, stocks crash or real estate is weak.
If IVOL is all about peace of mind for the investor, it’s all about risk for its inventor. Davis, 43, has poured her heart, soul and net worth into Quadratic, of which she is the founder and 60% owner. If the three-month-old exchange-traded fund takes off, she could become wealthy. If it doesn’t, Quadratic will struggle.
The fund showed its worth in the first week of August, climbing 2% as the stock market sank 3%. But it needs a much bigger shock to stock or bond prices in order to get big. It has gathered only $58 million so far. A crash had better arrive soon; IVOL’s call options expire next summer. Quadratic, moreover, needs to somehow scale up without inspiring knockoff products from ETF giants like BlackRock.
Davis was a precocious trader. As an undergraduate at George Washington University, she took grad courses in financial markets while earning money doing economic research for a consulting firm. She put some of her paychecks into a brokerage account. “Some women love to buy shoes,” she says. “I love to buy options.”
This was in the 1990s, a good time to indulge a taste for calls. Davis made out-of-the-money bets on technology stocks, which paid off well enough to cover the down payment, in 1999, on a New York City apartment. Nice timing.
There may be a sour grape, but there’s also truth in her current philosophy that hedge funds are not such a great deal for investors. ETFs, she says, are more liquid, more transparent and cheaper.
Davis spent a decade at Goldman Sachs, most of it on the firm’s proprietary trading desk, then did a stint at a hedge fund. At 31 she quit to actively manage two kids. Returning to Wall Street after a three-year hiatus, she worked for AllianceBernstein and then did what few women do, especially women with children: She started a hedge fund.
Quadratic, whose assets once topped $400 million, used a hedge fund platform at Cowen & Co. When Cowen ended the partnership last year, Davis set about reinventing her firm. There may be a sour grape, but there’s also truth in her current philosophy that hedge funds are not such a great deal for investors. ETFs, she says, are more liquid, more transparent and cheaper.
IVOL’s 1% annual fee is stiff, but Davis says it’s justified for a fund that is not only actively managed but also invested in things that ordinary folk cannot buy. If you want to duplicate her position in the Constant Maturity Swap 2-10 call due July 17, you’d need to know what banker to ring for a quote, because this beast is not traded on any exchange. Each of these calls, recently worth $7.71, gives the holder the right to collect a dollar for every 0.01% beyond 0.37% in the spread between ten-year interest rates and two-year interest rates. The spread has to move a long way up before the option is even in the money. But at various times in the past the spread has hit 2%. Could it do that again? Maybe, at which point the option pays $163.
Starting a firm like Quadratic is like buying an out-of-the-money call: long odds, big payoff. Davis is doing what she was doing in college. You can’t stop a trader from trading.
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U.S. equity futures edged higher, potentially lifting Wall Street to fresh record peaks again this week, as investors await the first of six major tech sector earnings reports later today that could make-or-break the recent stock market rally. Here are five things you need to know before the start of trading on Wednesday July 17.
1. Netlfix and FAANG
Netflix (NFLX – Get Report) , the first of the six major tech companies — along with Microsoft (MSFT – Get Report) — in the so-called FAANG complex of stocks will report second quarter earnings after the close trading today, with analysts likely keying on it outlook for online streaming subscriber additions in a suddenly competitive market.
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Netflix itself is forecasting online subscriber growth of 5 million for the three months ending in June, a figure that would boost its worldwide total to just under 155 million, but the near-term loss of hits such as ‘Friends’ and ‘The Office’ could take its toll on growth rates in the coming months, as will the addition of rival streaming services from Disney DIS, Apple AAPL, and Comcast (CMCSA – Get Report) .
Microsoft will follow with its earnings report Thursday, while Facebook (FB – Get Report) , Amazon (AMZN – Get Report) , Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL – Get Report) and Apple will all update investors will quarter reports over the next two weeks.
The FAANG stock earnings — which comprise nearly a fifth of the S&P 500’s $26 trillion market cap –are expected to be a crucial test for Wall Street as benchmark test fresh record highs, thanks in part to hopes of deeper monetary support from the Federal Reserve, even as broader corporate profits suggest slowing growth in the months ahead as the U.S.-China trade war takes its toll on American businesses.
2. Banking at the Margins
Bank of America (BAC – Get Report) will publish second quarter earnings Wednesday, with Morgan Stanley (MS – Get Report) rounding out the sector’s biggest players with three months results on Thursday, as investors digest a mixed bag of readings of the health of the country’s lenders amid a slowing — but solid — domestic economy and the likelihood of even lower interest rates.
