U.S. To Invest $1.2 Billion To Secure Potential Coronavirus Vaccine From AstraZeneca

The U.S. government has agreed to hand AstraZeneca PLC up to $1.2 billion to secure the supply of a potential coronavirus vaccine that could be ready as early as October.

Under the deal, the government will bankroll a 30,000-person vaccine trial in the U.S. starting in the summer, plus the ramp-up of manufacturing capacity to make at least 300 million doses. The first doses will be ready in the fall should the vaccine prove effective, it said.



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Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, called the deal a “major milestone” in the administration’s effort—code-named “Operation Warp Speed”—to make a safe, effective vaccine widely available to Americans by 2021.

The vaccine in question was developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and is one of a small group of candidates already being tested in humans. Others include vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. AstraZeneca, under a licensing deal with Oxford, has responsibility for manufacturing the university’s vaccine, and has promised to sell the vaccine without making a profit during the pandemic.

Governments around the world are counting on an effective vaccine against Covid-19 to defeat a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and devastated the global economy. But to guarantee that doses are ready as soon as possible, companies must ramp up manufacturing capacity significantly before clinical trials provide solid proof that the vaccines work—a costly exercise more viable with financial support from governments and other funders.


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The U.S. government has moved fast to secure supply deals with vaccine makers. It has also awarded Moderna $483 million to ramp up production of its candidate and is supporting research into potential vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and France’s Sanofi SA . It is doing those deals through its Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority division, or Barda, which was set up in 2006 to prepare for biologic threats such as pandemics and bioterrorism.

Earlier this week, the U.K. government agreed to pay AstraZeneca £65.5 million ($79 million) to secure 100 million doses for its population, with 30 million of those ready as early as September. That deal relates purely to manufacturing, and doesn’t include any clinical trial funding.

AstraZeneca says it is in talks with several other governments, as well as nonprofits like the international vaccine alliance, Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations on deals that would further boost production.

Oxford started a 1,100-person study in April and expects to roll the trial out to a further 5,000 participants later this month, should the first phase go well.





Its vaccine has progressed quickly, in part because it uses a technology that has been deployed in earlier vaccines developed by the university. It uses an inactivated chimpanzee virus containing the genetic sequence for the “spike protein” found on the new coronavirus.

In a small animal study, not yet peer-reviewed, it appeared to stop the virus from spreading to the lungs, protecting the inoculated monkeys from developing pneumonia. It was unclear whether the vaccine stopped infection entirely, however, as the vaccinated monkeys tested positive for virus in their noses.



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#CancelRent Is New Rallying Cry for Tenants. Landlords Are Alarmed.

As unemployment soars across the country, tenants rights groups and community nonprofits have rallied around an audacious goal: to persuade the government to halt rent and mortgage payments — without back payments accruing — for as long as the economy is battered by the coronavirus.

The effort has been brewing on social media, with the hashtag #CancelRent and online video rallies, as well as a smattering of in-person protests, frequently held in cars to maintain social distancing.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, offered a fervent endorsement of the campaign, encouraging her progressive base to embrace a movement to upend the housing market.


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“It’s not that it’s impossible to do and it’s not that we can’t do it,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a live video on her Facebook page on Monday. “We lack enough politicians with political will to actually help people who are tenants and actually help people who are mom-and-pop landlords.”

But in New York and other cities, landlords say they too are struggling to pay their bills since many tenants have already been unable to pay rent. They call the advocates’ efforts reckless and say that withholding rent would create cascading consequences, including leaving property owners without the means to pay mortgages and property taxes or to maintain buildings.

Still, from New York to Kansas City to Los Angeles, groups are encouraging tenants to withhold payments on Friday, the due date for May rent, aiming to create pressure for an expansion of affordable housing and tenant-friendly legislation.

To cancel rent and mortgage payments, the federal government would have to take sweeping and possibly unconstitutional intervention in the housing and financial markets, interceding in private contracts and ordering banks and landlords not to collect money.

While the prospect of this happening is low, the campaigns are less about pushing a particular piece of legislation and more about kindling a mass movement akin to the Occupy Wall Street protests that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

“Rent is not being paid, and the organizing strategy is figuring out how we rally around that and politicize it for our benefit,” said Tara Raghuveer, director of the Homes Guarantee campaign of People’s Action, a national network of local advocacy organizations.

Groups from California to New York have amassed a sizable following of renters who say they will skip May rent. They have also received a boost from progressive members of Congress, who introduced a cancel rent bill.

“It’s a moment that people are literally rising up for real transformation in the housing market,” said Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator at Housing Justice for All, a New York group.

Though nascent, the movement has alarmed landlords, especially smaller property owners who say that they, like many of their tenants, also survive month to month.

“When government officials say, ‘Cancel rent,’” said Jay Martin, the executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents 4,000 New York City landlords, “they are essentially saying that we are canceling the ability for you to pay the bills we are putting on you.”





Mr. Martin said that if tenants’ rights organizers wanted to target a main driver of high housing costs, they should encourage elected officials to cut property taxes. A recent report by the New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board said that about 30 percent of a landlord’s expenses for rent-regulated apartments go toward property taxes.

