Economy Week Ahead: Inflation, Jobless Claims, Retail Sales

The outlook for the global economy darkened as a stream of data from Europe and Asia suggested growth faltered in the third quarter, hobbled by world-wide supply-chain snarls, sharply accelerating inflation and the impact of the highly contagious Delta variant.

U.S. inflation accelerated last month and remained at its highest rate in over a decade, with price increases from pandemic-related labor and materials shortages rippling through the economy from a year earlier.

The Labor Department said last month’s consumer-price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, rose by 5.4%

The gap between yields on shorter- and longer-term Treasury’s narrowed Wednesday after data showed inflation accelerated slightly in September, fueled by investors’ bets that the Federal Reserve may need to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected. Measures of inflation in China and the U.S. highlight this week’s economic data.

China’s exports, long a growth engine for the country’s economy, are expected to increase 21% from a year earlier in September, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. That is down from a 25.6% gain in August. Meanwhile, inbound shipments are forecast to rise 19.1% from a year earlier, retreating from the 33.1% jump in August.

The International Monetary Fund releases its World Economic Outlook report during annual meetings. The latest forecasts are likely to underscore the relatively quick economic rebound of advanced economies alongside a slower recovery in developing nations with less access to Covid-19 vaccines.

China’s factory-gate prices for September are expected to surge 10.4% from a year earlier, a pace that would surpass its previous peak in 2008, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. Higher commodity costs have led to the rise in producer prices this year, but so far that hasn’t fed through to consumer inflation. Economists forecast the consumer-price index rose only 0.7% from a year earlier in September.

September’s U.S. consumer-price index is expected to show inflation remained elevated as companies passed along higher costs for materials and labor. Rising energy prices likely contributed to the headline CPI, while core prices, which exclude food and energy, might start to reflect climbing shelter costs.

The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its September meeting, potentially offering additional insight on plans to start reducing pandemic-related stimulus.

U.S. jobless claims are forecast to fall for the second consecutive week as employers hold on to workers in a tight labor market. The data on claims, a proxy for layoffs, will cover the week ended Oct. 9.

U.S. retail sales are expected to fall in September. U.S. consumers appear to be in decent financial shape, but Covid-related caution, rising prices and widespread supply-chain disruptions are tamping down purchases. The auto industry has been especially hard hit by a semiconductor shortage—separate data released earlier this month show U.S. vehicle sales in September fell to their lowest level since early in the pandemic.

By: WSJ staff

Source: Economy Week Ahead: Inflation, Jobless Claims, Retail Sales – TechiLive.in

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IMF Cuts Global Growth Forecast Amid Supply Chain Disruptions, Pandemic Pressures

The IMF, a grouping made up of 190 member states, promotes international financial stability and monetary cooperation. It also acts as a lender of last resort for countries in financial crisis.

In the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, the group’s economists say the most important policy priority is to vaccinate sufficient numbers of people in every country to prevent dangerous mutations of the virus. He stressed the importance of meeting major economies’ pledges to provide vaccines and financial support for international vaccination efforts before new versions derail. “Policy choices have become more difficult … with limited scope,” IMF economists said in the report.

The IMF in its July report cut its global growth forecast for 2021 from 6% to 5.9%, a result of a reduction in its projection for advanced economies from 5.6% to 5.2%. The shortage mostly reflects problems with the global supply chain that causes a mismatch between supply and demand.

For emerging markets and developing economies, the outlook improved. Growth in these economies is pegged at 6.4% for 2021, higher than the 6.3% estimate in July. The strong performance of some commodity-exporting countries accelerated amid rising energy prices.

The group maintained its view that the global growth rate would be 4.9% in 2022.

In key economics, the growth outlook for the US was lowered by 0.1 percentage point to 6% this year, while the forecast for China was also cut by 0.1 percentage point to 8%. Several other major economies saw their outlook cut, including Germany, whose economy is now projected to grow 3.1% this year, down 0.5 percent from its July forecast. Japan’s outlook was down 0.4 per cent to 2.4%.

While the IMF believes that inflation will return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2022, it also warns that the negative effects of inflation could be exacerbated if the pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions become more damaging and prolonged. become permanent over time. This may result in earlier tightening of monetary policy by central banks, leading to recovery back.

The IMF says that supply constraints, combined with stimulus-based consumer appetite for goods, have caused a sharp rise in consumer prices in the US, Germany and many other countries.

Food-price hikes have placed a particularly severe burden on households in poor countries. The IMF’s Food and Beverage Price Index rose 11.1% between February and August, with meat and coffee prices rising 30% and 29%, respectively.

The IMF now expects consumer-price inflation in advanced economies to reach 2.8% in 2021 and 2.3% in 2022, up from 2.4% and 2.1%, respectively, in its July report. Inflationary pressures are even greater in emerging and developing economies, with consumer prices rising 5.5% this year and 4.9% the following year.

Gita Gopinath, economic advisor and research director at the IMF, wrote, “While monetary policy can generally see through a temporary increase in inflation, central banks should be prepared to act swiftly if the risks to rising inflation expectations are high. become more important in this unchanged recovery.” Report.

While rising commodity prices have fueled some emerging and developing economies, many of the world’s poorest countries have been left behind, as they struggle to gain access to the vaccines needed to open their economies. More than 95% of people in low-income countries have not been vaccinated, in contrast to immunization rates of about 60% in wealthy countries.

IMF economists urged major economies to provide adequate liquidity and debt relief for poor countries with limited policy resources. “The alarming divergence in economic prospects remains a major concern across the country,” said Ms. Gopinath.

By: Yuka Hayashi

Yuka Hayashi covers trade and international economy from The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. Previously, she wrote about financial regulation and elder protection. Before her move to Washington in 2015, she was a Journal correspondent in Japan covering regional security, economy and culture. She has also worked for Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters in New York and Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @tokyowoods

Source: IMF Cuts Global Growth Forecast Amid Supply-Chain Disruptions, Pandemic Pressures – WSJ

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The Global Housing Market is Broken, and It’s Dividing Entire Countries

Soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon all hope of owning a home. The fallout is shaking governments of all political persuasions.

It’s a phenomenon given wings by the pandemic. And it’s not just buyers — rents are also soaring in many cities. The upshot is the perennial issue of housing costs has become one of acute housing inequality, and an entire generation is at risk of being left behind.

“We’re witnessing sections of society being shut out of parts of our city because they can no longer afford apartments,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller says. “That’s the case in London, in Paris, in Rome, and now unfortunately increasingly in Berlin.”