Tuesday’s trio of big bank earnings — JPMorgan (JPM – Get Report) , Goldman Sachs (GS – Get Report) and Wells Fargo (WFC – Get Report) — all managed to top Wall Street forecasts for top and bottom line growth, but each signaled concern that Fed rate cuts would likely make near-term profits even more difficult to achieve.
Investors today will be looking at one of the sector’s key measurements — net interest margin — for signs of weakness in not only Bank of America, but also smaller rivals such as U.S. Bancorp (USB – Get Report) , PNC Financial (PNC – Get Report) and BNY Mellon (BK – Get Report) .
3. Bitcoin Bashed
Bitcoin prices tumbled well below $10,000 in overnight trading Wednesday as lawmakers on Capitol Hill grilled big tech executives and hounded social media giant Facebook FB over its plans to launch a its new ‘Libra’ digital currency next year.
Facebook’s unveiling of Libra earlier this month helped bitcoin rise past $14,000 amid a renewed rally in cryptocurrency markets linked to the hope that wider use of various digital coins would allow for faster adoption of bitcoins in everyday transactions.
However, with regulators and central bankers around the world expressing doubts — or outright hostility — to Facebook’s Libra ambitions, and President Donald Trump suggesting cryptocurrencies are “based on thin air”, bitcoin prices have fallen more than $5,000 from their early July peak.
“I know we have to earn people’s trust for a very long period of time,” Facebook’s David Marcus told lawmakers Tuesday. “We know we need to take the time to get this right.”
Marcus will appear before the Senate Banking Committee later today.
4. Oil’s Well?
U.S. oil prices bounced higher in early trading following data late Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute which showed domestic crude inventories fell by 1.4 million barrels in the week ending July 12. If confirmed later today by the Energy Information Administration, the declines will stretch to a fifth consecutive week, the longest in at least 18 months.
Prices were further pressured by the slow return of production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico, where more than half of the area’s output, or around 1.1 million barrels per day, remains offline in the wake of storm Barry, which hammered the Louisiana coast this past weekend.
WTI futures contracts for August delivery, which typically dictate the direction of U.S. gas prices, were marked 29 cents higher in early New York trading at $57.91 per barrel.
5. Apollo Holo
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission with a with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument in a three-day tribute to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
A 17-minute program outside the Smithsonian Castle, slated for July 19 and 20 will also recreate the Apollo 11 mission’s launch following Congressional approval for the displays earlier this year.
By: Martin Baccardax
“I don’t feel this time is different. If we have another financial crisis, there isn’t even a plan A. We’re still coming out of the last financial crisis,” Kenneth Rogoff. Are the overheated markets headed towards another financial crisis? Dimensions to be addressed: – Concerns over leverage and liquidity – Implications of passive investing – Transforming financial services business models · Michael Corbat, Chief Executive Officer, Citigroup, Citi, USA · Fang Xinghai, Vice-Chairman, China Securities Regulatory Commission, People’s Republic of China · Anne Richards, Chief Executive, M&G Investments, United Kingdom; Young Global Leader · Kenneth Rogoff, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Harvard University, USA · David M. Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman, Carlyle Group, USA · Jes Staley, Group Chief Executive Officer, Barclays, United Kingdom Moderated by · Tom Keene, Editor-at-Large, Bloomberg Television & Radio, USA http://www.weforum.org/
Walmart Inc. (WMT – Get Report) posted much stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings Thursday as same-store sales in the United States beat expectations amid a renewed push in the retailer’s e-commerce division.
Walmart said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in April, the retailer’s fiscal first quarter for the 2020 financial year, came in at $1.13 per share, well ahead of the $1.02 forecast. Reported earnings rose 84.7% from last year to $1.33 per share, reflecting a 20 cents per share gain from the group’s holding in China-based online retailer JD.com (JD – Get Report) .
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Group revenues, Walmart said, rose 1% to $123.925 billion, missing analysts’ forecast of $124.51 billion, as currency moves clipped the topline. Excluding currency impacts, Walmart said, revenues rose 2.5% to $125.8 billion, but the company cautioned currency moves would hit sales by around $1 billion over the current quarter.
“We’re changing to enable more innovation, speed and productivity, and we’re seeing it in our results,” said CEO Doug McMillon. “We’re especially pleased with the combination of comparable sales growth from stores and eCommerce in the U.S. Our team is demonstrating an ability to serve customers today while building new capabilities for the future, and I want to thank them for a strong start to the year.”
Walmart shares were marked 3.7% higher following the earnings release at $103.59 each, a move that would extend the stock’s year-to-date advance to around 11%.
U.S. same-store sales rose 3.4%, Walmart said, with net sales hitting $80.3 billion while e-commerce revenues surged 37%, although that growth rate slowed from 43% over the Christmas holiday quarter. International sales, however, fell 4.9% to $28.8 billion. Sam’s Club revenues rose 1.5% to $13.8 billion.