New York, which has more housing units than any place in the United States, is a city of renters: There are nearly 2.2 million rental units in the city. Mr. Martin said that no landlord he knows would want to evict a tenant in this economy.

“Landlords are being made the scapegoat for all the problems,” he said.

Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords in New York City, warned that a rent strike would “create an economic and housing pandemic.”

“The city and its residential housing landscape will crumble into an economic abyss worse than the 1970s, when New York was the national poster child for urban blight,” Mr. Strasburg said.

As bad as the economy is, rental payments in April were better than many landlords expected.

As businesses laid off employees, property owners reported a steep drop in rent collections, with close to a third of tenants behind as of the first week of April, according to a survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group for big apartment owners.

But by month’s end, after stimulus payments and unemployment checks started flowing, the nationwide nonpayment rate was only three percentage points below where it was a year ago.

Still, those numbers probably understate the stress, as various surveys show that landlords have deferred rent, offered concessions or used security deposits to cover missed payments. And tenants have increasingly used credit cards to cover their bills.

Vinicia Barber, 39, who lost her nanny job for a family in New York City that decided to move to California during the pandemic, said that she has decided to join the rent strike.

She pays $1,877 for a rent-stabilized apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that she shares with her 14-year-old daughter. There is mold growing on the bathroom walls, and they cannot open windows because of the stench of garbage behind the building, she said.

“Something needs to change,” Ms. Barber said. “If it’s not now during the Covid-19 epidemic, then I don’t know what it’s going to take for the governor and mayor to do something.”

Rent strike or not, tens of millions of people will be under severe rent stress in May.

Looking to rally people digitally, on Thursday, the Action Center on Race & the Economy, which acts as a campaign hub for advocacy organizations, unveiled WeStrikeTogether.org, a website that will accumulate the various May rent strikes into a nationwide heat map.

People who sign up will be directed to a list of resources and be routed to local housing organizations to try and build more support for the #CancelRent campaign.

“The traditional definition of a rent strike is someone who is choosing not to pay for whatever reason, and we’re defining it more broadly here to help people see that it’s a political choice not to help folks who can’t pay rent,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, co-executive director of the action center.

It’s not as if tenants have lacked support: The $2 trillion CARES Act distributed expanded unemployment insurance and the stimulus payments, along with aid to public-housing providers and grants that states can use for rental assistance.

Still, tenant organizers and landlords are pushing for direct housing assistance.

Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent, transfer mortgages to the federal government and allow landlords to recoup their rent costs — but only if they agree to a vast new regulatory program that includes a rent freeze and the inability to collect back payments.




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3 Million Americans Are Not Paying Their Mortgages Right Now

The number of Americans struggling to pay their mortgages has skyrocketed as the economy reels from the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 3 million Americans behind by at least one month on their mortgage payments in the week ending April 12, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Nearly 6% of all mortgages were in forbearance, the industry term for being behind on payments. The week before, 3.7% of home loans were past due by at least a month. The first week of March, just 0.25% of such loans were past due by a month.

This high a figure on a nationwide level is unprecedented, said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist.



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“You might have seen this high of a share in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, but it was always a local phenomenon,” he said. “What’s different this time is it’s national. To have 6% of mortgage loans in forbeareance, that’s about 3 million homeowners saying they can’t make their mortgage payments due to COVID-19.”

Fratantoni expects that number to keep rising, citing an additional 1.8% of homeowners who called banks to request forbearance last week.

“As we get to the time when May payments are due, I expect to see those numbers going up again,” he said. “We are hopeful that, now that some of the stimulus payents are arriving and unemployment benefits are expanded, that can provide some cushion to keep these numbers from going higher too fast.”

More than 22 million Americans have filed for jobless benefits in the past month, and homeowners are taking advantage of a provision in the CARES Act that bars eviction of homeowners whose mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The law also lets homeowners ask for their payments to be reduced or deferred for 12 months with no penalties.

More than 8.2% of mortgages backed by Ginnie Mae were in forbearance, according to the MBA survey, compared with 4.64% of mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The CARES Act does not protect mortgages that are not backed by the government, which make up about half of all mortgages nationwide.



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Stock Market: U.S. Futures And Global Stocks Fall, Investors Rush To Safe-Haven Assets

“In the U.S., we’re at the beginning of a downturn,” said Steven Englander



U.S. stock futures declined Wednesday, after leading benchmarks closed out their worst quarter since the global financial crisis.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 ticked down 2.6% early Wednesday.

European stocks also declined. The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.9% with Germany’s DAX benchmark down 3.2% and the FTSE 100 down 3.5%.

As investors rushed to safe-haven assets, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell about 0.02 percentage point to 0.661%. Bond yields fall as prices rise. The ICE Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies, rose 0.4%.

“In the U.S., we’re at the beginning of a downturn,” said Steven Englander, global head of G-10 foreign-exchange research and North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank. “We’re likely to see more unemployment, and the early bottom could come in May, but that is very speculative. For that to happen, we need a lot of good luck and serious implementation of economic and health-care policy.”