That exclusion is rapidly making housing a new fault line in politics, one with unpredictable repercussions. The leader of Germany’s Ver.di union called rent the 21st century equivalent of the bread price, the historic trigger for social unrest.

Politicians are throwing all sorts of ideas at the problem, from rent caps to special taxes on landlords, nationalizing private property, or turning vacant offices into housing. Nowhere is there evidence of an easy or sustainable fix.

In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in’s party took a drubbing in mayoral elections this year after failing to tackle a 90% rise in the average price of an apartment in Seoul since he took office in May 2017. The leading opposition candidate for next year’s presidential vote has warned of a potential housing market collapse as interest rates rise.

China has stepped up restrictions on the real-estate sector this year and speculation is mounting of a property tax to bring down prices. The cost of an apartment in Shenzhen, China’s answer to Silicon Valley, was equal to 43.5 times a resident’s average salary as of July, a disparity that helps explain President Xi Jinping’s drive for “common prosperity.”

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a two-year ban on foreign buyers if re-elected.

The pandemic has stoked the global housing market to fresh records over the past 18 months through a confluence of ultralow interest rates, a dearth of house production, shifts in family spending and fewer homes being put up for sale. While that’s a boon for existing owners, prospective buyers are finding it ever harder to gain entry.

What we’re witnessing is “a major event that should not be shrugged off or ignored,” Don Layton, the former CEO of U.S. mortgage giant Freddie Mac, wrote in a commentary for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

In the U.S., where nominal home prices are more than 30% above their previous peaks in the mid-2000s, government policies aimed at improving affordability and promoting home ownership risk stoking prices, leaving first-time buyers further adrift, Layton said.

The result, in America as elsewhere, is a widening generational gap between baby boomers, who are statistically more likely to own a home, and millennials and Generation Z — who are watching their dreams of buying one go up in smoke.

Existing housing debt may be sowing the seeds of the next economic crunch if borrowing costs start to rise. Niraj Shah of Bloomberg Economics compiled a dashboard of countries most at threat of a real-estate bubble, and says risk gauges are “flashing warnings” at an intensity not seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

In the search for solutions, governments must try and avoid penalizing either renters or homeowners. It’s an unenviable task.

Sweden’s government collapsed in June after it proposed changes that would have abandoned traditional controls and allowed more rents to be set by the market.

In Berlin, an attempt to tame rent increases was overturned by a court. Campaigners have collected enough signatures to force a referendum on seizing property from large private landlords. The motion goes to a vote on Sept. 26. The city government on Friday announced it would buy nearly 15,000 apartments from two large corporate landlords for €2.46 billion ($2.9 billion) to expand supply.

Anthony Breach at the Center for Cities think tank has even made the case for a link between housing and Britain’s 2016 vote to quit the European Union. Housing inequality, he concluded, is “scrambling our politics.”

As these stories from around the world show, that’s a recipe for upheaval.

Argentina

With annual inflation running around 50%, Argentines are no strangers to price increases. But for Buenos Aires residents like Lucia Cholakian, rent hikes are adding economic pressure, and with that political disaffection.

Like many during the pandemic, the 28-year-old writer and college professor moved with her partner from a downtown apartment to a residential neighborhood in search of more space. In the year since, her rent has more than tripled; together with bills it chews through about 40% of her income. That rules out saving for a home.

“We’re not going to be able to plan for the future like our parents did, with the dream of your own house,” she says. The upshot is “renting, buying and property in general” is becoming “much more present for our generation politically.”

Legislation passed by President Alberto Fernandez’s coalition aims to give greater rights to tenants like Cholakian. Under the new rules, contracts that were traditionally two years are now extended to three. And rather than landlords setting prices, the central bank created an index that determines how much rent goes up in the second and third year.

It’s proved hugely controversial, with evidence of some property owners raising prices excessively early on to counter the uncertainty of regulated increases later. Others are simply taking properties off the market. A government-decreed pandemic rent freeze exacerbated the squeeze.

Rental apartment listings in Buenos Aires city are down 12% this year compared to the average in 2019, and in the surrounding metro area they’re down 36%, according to real estate website ZonaProp.

The law “had good intentions but worsened the issue, as much for property owners as for tenants,” said Maria Eugenia Vidal, the former governor of Buenos Aires province and one of the main opposition figures in the city. She is contesting the November midterm elections on a ticket with economist Martin Tetaz with a pledge to repeal the legislation.

“Argentina is a country of uncertainty,” Tetaz said by phone, but with the housing rules it’s “even more uncertain now than before.”

Cholakian, who voted for Fernandez in 2019, acknowledges the rental reform is flawed, but also supports handing more power to tenants after an extended recession that wiped out incomes. If anything, she says greater regulation is needed to strike a balance between reassuring landlords and making rent affordable.

“If they don’t do something to control this in the city of Buenos Aires, only the rich will be left,” she says.

Australia

As the son of first-generation migrants from Romania, Alex Fagarasan should be living the Australian dream. Instead, he’s questioning his long-term prospects.

Fagarasan, a 28-year-old junior doctor at a major metropolitan hospital, would prefer to stay in Melbourne, close to his parents. But he’s being priced out of his city. He’s now facing the reality that he’ll have to move to a regional town to get a foothold in the property market. Then, all going well, in another eight years he’ll be a specialist and able to buy a house in Melbourne.

Even so, he knows he’s one of the lucky ones. His friends who aren’t doctors “have no chance” of ever owning a home. “My generation will be the first one in Australia that will be renting for the rest of their lives,” he says.

He currently rents a modern two-bedroom townhouse with two others in the inner suburb of Northcote — a study nook has been turned into a make-shift bedroom to keep down costs. About 30% of his salary is spent on rent; he calls it “exorbitant.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government announced a “comprehensive housing affordability plan” as part of the 2017-2018 budget, including 1 billion Australian dollars ($728 million) to boost supply. It hasn’t tamed prices.

The opposition Labour Party hasn’t fared much better. It proposed closing a lucrative tax loophole for residential investment at the last election in 2019, a policy that would likely have brought down home prices. But it sparked an exodus back to the ruling Liberals of voters who owned their home, and probably contributed to Labor’s election loss.

The political lessons have been learned: Fagarasan doesn’t see much help on housing coming from whoever wins next year’s federal election. After all, Labor already rules the state of Victoria whose capital is Melbourne.