Earlier this week, Walmart said it will launch a free, next-day delivery service to challenge its online rival Amazon Inc. (AMZN – Get Report) as retailers step-up their efforts to cater to changing consumption patterns in the world’s biggest economy.
Walmart’s NextDay delivery service will apply to around 220,000 frequently-purchased items on the Walmart.com website, the company said, and will be offered without a membership on all orders over $35. The new service will launch in Phoenix and Las Vegas, Walmart said, before expanding to Southern California in the coming days and around 75% of the broader U.S. population, including 40 of the top 50 major metro areas, by the end of the year.
Walmart’s move follows a similar offering from Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, which shifted to one-day from two-day delivery for its Prime members last month — who pay $119 per year for the loyalty club membership — with a strategy it said will cost $800 million over its fiscal second quarter.
By: Martin Baccardax
Since the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) allowed the yuan to surpass the dreaded level of 7 to the dollar on August 11, rivers of ink have flowed citing a new matter of contention between the U.S. and China, namely using currencies to gain competitiveness or, more simply, a “currency war.”
To describe the events as a currency war may seem logical because another type of “war” between the U.S. and China, namely the trade war, has been on everybody’s mind for the past year and a half. Moreover, the Trump administration itself has continued this game by classifying China as a “manipulator” of its currency immediately after this latest devaluation.
In the same way as the U.S. Treasury is not following its own script when classifying China as a currency manipulator, neither should we think of the yuan mini-devaluation as China initiating a currency war with the U.S. The reason is simple: the yuan–which is not convertible–cannot afford a war with the dollar, nor can the U.S. Federal Reserve control its currency so as to use it as a weapon against China.
In other words, neither of the two rivals have the instruments to successfully engage in a currency war against each other. Starting with the dollar, there is no doubt that its value is determined by the market, as it could not be otherwise being the reserve currency of a world still governed by flexible exchange regimes for major currencies.
The Fed can influence the dollar with expansive or restrictive monetary policies, but there are many other factors that it and the Treasury simply cannot control. One important factor is risk aversion: the more the Trump administration tightens the screws on China and, thereby increases the risk of recession globally, the more the dollar appreciates, contrary to what Trump wants.
Moving to the yuan, the PBOC is much closer to determining its value than the Fed can for the dollar, as it retains control on capital flows and does not need to intervene in a highly liquid forex market like that of the dollar. Nevertheless, the reality is that capital is ubiquitous, so capital controls will never be completely effective.
In other words, the value of the yuan is not exempt from the forces of demand and supply, nor is its value in the medium term, no matter what the PBOC may opt to do on a specific date or period. Considering the yuan’s mini-devaluation, the beginning of a currency war is a mistake for one more very important reason. The PBOC has accommodated market pressure by devaluing while central banks tend to move against the market during currency wars.
It’s true, though, that the timing of the devaluation could mislead us towards the idea of a China-initiated currency war because it happened right after the U.S. announcement of additional import tariffs on Chinese products.
More than a war, we should see this reaction as a tantrum of Chinese policy makers facing additional pressure from the U.S. Besides, as happens for every tantrum, its consequences may not be the desired ones as such mini-devaluation will only prompt more capital outflows from China, undoing part of the monetary stimulus that the Chinese central bank has been carrying out for more than a year to sustain economic growth. In other words, it will not help China to grow, but rather the opposite.
Thus, it is important to distinguish between a war and a tantrum. In the former you control your weapons, in the latter you do not.
China allowed its currency to fall below the key 7 yuan-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon joins “Squawk Box” with the details.
MOSCOW — Yekaterina V. Bulgakova gushed about the cozy one-room apartment that she and her boyfriend share, and particularly about the way they could always cover the rent: by charging it on credit card.
“Our salaries don’t go far enough” to pay for housing, food and other necessities every month, Ms. Bulgakova, a tattoo artist, said.
She earns about 35,000 rubles, or $560, a month, which she considers a good paycheck for a young person. Her boyfriend, a naval cadet, receives a monthly military stipend of $480. Together, their income is above the average monthly wage in Russia of about $735, and it usually covers their expenses. But every few months, Ms. Bulgakova has a drop in business. That’s when she relies on her credit card from Tinkoff, a large private bank.
“Nobody wants to go into debt,” Ms. Bulgakova, 21, said. Yet millions of Russians like her are doing just that, spurring a boom in consumer lending.