Mr. Englander said stimulus packages were positive for the economy, and would help American employees get through the next two months but that there might be a need for “trillions more.” On Tuesday, President Trump called for a new infrastructure-focused spending bill worth $2 trillion.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it would launch a temporary lending facility that for the first time would allow foreign central banks to convert their holdings of Treasury securities into dollars, its new bid to alleviate strains in global markets.

Mr. Englander said the program would improve international access to dollar-based funding.

“Investors will take it seriously,” he said.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.6% Tuesday, taking its year-to-date losses to 20%, the biggest quarterly decline since 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.8%. It slid 23% over the quarter, its worst showing since 1987.


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In Asia, markets were mixed Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 4.5% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 2.2% lower. Meanwhile, Australia’s ASX 200 gained 3.6%.

In Hong Kong, shares in HSBC Holdings PLC tumbled more than 9% to their lowest since 2009, while stock in rival Standard Chartered PLC also fell. The two lenders, which also have U.K. listings, were among four banks that said Tuesday they would cancel unpaid 2019 dividends at the Bank of England’s request.






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Stimulus Check Calculator

Congress just passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to address the growing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Included are direct payments to many Americans. Individuals are eligible for up to $1,200 and couples would receive up to $2,400 — plus $500 per child.

But the payments would start phasing out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000. The amount would then be reduced by $5 for every additional $100 of adjusted gross income, and those making more than $99,000 would not receive anything. The income thresholds are doubled for married couples.

Income would generally be based on one’s 2019 or 2018 tax returns.

The money will likely be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts — as long as they’ve already authorized the IRS to send their tax refund that way over the past two years. If not, the IRS would send out checks in the mail.

The White House has said they hope to begin distributing cash quickly, but it may take weeks before the bulk of payments go out.


See how much you’re eligible for here


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Economic Indicators: Consumer Sentiment in U.S. Slumps by Most Since October 2008

U.S. consumer sentiment plummeted in March by the most since October 2008 as mounting Covid-19 cases nationwide and business closures elevated concerns about the economy.

The University of Michigan’s final sentiment index for the month slumped 11.9 points to a three-year low of 89.1, data Friday showed. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a decline to 90 after a preliminary March reading of 95.9.

Ratings for current conditions also decreased by the most since 2008, and a measure of the economic outlook dropped to the lowest level in more than three years. Stocks fell and Treasuries advanced as investors assessed the pandemic’s impact on the economy.





“The outlook for the national economy for the year ahead changed dramatically in March, with the majority now expecting bad times financially in the entire country,” Richard Curtin, director of the Michigan sentiment survey, said in a statement. “Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the largest proportion of consumers in nearly 10 years anticipated that the national unemployment rate will increase in the year ahead.”

The report provides one of the more-sobering pictures yet of how the widespread economic halt, amid efforts to help contain the virus, is impacting consumers’ attitudes. The March figures represent a drastic departure from just a month earlier, when a strong job market and cheap fuel contributed to the second-highest sentiment reading since 2004.

The university’s final survey for the month included responses through March 24, a stretch that includes significant upheaval and uncertainty in day-to-day living and the labor market, as well as in financial markets. A report yesterday showed initial claims for unemployment benefits soared to a record 3.28 million last week.

“Stabilizing confidence at its month’s end level will be difficult given surging unemployment and falling household incomes,” Curtin said. “Mitigating the negative impacts on health and finances may curb rising pessimism, but it will not produce optimism.”

April consumer sentiment data will reflect the surge in dismissals and growing Covid-19 cases, as well as progress on Capitol Hill toward a $2 trillion economic-relief package that includes direct payments to many Americans.



Most notably, the number of confirmed cases nationwide continues to rise. There are currently more than 85,000 with the disease in the U.S., the most in the world, compared with 62 people at the end of February.

The Michigan data showed an index of buying conditions for durable goods dropped in March to the lowest level since 2014.

Year-ahead financial prospects declined across all age and income subgroups, though modestly as respondents anticipated the negative effects from the pandemic would be short-lived.

The impact of the virus on consumer sentiment are likely to become more evident as monthly reports capture the tectonic shift in economic and market conditions seen over the last month. The Conference Board will publish its March confidence reading on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s weekly index fell to a four-month low.





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Coronavirus Shows Cash Is King, Even for Biggest U.S. Companies

The fast-spreading coronavirus has prompted even the biggest U.S. companies to cut their spending and bolster their balance sheets, proving once again how cash is king, especially in times of crisis.

After a decadelong U.S. economic expansion, not every company has entered this crisis with the same cash cushion. Apple Inc. ended the year with $247 billion in cash, securities and account receivables, enough to run its operations for more than a year even if it didn’t cut costs or sell a single iPhone. Discount retailer Dollar General Corp. had $240 million, enough for about four days, in the unlikely event it had to shut its doors and didn’t cut any costs.

Dollar General said its business model generates significant cash flow and has performed well in a variety of economic cycles, and the company can tap lines of credit and good access to the capital markets. Apple declined to comment.


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Technology companies generally operate with more cash on hand than retailers, which often have assets in unsold inventory. The median amount of cash and other readily available assets on an S&P 500 tech company’s books at year-end was enough to let it operate about 270 days in an extreme scenario without revenue or cost cutting, while the median was closer to 60 days for retailers, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

As companies prepare to close their books on a tumultuous first quarter, these measures can reveal how well-prepared they are for the sudden financial stress. Economists expect the crisis to cost the U.S. economy as much as $1.5 trillion in lost output over five years, including a decline in gross domestic product of 4% to 10% in the second quarter, a recent Journal survey of economists found.