“I feel like neither of the main parties represents the voice of the younger generation,” he says.

It’s a sentiment shared by Ben Matthews, a 33-year-old project manager at a university in Sydney. He’s moving back in with his parents after the landlord of the house he shared with three others ordered them out, an experience he says he found disappointing and stressful, especially during the pandemic.

Staying with his parents will at least help him save for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat. But even that’s a downgrade from his original plan of a two-bedroom house so he could rent the other room out. The increases, he says, are “just insane.”

“It might not be until something breaks that we’ll get the political impetus to make changes,” he says. -Jason Scott

Canada

Days after calling an election, Justin Trudeau announced plans for a two-year ban on foreigners buying houses. If it was meant as a dramatic intervention to blind-side his rivals, it failed: they broadly agree.

The prime minister thought he was going to fight the election — set for Monday — on the back of his handling of the pandemic, but instead housing costs are a dominant theme for all parties.

Trudeau’s Liberals are promising a review of “escalating” prices in markets including Vancouver and Toronto to clamp down on speculation; Conservative challenger Erin O’Toole pledges to build a million homes in three years to tackle the “housing crisis”; New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh wants a 20% tax on foreign buyers to combat a crisis he calls “out of hand.”

Facing a surprisingly tight race, Trudeau needs to attract young urban voters if he is to have any chance of regaining his majority. He chose Hamilton, outside Toronto, to launch his housing policy. Once considered an affordable place in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s faced rising pressure as people leave Canada’s biggest city in search of cheaper homes. The average single family home cost 932,700 Canadian dollars ($730,700) in June, a 30% increase from a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Hamilton and Burlington.

The City of Hamilton cites housing affordability among its priorities for the federal election, but that’s little comfort to Sarah Wardroper, a 32-year-old single mother of two young girls, who works part time and rents in the downtown east side. Hamilton, she says, represents “one of the worst housing crises in Canada.”

While she applauds promises to make it harder for foreigners to buy investment properties she’s skeptical of measures that might discourage homeowners from renting out their properties. That includes Trudeau’s bid to tax those who sell within 12 months of a house purchase. Neither is she convinced by plans for more affordable housing, seeing them as worthy but essentially a short-term fix when the real issue is “the economy is just so out of control the cost of living in general has skyrocketed.”

Wardroper says her traditionally lower-income community has become a luxury Toronto neighborhood.

“I don’t have the kind of job to buy a house, but I have the ambition and the drive to do that,” she says. “I want to build a future for my kids. I want them to be able to buy homes, but the way things are going right now, I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”

Singapore

Back in 2011, a public uproar over the city-state’s surging home prices contributed to what was at the time the ruling party’s worst parliamentary election result in more than five decades in power. While the People’s Action Party retained the vast majority of the seats in parliament, it was a wake-up call — and there are signs the pressure is building again.

Private home prices have risen the most in two years, and in the first half of 2021 buyers including ultra-rich foreigners splurged 32.9 billion Singapore dollars ($24 billion), according to Singapore-based ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd. That’s double the amount recorded in Manhattan over the same period.

However, close to 80% of Singapore’s citizens live in public housing, which the government has long promoted as an asset they can sell to move up in life.

It’s a model that has attracted attention from countries including China, but one that is under pressure amid a frenzy in the resale market. Singapore’s government-built homes bear little resemblance to low-income urban concentrations elsewhere: In the first five months of the year, a record 87 public apartments were resold for at least SG$1 million. That’s stirring concerns about affordability even among the relatively affluent.

Junior banker Alex Ting, 25, is forgoing newly built public housing as it typically means a three-to-four-year wait. And under government rules for singles, Ting can only buy a public apartment when he turns 35 anyway.

His dream home is a resale flat near his parents. But even there a mismatch between supply and demand could push his dream out of reach.

While the government has imposed curbs on second-home owners and foreign buyers, younger people like Ting have grown resigned to the limits of what can be done.

Most Singaporeans aspire to own their own property, and the housing scarcity and surge in prices presents another hurdle to them realizing their goal, says Nydia Ngiow, Singapore-based senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a strategic policy advisory firm. If unaddressed, that challenge “may in turn build long-term resentment towards the ruling party,” she warns.

That’s an uncomfortable prospect for the PAP, even as the opposition faces barriers to winning parliamentary seats. The ruling party is already under scrutiny for a disrupted leadership succession plan, and housing costs may add to the pressure.

Younger voters may express their discontent by moving away from the PAP, according to Ting. “In Singapore, the only form of protest we can do is to vote for the opposition,” he says.

Ireland

Claire Kerrane is open about the role of housing in her winning a seat in Ireland’s parliament, the Dail.

Kerrane, 29, was one of a slew of Sinn Fein lawmakers to enter the Dail last year after the party unexpectedly won the largest number of first preference votes at the expense of Ireland’s dominant political forces, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

While the two main parties went on to form a coalition government, the outcome was a political earthquake. Sinn Fein was formerly the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, yet it’s been winning followers more for its housing policy than its push for a united Ireland.

“Housing was definitely a key issue in the election and I think our policies and ambition for housing played a role in our election success,” says Kerrane, who represents the parliamentary district of Roscommon-Galway.

Ireland still bears the scars of a crash triggered by a housing bubble that burst during the financial crisis. A shortage of affordable homes means prices are again marching higher.

Sinn Fein has proposed building 100,000 social and affordable homes, the reintroduction of a pandemic ban on evictions and rent increases, and legislation to limit the rate banks can charge for mortgages.

Those policies have struck a chord. The most recent Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll, in June, showed Sinn Fein leading all other parties, with 21% of respondents citing house prices as the issue most likely to influence their vote in the next general election, the same proportion that cited the economy. Only health care trumped housing as a concern.

Other parties are taking note. On Sept. 2, the coalition launched a housing plan as the pillar of its agenda for this parliamentary term, committing over €4 billion ($4.7 billion) a year to increase supply, the highest-ever level of government investment in social and affordable housing.

Whether it’s enough to blunt Sinn Fein’s popularity remains to be seen. North of the border, meanwhile, Sinn Fein holds a consistent poll lead ahead of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly due by May, putting it on course to nominate the region’s First Minister for the first time since the legislature was established as part of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.

For all the many hurdles that remain to reunification, Sinn Fein is arguably closer than it has ever been to achieving its founding goal by championing efforts to widen access to housing.

As Kerrane says: “Few, if any households aren’t affected in some way by the housing crisis.”