The growth in such lending has alarmed some economic policy officials, who note that a growing number of Russians are using a quick swipe of plastic or relying on payday lenders to cope with hard times brought on by Western sanctions and slumping prices for oil, one of the country’s major export commodities. The spending has lifted the economy but with ballooning consumer debt that could help start a recession.
Since the onset of Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions, total outstanding personal debt among Russians has roughly doubled, according to the country’s central bank. Outstanding average debt per person has reached about $3,300, according to the National Association of Professional Collection Agencies, a trade group whose membership has grown by a third since the crisis began in 2014.
Some independent and government economists say that the personal credit industry has found a mother lode in a population that was wholly debt-free when it entered the capitalist era a generation ago. Others warn that the industry’s expansion is unsustainable.
Many first-time credit card users have little experience managing debt. And with Russia facing other economic woes, these spenders are also seeing their inflation-adjusted salaries decline.
Elvira S. Nabiullina, the central bank’s chairwoman, has played down the problem while also imposing some regulatory restrictions to slow consumer lending. “It’s absolutely wrong to think that already now we have risks to financial stability or a risk of a bubble,” Ms. Nabiullina said at an economic conference in St. Petersburg last month.
The central bank has tried to cool the market by raising so-called provisioning requirements that dictate how much money banks must set aside to insure against defaults and by capping the amount of interest that payday lenders can charge at 1 percent per day, still a steep 30 percent a month.
Debt payments are taking a bite out of some slim paychecks: Low-income households spend an average of 8 percent of their monthly incomes on debt payment, according to the central bank. Surveys show that most borrowers are 25 to 35 and that they are taking more than three loans from different sources, according to Vladimir Tikhomirov, the chief economist at BCS Global Markets.
There were warnings from others at the St. Petersburg conference, where Russian officials laid out their economic priorities for the year. Andrey R. Belousov, an economic adviser to President Vladimir V. Putin, said the debt market was “overheating.” Maksim S. Oreshkin, the minister of economy, warned that the surge in short-maturity consumer debt could bring on a recession within two years.
“You had a similar story in the United States,” with debt rising faster than salaries before the recession in 2008, Mr. Tikhomirov said.
In the first quarter of 2019, real incomes fell 2.3 percent from the same period a year earlier. Over the same three months, the amount of newly issued unsecured consumer debt rose 22 percent.
Consumer lending in Russia, as elsewhere, benefits the economy by sustaining consumer demand. The lending boom may have prevented a recession in the first quarter, according to a central bank report published in June. State-owned banks issued the bulk of this credit, about 70 percent, the report said, suggesting that the Kremlin has at least partly endorsed the rise in consumer lending.
For some Russians, personal debt is akin to the garden plots of their parents’ generation. In that era of post-Soviet economic depression, many families short on money grew their own food, transforming their kitchens into storerooms of pickled vegetables, dried mushrooms and sacks of homegrown potatoes.
Despite the wretched poverty of those years, Russians entered the country’s capitalist era with some advantages. Families had no debt, and virtually every adult wound up owning the property where they lived. But they were also unschooled in matters of lending or in calculating reasonable levels of debt. And they were unprepared for a rush of predatory lenders offering quick loans burdened with high rates.
At the end of 2018, there were 2,002 payday lending companies in Russia, with many operating from storefronts in provincial towns and offering one-month loans with interest rates compounded daily. Established banks joined in, offering loans and credit cards with quick approvals.
Igor Kostikov, chairman of the Union for Protecting Financial Consumers, an advocacy group for debtors, said that poor Russians were accumulating payday-lending debt. “They are getting deeper and deeper in trouble,” he said. “The poorest will not be able to repay.”
On Vkontakte, a social media site, Russians swap stories of debt and bankruptcy, revealing the naïveté of their experience with debt.
One user, who identified herself as Helga, wrote seeking free legal advice. “Respected lawyers! I have an opportunity to take a loan of three to five million” rubles, or $48,000 to $80,000. “If I take it out, pay a few times, and then declare bankruptcy, what problems might arise?” She mused about possibly using the money for a down payment on a home.
Helga’s optimism might be crushed if she considered the realities of debt collection. Russian debt collectors are notoriously violent. The state allows court bailiffs with minimal oversight to enter homes to confiscate televisions or other valuables to offset debts. Scofflaws face harsh punishment, including a ban on foreign travel.
Ms. Bulgakova knows credit can cause trouble, but she and her boyfriend believe that they can stay afloat. She likened their experiment with debt to her approach to tattoos. “We are trying this out on our own skin,” she said. Credit has helped them afford their St. Petersburg apartment, and comfort is important in these uncertain times. So far, she has paid off her debts promptly.
“I want to say thanks that I can at least keep up this lifestyle” by using credit, she said. “But it would be better if I didn’t have to.”