“The investor mindset has shifted quickly to the balance sheet,” said Ron Graziano, an accounting and tax analyst at Credit Suisse. Sometimes factors that people don’t follow during a booming market suddenly become important. “The ones going into it with the bigger cushion are better positioned to survive.”

Delta Air Lines Inc. and Ford Motor Co. have stopped paying dividends. Boeing Co. has tapped out its credit lines, while General Electric Co. is cutting jobs. AT&T Inc.,  Intel Corp. INTC  and Chevron Corp. have shelved share buybacks.

In many cases, the crunch on corporate finances comes after years of cheap debt and easy credit that allowed companies to expand while building a $10 trillion mountain of debt. AT&T, following its 2018 takeover of Time Warner, had more than $150 billion in net debt at the end of 2019, though it has pledged to pay down its borrowings.

At the same time, many companies used spare cash to repurchase their own shares. In 2019, companies in the S&P 500 spent an estimated $729 billion on buybacks, second only to the record $806 billion spent in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

President Trump and Democratic lawmakers placed restrictions on share buybacks as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package expected to pass Wednesday to help industries wounded by the pandemic.

Some of the companies that entered this crisis without big cash reserves sent much of the cash they produced from operations to shareholders, as dividends.

“Companies went into this situation with relatively limited cash balances,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “It is rather unfortunate they had lower cash balances and thereby became more vulnerable to this shock we have at the moment.”



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Stock Market News: The U.S. and China Have Agreed to Restart Semi-Annual Talks Aimed at Resolving Economic Disputes


Today’s Stock Market News – Sunday, 12 January, 2020


⇑⇓ Stock Market News Today ⇓⇑ — The United States and China have agreed to restart semi-annual talks aimed at resolving economic disputes between the two countries, a process abandoned at the start of the Trump administration as a trade conflict between the countries escalated.

An official familiar with the deliberations said the resumption of the U.S. China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue will be announced on Jan. 15 as part of the signing of a Phase 1 trade deal between the U.S. and China. The restart of the meetings was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The regular meetings will provide a forum for steady, high-level conversation between the world’s two largest economies separate from the sometimes rocky negotiations over their trade relationship.

The sessions will likely be lead by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. The two sides have been embroiled in a trade war for well over a year, with the use of import tariffs by both sides upending global supply chains and dealing a blow to business confidence.

The twice-yearly Strategic Economic Dialogue began under former President George W. Bush as a way for the world’s two largest economic powers to manage the growing array of issues that arose between them as China’s economy and its exports to the U.S. expanded rapidly in the early 2000s.

It was continued under President Barack Obama and initially by President Donald Trump as well. The first round of what the Trump administration renamed the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue was held in July, 2017.

But the regular sessions, sprawling affairs often criticized as heavy on process and light on tangible outcomes, were abandoned as the Trump administration moved toward a more confrontational approach to China that relied on the use of tariffs to pressure the country into economic concessions.







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Best Stock Market Books {2020}


#1 – The Intelligent Investor. (Revised Edition)

This classic text is annotated to update Graham’s timeless wisdom for today’s market conditions… The greatest investment advisor of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham, taught and inspired people worldwide. Graham’s philosophy of “value investing” — which shields investors from substantial error and teaches them to develop long-term strategies — has made The Intelligent Investor the stock market bible ever since its original publication in 1949.

Over the years, market developments have proven the wisdom of Graham’s strategies. While preserving the integrity of Graham’s original text, this revised edition includes updated commentary by noted financial journalist Jason Zweig, whose perspective incorporates the realities of today’s market, draws parallels between Graham’s examples and today’s financial headlines, and gives readers a more thorough understanding of how to apply Graham’s principles.

Vital and indispensable, this HarperBusiness Essentials edition of The Intelligent Investor is the most important book you will ever read on how to reach your financial goals.



#2 – Stock Investing For Dummies (Business & Personal Finance)

Grow your stock investments in today’s changing environment. Updated with new and revised material to reflect the current market, this new edition of Stock Investing For Dummies gives you proven strategies for selecting and managing profitable investments. no matter what the conditions. You’ll find out how to navigate the new economic landscape and choose the right stock for different situations—with real-world examples that show you how to maximize your portfolio.

The economic and global events affecting stock investors have been dramatic and present new challenges and opportunities for investors and money managers at every level. With the help of this guide, you’ll quickly and easily navigate an ever-changing stock market with plain-English tips and information on ETFs, new rules, exchanges, and investment vehicles, as well as the latest information on the European debt crisis.

Incorporate stocks into your investment portfolio
> Understand and capitalize on current market conditions
> Balance risk and reward
> Explore new investment opportunities
Stock Investing For Dummies is essential reading for anyone looking for trusted, comprehensive guidance to ensure their investments grow.