By Alan Crawford

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/

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Census Figures Show Americans’ Incomes Fell in 2020

Americans last year saw their first significant decline in household income in nearly a decade, government data showed, with economic pain from the Covid-19 pandemic prompting government aid that helped keep millions from falling into poverty.

An annual assessment of the nation’s financial well-being, released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, offered insight into how households fared during the pandemic’s first year. It arrives as Washington debates how much more to spend to bolster the economy during the worst public-health crisis in a century.

Median household income was about $67,500 in 2020, down 2.9% from the prior year, when it hit an inflation-adjusted historical high. It came as the U.S. last year saw millions lose their jobs and national unemployment soar from a 50-year low to a high of 14.8%.

The last time median household income fell significantly was 2011, in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession.

The Census Bureau’s top-line income figure includes unemployment benefits but doesn’t account for income and payroll taxes nor stimulus checks or other noncash benefits like federal food programs. If those had been counted, the median household income would have risen 4% to $62,773.

As was the case with the income measure, the report offered conflicting takes on poverty trends because of differing definitions and approaches to the topic.

The bureau said the traditional poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4%, an increase of 1 percentage point from 2019 and the first increase after five consecutive years of declines. That translated to 37.2 million people in poverty, an increase of 3.3 million from 2019. For a four-person household, the threshold for meeting the definition of poverty was about $26,000 in 2020.

The official poverty measure doesn’t reflect how much a household pays in taxes, and it also omits noncash government aid like tax credits, housing subsidies and free school lunches. A broader poverty measure that accounts for such expenses and income actually fell last year to 9.1%, down 2.6 percentage points from 2019.

The decrease, coinciding with an increase in the official poverty rate, highlighted the role of the government safety net, which was expanded during the pandemic. The two poverty yardsticks have tracked closely for a decade, but last year was the first time that the supplemental measure dropped below the official measure.

Without the first two rounds of stimulus checks issued last year, the broader poverty measure would have risen by almost a percentage point instead of dropping, the bureau said.

Specifically, stimulus checks moved 11.7 million people above the poverty threshold if their effect was calculated alone. In the same manner, expanded unemployment programs did so for 5.5 million people. Refundable tax credits, such as the earned-income tax credit, did so for 5.3 million people. The Social Security program, however, remained the largest safety net program, lifting 26.5 million people above the poverty line.

“The increase in poverty would have been even larger if it were not for the ample fiscal support provided over the past year,” said Shannon Seery, an economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

After continued direct federal payments made to households in 2021 and enhanced unemployment benefits that expired in early September, Ms. Seery said, an improving unemployment picture should help households.

“With a robust demand for labor, exhibited by the record 10.9 million job openings in July, and average hourly earnings rising across industries, the current environment should help lure workers back to the job site,” she said.

The bureau also said Tuesday the proportion of Americans without health insurance for all of 2020 was 8.6%, essentially unchanged from 2018. About 28 million Americans lacked health insurance, according to the survey.

Median earnings in 2020 of those who worked full time, year-round increased 6.9% from 2019. The 2020 female-to-male earnings ratio was 83%, essentially unchanged from the previous year.

The distribution of incomes changed little. The top fifth of households—with incomes above $141,100—collected 52.2% of household income, while the top 5% alone—with incomes above $273,700—collected 23%. The bureau reported that the income shares collected by the lowest groups dropped slightly. The lowest fifth of households—making less than $27,000—collected 3%, down from 3.1% in 2019. The second fifth—with incomes from $27,000 to $52,000—collected 8.1%, down from 8.3% in 2019.

In 2020, median household incomes decreased 3.2% in the Midwest and 2.3% in the South and West, the bureau said. The change in the Northeast between 2019 and 2020 wasn’t statistically significant.

Median incomes were highest in the Northeast ($75,211) and the West ($74,951), followed by the Midwest ($66,968) and the South ($61,243). Households with the lowest levels of educational attainment logged the greatest declines in their incomes. For those headed by someone without a high school diploma, incomes dropped 5.7%, while those headed by someone with some college education or a bachelor’s degree or higher recorded a 2.8% decline.

The road ahead for the U.S. economy looks more uncertain than earlier in 2021. In recent weeks, growing evidence has built of lost momentum as Covid-19 cases rose again. Supply-chain challenges and a lack of workers for lower-paying jobs also are weighing on economic growth.

Rocky Smith Jr., a 41-year-old union worker who cuts metal parts down to size after they exit a furnace, said things are looking up for his family of four in Muskegon, Mich. After being laid off in April 2020, he said, he wasn’t hired back until July 2021.

Mr. Smith said he is now making more than $20 an hour at his full-time job. His wife, he said, resumed working during his unemployment and the family skipped meals out and other luxuries.

“We rolled with the punches,” said Mr. Smith, a former boxer. “Life hit us, but we made it work.”

By: John McCormick and Paul Overberg

Source: Census Figures Show Americans’ Incomes Fell in 2020 – WSJ

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Delta Variant Has ‘Dented’ Job Market: Private Sector Added Disappointingly Low 374,000 Jobs In August

According to ADP’s monthly employment report, August employment data highlights a “downshift” in the labor market recovery marked by a decline in new hires following significant job growth from the first half of the year.

Despite the slowdown, ADP chief economist Nela Richardson says job gains are approaching 4 million this year but are still 7 million jobs lower than employment before the pandemic.

Service jobs continued to head up growth, with the leisure and hospitality sector adding 201,000 jobs, followed by the healthcare industry’s job gains of 39,000.

August job additions were in line with July gains of 326,000, but trail behind additions of more than 600,000 each month since April.

Key Background

With the unemployment rate of 5.4% still stubbornly above pre-pandemic levels below 4%, experts have cautioned that the post-Covid labor market recovery could drag on for years. Despite strong gains in past months, the Federal Reserve last week said its performance was still too “turbulent” to warrant a change in pandemic-era monetary policy, and Wednesday’s disappointing report should only bolster that argument.

Crucial Quote

“The delta variant of Covid-19 appears to have dented the job market recovery,” Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement alongside the report, adding that the labor market remains strong, but well off its performance in recent months. “Job growth remains inextricably tied to the path of the pandemic.”

The August jobs report, set to be released Friday, will give policymakers some insight into how the economy has responded to the delta surge. The U.S. added 943,000 jobs last month, according to the most recent report, but that data was compiled before the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention first raised alarms about the transmissibility of the delta variant.