#3 – Encyclopedia of Chart Patterns

In this revised and expanded second edition of the bestselling Encyclopedia of Chart Patterns, Thomas Bulkowski updates the classic with new performance statistics for both bull and bear markets and 23 new patterns, including a second section devoted to ten event patterns. Bulkowski tells you how to trade the significant events — such as quarterly earnings announcements, retail sales, stock upgrades and downgrades — that shape today?s trading and uses statistics to back up his approach. This comprehensive new edition is a must-have reference if you’re a technical investor or trader. Place your order today.
“The most complete reference to chart patterns available. It goes where no one has gone before. Bulkowski gives hard data on how good and bad the patterns are. A must-read for anyone that’s ever looked at a chart and wondered what was happening.”
— Larry Williams, trader and author of Long-Term Secrets to Short-Term Trading.



#4 – How to Make Money in Stocks

Anyone can learn to invest wisely with this bestselling investment system!… Through every type of market, William J. O’Neil’s national bestseller, How to Make Money in Stocks, has shown over 2 million investors the secrets to building wealth. O’Neil’s powerful CAN SLIM® Investing System―a proven 7-step process for minimizing risk and maximizing gains―has influenced generations of investors.

Based on a major study of market winners from 1880 to 2009, this expanded edition gives you:

>Proven techniques for finding winning stocks before they make big price gains
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>100 new charts to help you spot today’s most profitable trends
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“I dedicated the 2004 Stock Trader’s Almanac to Bill O’Neil: ‘His foresight, innovation, and disciplined approach to stock market investing will influence investors and traders for generations to come.’”
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“How to Make Money in Stocks is a classic. Any investor serious about making money in the market ought to read it.”
―Larry Kudlow, host, CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report”.



#5 – How to Day Trade for a Living

Very few careers can offer you the freedom, flexibility and income that day trading does. As a day trader, you can live and work anywhere in the world. You can decide when to work and when not to work. You only answer to yourself. That is the life of the successful day trader. Many people aspire to it, but very few succeed. Day trading is not gambling or an online poker game. To be successful at day trading you need the right tools and you need to be motivated, to work hard, and to persevere… This book is definitely NOT a difficult, technical, hard to understand, complicated and complex guide to the stock market. It’s concise. It’s practical. It’s written for everyone. You can learn how to beat Wall Street at its own game.







 

US MARKETS: Dow Set To Gain 100 Points At The Open


◊ U.S. Market Futures Today ◊


StockMarketNews.TodayU.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Friday as optimism continues to drive year-end rally. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 96 points, pointing to a higher start of about 105 points. Futures on Nasdaq and S&P 500 traded higher too. The major averages are set to hit new all-time highs.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq topped the 9,000 mark for the first time Thursday, lifted by a jump in Amazon shares on a record holiday shopping season. The S&P 500, up already 29.2% in 2019, is inches away from reaching historic proportions. The benchmark will post its best year since 1997 if it ends this year up more than 29.6%.

News flow remains relatively quiet, but stocks are extending their melt-up price action into the final days of 2019,” Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge, said in a note on Friday.

Investors are embracing riskier assets ever since the U.S. and China announced they have reached a phase one trade agreement earlier this month. The two sides are in the middle of translating and formalizing the deal. President Donald Trump said Tuesday there will ultimately be a signing ceremony with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, adding a quicker signing will happen soon.

Data overnight showed a solid rebound for industrial profits in China, further boosting sentiment.

Friday marks day three of the so-called Santa Claus rally period, which is historically beneficial for stocks. Since 1950, the S&P 500 has rallied an average of 1.3% during the final five trading days of the year and the first two sessions of the new year, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

No economic data and earnings are scheduled for Friday.




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Best Stock Market Books For Beginners {2020}


#1 – The Intelligent Investor. (Revised Edition)

This classic text is annotated to update Graham’s timeless wisdom for today’s market conditions… The greatest investment advisor of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham, taught and inspired people worldwide. Graham’s philosophy of “value investing” — which shields investors from substantial error and teaches them to develop long-term strategies — has made The Intelligent Investor the stock market bible ever since its original publication in 1949.

Over the years, market developments have proven the wisdom of Graham’s strategies. While preserving the integrity of Graham’s original text, this revised edition includes updated commentary by noted financial journalist Jason Zweig, whose perspective incorporates the realities of today’s market, draws parallels between Graham’s examples and today’s financial headlines, and gives readers a more thorough understanding of how to apply Graham’s principles.

Vital and indispensable, this HarperBusiness Essentials edition of The Intelligent Investor is the most important book you will ever read on how to reach your financial goals.



#2 – Stock Investing For Dummies (Business & Personal Finance)

Grow your stock investments in today’s changing environment. Updated with new and revised material to reflect the current market, this new edition of Stock Investing For Dummies gives you proven strategies for selecting and managing profitable investments. no matter what the conditions. You’ll find out how to navigate the new economic landscape and choose the right stock for different situations—with real-world examples that show you how to maximize your portfolio.

The economic and global events affecting stock investors have been dramatic and present new challenges and opportunities for investors and money managers at every level. With the help of this guide, you’ll quickly and easily navigate an ever-changing stock market with plain-English tips and information on ETFs, new rules, exchanges, and investment vehicles, as well as the latest information on the European debt crisis.

Incorporate stocks into your investment portfolio
> Understand and capitalize on current market conditions
> Balance risk and reward
> Explore new investment opportunities
Stock Investing For Dummies is essential reading for anyone looking for trusted, comprehensive guidance to ensure their investments grow.



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Solid Economic Data


⇑⇓ Today’s Stock Market Quotes ⇓⇑


Investors pushed up the value of risk assets on the assumption that the American economy isn’t close to signaling a recession. Stocks rallied as strong jobs and consumer sentiment reports bolstered confidence in the world’s largest economy. Treasuries fell.

The S&P 500 extended gains into a third day after data showed payrolls climbed 266,000 — the most since January — as wages topped estimates and consumer sentiment increased to a seven-month high. Treasury 10-Year yields rose above 1.8%. The dollar and oil advanced.

Investors pushed up the value of risk assets on the assumption that the American economy isn’t close to signaling a recession — a fear that has confronted investors amid an ongoing trade war. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow says the U.S. and China are “still close” to reaching a phase-one trade agreement.

“The much stronger-than-expected 266,000 jobs created in November helps bolster hopes for a pick-up in global growth,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell. “It’s also a well-timed shot in the arm for investor confidence given ongoing U.S.-China trade uncertainty.”

A strong jobs report could reduce the urgency for a deal, given that escalating levies have failed to significantly dent growth. But it could also validate Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s view that rates can stay on hold following three cuts.

Earlier Friday, equities rose after China said it’s in the process of waiving retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. pork and soy by domestic companies — a procedural step that may also signal a broader trade agreement with the U.S. is drawing closer.

Elsewhere, oil climbed after Saudi Arabia surprised the market by promising significant additional production cuts beyond what was agreed with fellow OPEC+ members. Th euro fell after Germany’s industrial slump unexpectedly deepened in October amid a steep decline in investment goods.




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Investors Bet on Volatility Comeback in 2020


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A better-than-feared corporate earnings season and swinging sentiment on U.S. and China trade talks have helped lift stocks to fresh records in recent weeks, pushing volatility lower. A number of factors make next year’s outlook rockier, leading some investors to pay up for hedges that would protect against a downturn well into 2020, according to Wells Fargo Securities.

“It could be the market pricing in a ’Phase 1 trade deal’ event (either the signing of, or postponement/cancellation of) at some uncertain point in the near future, or it could be the residual memory of the Q4 selloff last year,” wrote Pravit Chintawongvanich, an equity derivatives strategist at the firm in a note Friday.

Markets were calm until late last year, before spiraling into a selloff that dragged the S&P 500 into negative territory for the year.

The sentiment is evident in an options measure called skew, which gauges how expensive it is to buy bearish put options versus bullish call options expiring six months from now. The measure is near its highest level of the past five years, the firm said.


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Put options give the right to sell shares at a specific price, later in time. Calls give the right to buy stock at a designated price. “The market also seems to think things will pick up in the new year,” wrote Mr. Chintawongvanich.

The higher volatility would be a sharp shift. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished unchanged for only the third time since 2000 last week. The Cboe Volatility Index, an options-based measure of market swings, hit the lowest level since April this month.


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Warning Sign For The US Economy – Personal Loans Are Growing Like A Weed

Personal loans are up more than 10 percent from a year ago, according to data from Equifax, a rapid pace of growth that has not been seen on a sustained basis since shortly before the Great Recession. All three of the major consumer credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — report double-digit growth in this market in recent months.

Experts are surprised to see millions of Americans taking on so much personal loan debt at a time when the economy looks healthy and paychecks are growing for many workers, raising questions about why so many people are seeking an extra infusion of cash.


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“Definitely yellow flares should be starting to go off,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which monitors consumer credit. “There’s an old adage in banking: If it’s growing like a weed, it probably is a weed.”

Personal loans are unsecured debt, meaning there is no underlying asset like a home or car that backs the loan if someone cannot repay. The average personal loan balance is $16,259, according to Experian, a level that is similar to credit card debt.

Personal loan balances over $30,000 have jumped 15 percent in the past five years, Experian found. The trend comes as U.S. consumer debt has reached record levels, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The rapid growth in personal loans in recent years has coincided with a FinTech explosion of apps and websites that have made obtaining these loans an easy process that can be done from the comfort of one’s living room. FinTech companies account for nearly 40 percent of personal loan balances, up from just 5 percent in 2013, according to TransUnion.

More than 20 million Americans have these unsecured loans, TransUnion found, double the number of people that had this type of debt in 2012. “You can get these loans very quickly and with a very smooth, sleek experience online,” said Liz Pagel, senior vice president of consumer lending at TransUnion. “We haven’t seen major changes like this in the financial services landscape very often.”

Total outstanding personal loan debt stood at $115 billion in October, according to Equifax, much smaller than the auto loan market ($1.3 trillion) or credit cards ($880 billion). Economists who watch this debt closely say personal loans are still too small to rock the entire financial system in the way $10 trillion worth of home loans did during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

But personal loan debt is back at levels not far from the January 2008 peak, and most of the FinTech companies issuing this debt weren’t around during the last crisis, meaning they haven’t been tested in a downturn.