Though it may still take several months to assess the total impact of the delta variant, economists expect that women and Black and Hispanic workers, who were more likely to lose their jobs amid the onset of the pandemic, will continue bearing disproportionate burdens.

What To Watch For

The onset of the pandemic wiped out roughly 8.8 percent of jobs in public education as schools were forced to shutter, but Pollak said the delta surge is unlikely to trigger deeper layoffs. Instead, she expects delays to office reopenings driven by school closures to limit the recovery of other jobs reliant on work travel and office presence.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its August jobs report on Friday. Economists expect the economy to have added 720,000 jobs last month, compared to 943,000 in July.

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I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: Delta Variant Has ‘Dented’ Job Market: Private Sector Added Disappointingly Low 374,000 Jobs In August

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High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta

The Delta version has muted the progress of the US economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers delaying some holiday spending and businesses returning to normal operations, according to multiple high-frequency reports. Show softness in August.

Airlines

The number of passengers passing through airport checkpoints has started declining again. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration, 1.47 million passengers flew on Tuesday, the lowest in more than three months. The seven-day average dropped to about 1.76 million passengers a day at the end of August, from about 2.05 million a month earlier.

While this partly marks the end of the summer holiday season, airlines have cited the Delta version as well. “There has been a slowdown in holiday bookings and an increase in cancellations,” said Helen Baker, senior research analyst at Cowen Inc. As companies delay return to offices, the return of business air travel may also be delayed, she said.

Restaurant Dining

After narrowing the gap to just 5-6% at the end of July, sit-down meals at U.S. restaurants have been down about 10-11% from 2019 levels in recent weeks, according to OpenTable, which processes online reservations. Is. Concerns about Delta and the city’s mandate are playing a part, according to the company.

“We see a clear decline in late July and August,” said OpenTable CEO Debbie Sue. “While several factors may be at play here, we believe the primary driver of the slowdown is diners’ concern about the rise in COVID cases.”

Hotel Occupancy

According to STR, a lodging data tracker, while leisure travel helped boost some popular destinations in the summer, the number of hotel stays declined for four consecutive weeks. Average room rates for three weeks have dropped.

Among the 25 major US markets, none saw engagement in the week ending August 21 compared to the same week in 2019, STR found. Occupancy in San Francisco has dropped by more than 40%, the most of any market.

“Demand looks like it’s doing a little worse than a normal seasonal decline,” said Bill Crowe, Raymond James Financial Analyst. There is a “coolness on travel due to delta-type case growth” with the business-travel markets underperforming.

Job Listing

While the labor market has hardened this year, and many employers say they are struggling to fill positions, there are some signs of a slowdown in demand among Delta. Dental office and child care jobs, for example, have declined in job postings for positions that would call for close contact with the public.

“During the latest wave of the virus, those virus-sensitive sectors have already seen a decline in job postings,” said Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko. If the wave continues, “demand for labor could collapse if people cut back on travel, eating out and other services.” And potential workers may be reluctant to look for work, he said.

Home Again

Big US companies’ plans to bring workers back to their offices in busy business districts are being reversed. Average office occupancy in the 10 largest business districts fell to 31.3% of pre-Covid-19 levels for the week ended August 18, according to data from Kastel Systems.

While the August holidays may have contributed, “the return to normal offices has been a bit slow due to delta,” said JPMorgan Chase Real Estate Investment Trust analyst Anthony Paolone.

This affects not only real estate but also a group of businesses that depend on offices, such as dry cleaners and urban restaurants, and the city through taxes.

“There is a cascading effect for the vibrancy of the various urban cores,” he said.

By: and

Source: High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta – Bloomberg

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Did Inequality Increase During Pandemic?

It is widely believed that the Covid-19 pandemic and the reactions to it by governments and businesses accelerated an already-strong trend toward increasing economic inequality in the U.S. People on the political left think this and people on the political right do too, a heartwarming exception to the political polarization of our age.

This belief is also based on some actual evidence. Thanks to big increases in the prices of stocks and other assets after the initial shock of the pandemic, the nation’s billionaires have in fact added many billions to their net worths, while lots of affluent homeowners and 401(k)-holders have added hundreds of thousands.

The risks of both Covid-19 infection and job loss have been higher for those who can’t work from home, and those who can work from home tend to have more degrees and earn more money than those who can’t. Poorer children have struggled much more with remote schooling than richer ones. And so on.

So yes it’s possible, maybe even likely, that when the dust settles and all the relevant data are available, we will conclude that economic worsened over the course of the pandemic. But I wouldn’t be sure of it. Pandemics are one of the “Four Horsemen” of economic equalization described by historian Walter Scheidel in his acclaimed 2017 book, “The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century” (the other three being war, revolution and state collapse).

Scheidel did have more devastating diseases in mind than what Covid-19 has proved to be so far, but as of January, Nobel-prize-winning economist Angus Deaton found that economic inequality among countries had decreased during the pandemic, although this didn’t hold on a population-weighted basis because the of India, the largest country in the bottom half of the world’s income distribution (it’s “lower middle-income,” according to the World Bank), had suffered greatly even before this year’s rise of the Delta variant.

Within the US, the very real forces pushing toward more inequality have been counteracted by an unprecedented outpouring of government aid, while trends boosting wages in the lower part of the distribution that were apparent before the pandemic seem to be accelerating now. The numbers available so far, while preliminary and in some cases a bit contradictory, aren’t really telling a story of exploding inequality.

Perhaps the simplest of these numbers, from the distributional financial accounts that the Federal Reserve began releasing quarterly in 2019, is the wealth share of the bottom 50 per cent of the wealth distribution. It bottomed out in the second quarter of 2011 at a barely-there 0.4 per cent of household wealth and has been rising most quarters since, reaching 2 per cent in the first quarter of this year for the first time since just before the Great Recession started in December 2007.

This measure, which I’ve written about before, has its limitations. The Fed estimates wealth by combining household-level data on assets and liabilities from its triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, most recently conducted in 2019, with aggregate numbers from its quarterly Financial Accounts of the United States, and lumps the entire bottom half of the wealth distribution together because it doesn’t have enough information to do otherwise. It is able to slice things more finely within the top half, where the top 1 per cent gained wealth share since the end of 2019 while those between them and the 50th percentile lost ground.