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“The finance industry is always trying to convince us that there are few risks to borrowing and overleveraging is not a problem,” said Christopher Peterson, a University of Utah law professor and former special adviser to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Overleveraging yourself is risky for individuals and for our country.”

The U.S. economy is powered by consumer spending, and debt helps fuel some of the purchases. Economists are watching closely for signs that Americans are struggling to pay their bills, and personal loans could be one of them.

The most common recipient of a personal loan is someone with a “near prime” credit score of 620 to 699, a level that indicates they have had some difficulty making payments in the past. “The bulk of the industry is really in your mid-600s to high 600s. That’s kind of a sweet spot for FinTech lenders,” said Michael Funderburk, general manager of personal loans at LendingTree.

Funderburk says they see a lot of consumers who are employed “doing perfectly fine” with their finances, but something unexpected happens such as job loss or a medical emergency and they end up missing a bill or accumulating more debt than they wanted.

The vast majority of customers go to FinTech providers such as SoFi, LendingTree, Lending Club and Marcus by Goldman Sachs for debt consolidation, the lenders say. People run up debt on multiple credit cards or have a medical bill and credit card debt and they are trying to make the payments more manageable. Some seek a lower monthly payment, similar to refinancing a mortgage. Others want to pay off the debt in three years to clean up their credit score.

FinTechs say they are helping people make smarter financial choices. While a credit card allows people to keep borrowing as long as they are under the credit limit, a personal loan is for a fixed amount and must be paid off over a fixed period, generally three or five years. Some online lenders allow people to shop around for the best rate, and most of the main players cap the interest rate at 36 percent to ensure they are not offering any payday loan products.

But there is concern that some Americans get personal loans to tide them over and then continue to take on more credit card or other debt.

Credit card debt has continued to rise alongside personal loans, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. TransUnion has recently noticed an uptick in retailers offering personal loans when someone comes to the cashier to buy furniture or holiday toys.

“I have mixed feelings about personal loans. They are superior to credit cards because the payments are fixed,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center. “The problem is many people still have their credit card and end up running up their credit card again, so they end up in a worse situation with credit card debt and installment loans on top of it.”



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Saunders also notes these loans are mainly regulated by state law, and the rules and watchdog capabilities vary widely by state. FinTechs say they are using technology to deliver a better deal. One of their big innovations is giving people who take out personal loans a discount if they transfer the cash they get from the loan directly to pay off their bills instead of sending it to their bank account first.

“This has been one of the most successful products we have ever launched. People are trying to do the right thing and they’re getting offered a lower rate if they do balance transfer and direct deposit,” said Anuj Nayar, a financial health officer at LendingClub, a peer-to-peer lender that offers personal loans up to $40,000.

Despite the rapid growth in personal loans lately, borrowers appear to be able to pay back the debt. The delinquency rate for personal loans is 4.5 percent, according to Equifax, a low level by historical standards and well below the 8.4 percent delinquency rate in January 2008.

But as the number of Americans with one of these loans grows, so does the potential for pain if the unemployment rate ticks up and more people find themselves strapped for short-term cash.




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The U.S. Government Ended Fiscal Year 2019 With The Largest Budget Deficit in Seven Years


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It is the first time since the early 1980s that the budget gap has widened over four consecutive years. The figures reflect the second full budget year under U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, and come at a time when the country has an expanding tax base with moderate economic growth and an unemployment rate currently near a 50-year low.

The U.S. budget deficit widened to $984 billion, which was 4.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The previous fiscal year deficit was $779 billion, with a deficit-to-GDP-ratio of 3.8%. Total receipts increased by 4% to $3.5 trillion but outlays rose by 8.2% to $4.4 trillion.


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Americans from all walks of life are flourishing again thanks to pro-growth policies enacted by this administration,” Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought said in a statement accompanying the figures.

The deficit reached a peak of $1.4 trillion in 2009 as the Obama administration and Congress took emergency measures to shore up the nation’s banking system during the global financial crisis and provide stimulus to an economy in recession.

The annual budget deficit had been reduced to $585 billion by the end of former President Barack Obama’s second term in 2016 and Republicans in Congress during that time criticized Obama, a Democrat, for not reducing it further.

Since then, the budget deficit has jumped due in part to the Republican’s overhaul of the tax system, which in the short term reduced revenues, and an increase in military spending. By the end of fiscal 2019, corporate tax payments were up 5%. Customs duties, which have been boosted by the Trump administration’s levying of tariffs on China and others, were up 70% year-on-year to a record high.



GROWING DEFICITS… “This is an administration that came in talking about reducing the deficit and over their term in office, they’ve quite frankly been increasing,” said Bill Hoagland, Senior Vice President at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “We normally reduce deficits in times of growth.”

The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 but activity is slowing as the stimulus from the $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades and the prolonged U.S-China trade war weighs on business investment.

There was higher spending on defense, healthcare and social security programs, the data showed. The United States has an ageing population and economists have warned that the cost of mandatory spending on Social Security and Medicare as well as federal retirement programs for the elderly will be fiscally unsustainable.

Earlier this year the U.S. Congress passed a two-year budget deal backed by Trump that would increase federal spending on defense and other domestic programs. Some of the widening of the deficit came from more spending on interest payments on the national debt. Borrowing has increased over the past year.