So yes it looks like wealth inequality increased during the pandemic within the top half, and most of the bottom half’s gains came from those just above it in the wealth distribution rather than the very richest. The bottom half did enjoy a bigger percentage wealth gain than the top 1 per cent —30.3 per cent versus 20.7 per cent since the end of 2019 — although because it had so little wealth to start with, that amounted to just $609 billion in new wealth versus $7.1 trillion for the 1 per cent. Still, the total wealth of the bottom 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year amounted to 6.3 per cent of that of the top 1 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent at the end of 2019 and the highest such percentage since 2007. In that sense, at least, inequality between the top and bottom decreased.

That sense may not be enough for most people who are concerned about inequality, but improved conditions for the less-well-off are worth celebrating in any case, and it’s not just the Federal Reserve that’s detecting signs of them. Researchers at the Urban Institute estimated last month that, thanks to big job gains and the benefits included in the American Rescue Plan approved in March and earlier pandemic-aid legislation, the share of Americans below the poverty line would fall to 7.7 per cent this year from what they estimated using the same methodology to have been 13.9 per cent in 2018.

These estimates use what’s called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a decade-old metric that attempts to better incorporate all the resources available to poor families, and the Urban Institute’s number for 2018 is a bit higher than the 12.8 per cent SPM rate estimated by the Census Bureau and the 12.7 per cent estimated by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy based on Census data. Measuring poverty is complicated, especially over time. But the trend does seem to be headed in the right direction.Because the expected drop in poverty in 2021 owes so much to federal aid, some of it could prove temporary. But gains for the lower part of the income distribution are also coming from the private sector in the form of higher wages.

It’s hard to know what to make of the 2020 data, which may be skewed by low response rates to government surveys and big job losses among low-wage workers. But the high wage growth before the pandemic and so far this year seems to be for real, and all the anecdotal evidence from the job market points to it continuing. In previous economic expansions the wage gains at the bottom of the scale came only after years of job growth; this time it seems to be the norm from the get-go.

A full picture of the pandemic’s impact on income and wealth inequality will have to wait on more data. The most recent income-distribution numbers available are from 2019 in the case of Census Bureau survey data and 2018 for tax statistics from the Internal Revenue Service. The Census Bureau’s estimate of the Gini coefficient, a measure of how equally incomes are distributed that comes out to one if one person gets all the money and zero if everyone earns the same amount, has been rising at a somewhat slower pace in the 2000s than in the 1980s and 1990s. It even fell slightly in 2018 and 2019, although it seems too early to make much of that.Such broad measures of inequality have taken something of a backseat in recent years to the statistics on income and wealth at the very top compiled from tax data by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman and others. Saez and Zucman’s most recent updates of the data (and revisions in response to critiques from other economists), show a decade-long plateau in the share of income going to the top 0.1 per cent and a more recent halt in wealth-share gains.

Given what we know from other sources it seems pretty likely that the income and wealth shares of the top 0.1 per cent rose in 2020, and given that I don’t have a great explanation for why inequality was declining — or at least somewhat on hold — before the pandemic, I’m not going to make any confident predictions here about what it will do after.

One thing that is clear from the above chart is that inequality can decline, and decline by a lot. Amid the great equalization of the mid-20th century, economist Simon Kuznets (another Nobel winner) wrote an influential paper in 1955 speculating that it might be in the nature of economic modernization and industrialization for inequality to at first increase and then decline. After decades of rising inequality in the US and other rich countries, such examinations are now more likely to conclude that a growing gap between rich and poor is an inevitable trait of capitalist economies (Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”) or human society in general in the absence of calamity (Scheidel’s book). They may be right! But again, I wouldn’t be sure of it.

By: Justin Fox | Bloomberg Opinion

Source: Did inequality increase during pandemic? Wait for more data to get answers | Business Standard News

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More Contents:

Trillions of Negative-Yielding Debt Redeem Europe’s Bond Bulls

A deep pool of debt with below-zero returns is increasingly betting on European bonds. In a matter of weeks, German 10-year bond yields fell to the most in July from flirting with zero for the first time in two years, going back to minus 0.46% since the start of 2020. That fall – which has propelled bond prices – has helped push negative-yield debt volumes in Europe to a near six-month high of 7.5 trillion euros ($8.9 trillion).

Traders were alerted by the inflation bet, which initially raised borrowing costs, but lost heights after major central banks insisted on continued support. At the same time, the spread of Covid-19 variants stoked demand for the safest government loans, reviving a business that dominated global markets last year amid the pandemic.

Strategists at HSBC Holdings plc and ABN AMRO Bank NV never shied away from their call for benchmark bond yields at minus 0.50% by the end of 2021, which has been in effect since the first half of last year. That will erase a large portion of this year’s 54-basis point trough-to-peak advance.

The European Central Bank said last month that current inflation is driven by temporary factors, and any change in stance would depend on hitting the new 2% inflation target.

HSBC’s forecast was “based on the assumption that there will be no rate hikes before the end of 2023,” said strategist Chris Atfield. “It is mostly market priced now, helped by the new ECB forward guidance.”

Money markets have quickly cut back on policy tightening after the ECB revised guidance on interest rates, saying it would not react immediately if price hikes exceed that target for a “transient” period.

According to swap contracts, in July, traders wiped out 20 basis points more from rate-increasing bets. This is the biggest decrease in nearly two years, and they suggest they expect the ECB deposit rate to be below zero in five years.

HSBC’s Attfield said that “the new forward guidance criteria for rate hikes since 2008 will not have been met at any point,” highlighting the challenging task facing the ECB as it seeks to open up record monetary stimulus.

The euro area pulled out of recession in the second quarter, and headline inflation climbed to 2.2% last month. According to Mayva Cousin of Businesshala Economics, while rising pressures could push the annual CPI rate to more than 3% in the coming months, the increase will prove to be temporary and inflation is expected to decline sharply in early 2022.

According to a Businesshala survey, strategists see the German 10-year yield as low as minus 0.14% by the end of the year, down from minus 0.035% nearly a month ago. ABN AMRO strategist Flortje Merten sees a drop to minus 0.5%, given the balance between rate expectations and the state of the euro-regional economy.

“Further rate hikes and more optimistic sentiment would be two opposing factors and could keep Bund yields around these low levels,” Merton said.

This week

  • The Bank of England will meet with investors on Thursday to discuss the possibility of a split vote on bond purchases, given recent sharp remarks by some members of the Monetary Policy Committee.
  • European sovereign supplies should remain moderate at around 17.5 billion euros, according to Commerzbank, with auctions in Germany, Austria, France and Spain.

Source: Trillions of Negative-Yielding Debt Redeem Europe’s Bond Bulls

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Critics:

Historically, people give the government their money, instead of spending it, with the promise of being paid back, with interest. Now, governments are essentially getting paid to borrow money, as people become increasingly desperate for a safe haven for their wealth. The cycle becomes self fulfilling as negative rates raise further concerns about the economy.

“Bonds are supposed to pay the owner of capital something to pry the money out of their hands. But no … ” said co-founder of DataTrek, Nicholas Colas. Central banks often lower interest rates to grow the money supply in the economy, fuel demand and provide growth momentum. Other key drivers for monetary policy easing are weakening domestic outlooks, falling annual growth rates, low inflation and weakening business and consumer confidence. And in Europe’s case, make up for the lack of a coordinated fiscal response.

Another reason for negative yielding debt worldwide could be that institutional investors, like pension funds, are forced to keep buying bonds because of liquidity requirements. PIMCO’s global economic advisor Joachin Fels said there are also secular factors like demographics and technology that drive rates lower.

“Rising life expectancy increases desired saving while new technologies are capital-saving and are becoming cheaper – and thus reduce ex ante demand for investment. The resulting savings glut tends to push the “natural” rate of interest lower and lower,” said Fels.

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Netflix And Boeing Among Today’s Trending Stocks

According to a report from the Washington Post dropped June 12, 1-year inflation is up 5%, while 2-year inflation sits around 5.6%. This has impacted everything from raw materials like lumber and glass to manufactured products. Used cars are up 29.7% in the last year, while gas has shot up over 56%, and washing machines and dryers sit up around 26.5%.

This comes as the global microchip shortage compounds retailers’ problems as they struggle to automate their supply chains. And while the economy (and the stock market) is certainly rebounding from covid-era recession pressures, consumers are stuck footing high-priced bills as both demand and the cost of materials continue to rise. Still, the Fed maintains that prices should stabilize soon – though “soon” may mean anywhere from 18-24 months, according to consulting firm Kearney.

Until then, investors will have to weigh their worries about inflation on the equities and bonds markets against the growing economy to decide which investments have potential – and which will see their returns gouged by rising prices across the board. To that end, we present you with Q.ai’s top trending picks heading into the new week.

Q.ai runs daily factor models to get the most up-to-date reading on stocks and ETFs. Our deep-learning algorithms use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to provide an in-depth, intelligence-based look at a company – so you don’t have to do the digging yourself.

Netflix, Inc (NFLX)

First up on our trending list is Netflix, Inc, which closed at $488.77 per share Friday. This represented an increase of 0.31% for the day, though it brought the streaming giant to down 9.6% for the year. The company has experienced continual losses for the past few weeks, with Friday ending below the 22-day price average of $494 and change. Currently, Netflix is trading at 47.1x forward earnings.

Netflix, Inc. trended in the latter half of last week as the company opened a new e-commerce site for branded merchandise. Currently, the store’s offerings are limited to a few popular Netflix tv shows, but the company hopes to increase its branded merchandise branded to shows such as Lupin, Yasuke, Stranger Things, and more in the coming months. With this latest move, the company hopes to expand its revenue channels and compete more directly with competitors such as Disney+.

In the last fiscal year, Netflix saw revenue growth of 5.6% to $25 billion compared to $15.8 billion three years ago. At the same time, operating income jumped 21.8% to $4.585 billion from $1.6 billion three years ago. And per-share earnings jumped almost 36% to $6.08 compared to $2.68 in the 36-month-ago period, while ROE rose to 29.6%.

Currently, Netflix is expected to see 12-month revenue around 3.33%. Our AI rates the streaming behemoth A in Growth, B in Quality Value and Low Volatility Momentum, and D in Technicals.

The Boeing Company (BA)

The Boeing Company closed down 0.43% Friday to $247.28, trending at 9.93 million trades on the day. Boeing has fallen somewhat from its 10-day price average of $250.67, though it’s up over the 22-day average of $240 and change. Currently, Boeing is up 15.5% YTD and is trading at 180.1x forward earnings.

The Boeing Company has trended frequently in recent weeks as the airplane manufacturer continues to take new orders for its jets, including the oft-beleaguered 737 MAX. United Airlines is reportedly in talks to buy “hundreds” of Boeing jets in the next few months, while Southwest Airlines is seeking up to 500 new aircraft as it expands its U.S. service. Alaskan Airlines, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, and Ryanair have also placed orders for more Boeing jets heading into summer.

Over the last three fiscal years, Boeing’s revenue has plummeted from $101 billion to $58.2 billion, while operating income has been slashed from $11.8 billion to $8.66 billion. At the same time, per-share earnings have actually grown from $17.85 to $20.88.

Boeing is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 7.5%. Our AI rates the airline manufacturer B in Technicals, C in Growth, and F in Low Volatility Momentum and Quality Value.

Nvidia Corporation (NVDA)

Nvidia Corporation jumped up 2.3% Friday to $713 per share, trending with 10.4 million trades on the books. Despite its sky-high stock price, Nividia has risen considerably from the 22-day price average of $631.79 – up 36.5% for the year. Currently, Nvidia is trading at 44.44x forward earnings.

Nvidia is trending this week thanks to surging GPU sales amidst the global chip shortage, as well as its planned 4-for-1 stock split at the end of June – but that’s not all. The company also announced Thursday that it also plans to buy DeepMap, an autonomous-vehicle mapping startup, for an as-yet undisclosed price. With this new acquisition, Nvidia will improve the mapping and localization functions of its software-defined self-driving operations system, NVIDIA DRIVE.

In the last fiscal year, Nvidia saw revenue growth of 15.5% to $16.7 billion compared to $11.7 billion three years ago. Operating income jumped 20.8% in the same period to $4.7 billion against $3.8 billion in the three-year ago period, and per-share earnings expanded 22.6% to $6.90. However, ROE was slashed from 49.3% to 29.8% in the same time frame.

Currently, Nvidia is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 2%. Our AI rates Nvidia A in Growth, B in Low Volatility Momentum, C in Quality Value, and F in Technicals.

Nike, Inc (NKE)

Nike, Inc closed up 0.73% Friday to $131.94 per share, closing out the day at 5.4 million shares. The stock is down 6.7% YTD, though it’s still trading at 36.8x forward earnings.

Nike stock has slipped in recent weeks as the athleticwear retailer suffers supply chain challenges in North America. And despite recent revenue growth in its Asian markets, it also continues to deal with Chinese backlash to its March criticism of the Chinese government’s forced labor of persecuted Uyghurs.

In the last fiscal year, Nike saw revenue grow almost 3% to $37.4 billion, up 5.8% in the last three years from $36.4 billion. Operating income jumped 40.9% in the last year alone to $3.1 billion – though this is down from $4.45 billion three years ago. In the same periods, per-share earnings grew 33.7% and 82.8%, respectively, from $1.17 to $1.60. And return on equity nearly doubled from 17% to 30%.

Currently, Nike is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 10.3%. Our AI rates Nike average across the board, with C’s in Technicals, Growth, Low Volatility Momentum, and Quality Value.

Mastercard, Inc (MA)

Mastercard, Inc ticked up 0.33% Friday to $365.50, trading at a volume of 2.7 million shares on the day. The stock is up marginally over the 22-day price average of $363.86 and 2.4% for the year. Currently, Mastercard is trading at 43.64x forward earnings.

Mastercard has faltered behind the S&P 500 index for much of the year – not to mention competitors like American Express. While there’s no one story to tie the credit card company’s relatively modest stock prices to, it may be due to a combination of investor uneasiness, already-high share prices, and increased digital payments. But with travel recently on the rise, it’s possible that Mastercard will be making a comeback.

In the last three fiscal years, Mastercard’s revenue has risen 3.3% to $15.3 billion compared to $14.95 billion. In the same period, operating income has fallen from $8.4 billion to $8.2 billion, whereas per-share earnings have grown from $5.60 to $6.37 for total growth of 16.4%. Return on equity slipped from 106% to 102.5% at the same time.

Currently, Mastercard’s forward 12-month revenue is expected to grow around 4.7%. Our deep-learning algorithms rate Mastercard, Inc. B in Low Volatility Momentum and Quality Value, C in Growth, and D in Technicals.

Q.ai, a Forbes Company, formerly known as Quantalytics and Quantamize, uses advanced forms of quantitative techniques and artificial intelligence to generate investment

Source: Netflix And Boeing Among Today’s Trending Stocks

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Critics:
The S&P 500 stock market index, maintained by S&P Dow Jones Indices, comprises 505 common stocks issued by 500 large-cap companies and traded on American stock exchanges (including the 30 companies that compose the Dow Jones Industrial Average), and covers about 80 percent of the American equity market by capitalization.
The index is weighted by free-float market capitalization, so more valuable companies account for relatively more of the index. The index constituents and the constituent weights are updated regularly using rules published by S&P Dow Jones Indices. Although called the S&P 500, the index contains 505 stocks because it includes two share classes of stock from 5 of its component companies.

See also:

References:

Buffett Explains Why He Didn’t Do A Big Deal During The Pandemic Crisis

Berkshire Hathaway Investments

Warren Buffett came under fire for not getting out his elephant gun to make a big purchase during the market lows during the first half of 2020. Here’s how he explained it at the Berkshire Annual Meeting.

Risk Management

Buffett manages risk at Berkshire. He pointed out that the U.S. response to the pandemic was managed very well. Importantly though, it didn’t have to be. He saw a critical point as the intervention of the Fed on March 23rd 2020. Before that, companies were starting to pick up the phone and call Berkshire for help, after the Fed’s actions, help wasn’t needed. Then the fiscal reaction with the CARES Act was favorable too.

Buffett didn’t view this outcome as a certainty and viewed worse outcomes as possible. As much as he enjoys making money, he views it as more important that he doesn’t lose it and the range of potential outcomes early in COVID-19 was one reason he was cautious.

Airline Risk

The other thing that Buffett was concerned about was backstopping certain investments, specifically airlines. One major move that Berkshire made during 2020 was selling down airline stakes. Buffett explained that if Berkshire remained a major investor, then the airlines may have been less likely to get government support because the airlines could have looked to Berkshire for findings.

SPACs

Berkshire also noted that the rise in SPAC activity is making it harder to source deals, for now. This is a trend that Buffett has seen in the past, but now is particularly pronounced given the number of SPACs seeking deals on a time-limited basis. Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, called this “fee driven money” because the deals may be done for fees rather than because they are good deals. Buffett shared that he still had funds in the tens of billions in Treasury bills that he’d like to put to work under better conditions.

Still, it appears implicitly that Buffett does not view the COVID-19 pandemic as Berkshire’s finest hour. He points out that Berkshire did repurchase substantial shares over 2020. It also seems that there were structural reasons from the actions of the Fed in providing massive funding, and the growth of SPACs, in chasing deals, that have cut deal flow to Berkshire over recent months.

Simon is the author of Digital Wealth and Strategic Project Portfolio Management. He has previously served as Chief Investment Officer at Moola and FutureAdvisor, both are consumer investment startups that were subsequently acquired by S&P 500 firms. He is a CFA Charterholder and educated at Oxford and Northwestern. Articles are informational only, not investment advice.

Source: Buffett Explains Why He Didn’t Do A Big Deal During The Pandemic Crisis

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Warren Buffett is feeling much better since “the economy went off a cliff” last March. He admits he might be even happier if he had used that opportunity to invest some of the $145 billion of cash Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has been hoarding.

Buffett Bails

Warren Buffett now says he regrets not buying up more unloved assets during the pandemic the way the value investor famously has in past crises.Berkshire revealed that it sold stocks again last quarter, bringing the total net value of equities it has dumped since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic to more than $12 billion.

The benchmark S&P 500 index returned about 26% over that span — double what Berkshire shares did. And as Apple Inc. gained 80%, becoming a $2 trillion company, Berkshire sold some of its Apple shares. That was a mistake, Buffett said, to which his longtime business partner Charlie Munger resoundingly (if half-jokingly) declared, “Yes!” The two say they’ve never had a fight in their sixty-plus years working together, but in that moment their cute claim seemed slightly less plausible.

“Looking back, definitely we could’ve done things better,” Buffett said, because many businesses sprang back astonishingly fast. That was thanks to the Federal Reserve’s extraordinary actions early on, which Buffett praised, and the relief checks that went to Americans, he told virtual listeners of his company’s annual shareholder meeting Saturday. Investing is “not as easy at it sounds,” he added, words of caution to the new generation of investors using commission-free apps such as Robinhood that encourage a casino-like trading experience. Buffett, who at 90 is still a voracious reader of companies’ annual reports, is looking forward to reading Robinhood Markets Inc.’s document when it files to go public.

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