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For September, the U.S. government recorded an $83 billion surplus, a 31% drop from the same month last year. When accounting for calendar adjustments, the surplus last month was $17 billion compared with an adjusted surplus of $51 billion the previous year. For the fiscal year, the adjusted deficit was $1 trillion.

Outlays were $291 billion in September, up 30% from the same month a year earlier while receipts totaled $374 billion, an increase of 9% from the year-ago month.




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Strong Economy??? … Why Are So Many Workers on Strike?

How strong is the us economy today?… Even as the economy rides a 10-year winning streak, tens of thousands of workers across the country, from General Motors employees to teachers in Chicago, are striking to win better wages and benefits. But, according to those on strike, the strong growth is precisely the point. Autoworkers, teachers and other workers accepted austerity when the economy was in a free fall, expecting to share in the gains once the recovery took hold.


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Increasingly, however, many of those workers believe that they fell for a sucker’s bet, having watched their employers grow flush while their own incomes barely budged. Corporate profits are near a record high, up nearly 30 percent since the pre-recession peak in 2006. During the same time, the income of the typical household has increased by less than 4 percent. Some workers are responding with measures like strikes partly as a result.

“That was the understanding — that if we gave up the concessions back in 2007 and 2009, that once G.M. got back on their feet, we would slowly get those things back,” said Tammy Daggy, who worked at the now-idled G.M. plant in Lordstown, Ohio, for nearly 25 years. But on many issues, “we never did.” To an extent, the pattern of strikes reflects a recurring feature of the labor market: Workers typically become bolder the longer an expansion continues, using the leverage they have when jobs are harder to fill to demand greater compensation. This was particularly true during the three decades after World War II, according to a survey of research by Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Overall strike activity has fallen sharply since the 1970s, as the ranks of unions have been depleted, dropping to about 10 percent of the work force from over 25 percent. Employers have also responded more aggressively — for example, by permanently replacing striking employees. Now, though, workers appear increasingly willing to walk off the job. Last year, the number of workers who participated in significant strikes soared to nearly 500,000, its highest point since the mid-1980s, while the total duration of such strikes reached a 15-year high.

The backdrop for this trend is a rising gap between the money employers are making and the portion they’re sharing with workers. The share of the national income that workers receive fell in the early 2000s to its lowest level since World War II according to some measures, then collapsed further in 2009. It has yet to recover. That may be partly because the labor market is weaker than the picture painted by the official unemployment rate of 3.5 percent. That rate measures only the number of out-of-work Americans who say they are looking for jobs. It excludes Americans in their prime working years who are not actively looking for work but, given the opportunity, might choose to re-enter the work force.

According to Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the group who could quickly re-enter the work force is potentially large, and may help employers avoid bidding up wages to lure those who are currently employed. “We still don’t know how much shadow labor is out there,” Mr. Kashkari said in an interview on Thursday. But regardless of the strength of the labor market, in recent decades employers have amassed more power to hold wages down.

“In the late 1990s, it seemed like maybe a hot economy was sufficient” to substantially raise workers’ incomes and narrow inequality, said Jason Furman, who led the White House Council of Economic Advisers during President Barack Obama’s second term. But a seriesofreports that Mr. Furman’s council released in 2016 documented changes that have allowed employers to pocket more of the gains from growth. Those changes include noncompete clauses in employment contracts and even outright collusion, in which companies explicitly agree not to hire workers away from one another or to offer identical wages.

Employers argue that they need additional flexibility with their work force as they contend with global competition and technological changes. Scholars say there was an element of economic opportunism behind the strikes of the 1950s and ’60s, as unions exploited their bargaining power in tight labor markets. But workers say today’s strikes are fueled by a deeper sense of unfairness and economic anxiety. This past week, for example, unions representing about 2,000 workers at copper mines and smelters in Arizona and Texas went on strike, saying their members had not received raises for a decade.

“It’s about: ‘O.K., the government is not going to take care of us. Business is not going to take care of us. We’ve got to take care of ourselves,’” said D. Taylor, president of the hospitality workers union, UNITE HERE, which has had thousands of members strike in the past two years, including at Marriott International. “It’s been bubbling up for some time. Now it’s come up to the surface.” In the airline industry, workers who made numerous concessions amid a wave of post-9/11 corporate restructurings complain that they continue to struggle under austerity even as the airlines post outsize profits.


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“They got all these employees to agree to terms within the shadow of bankruptcy court, then they created these megamergers and are making billions,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

While airline workers, unlike most private-sector workers, must receive permission from the government before they can strike, they have repeatedly demonstrated their anger. Thousands of airline catering workers, many of whom make under $12 per hour, voted to strike this year, pending the assent of a federal mediation board. Airline mechanics, including at Southwest Airlines, have won raises after effectively gumming up the operations of their employers: The mechanics significantly increased the number of low-grade maintenance problems they identified, leading to widespread flight delays and cancellations. (The mechanics denied that this was their intention.)

Teachers have expressed frustration that their districts were slow to reverse the spending cuts that followed the economic crisis a decade ago, even as state and local budgets have recovered. “When the recession hit, teachers kind of buckled down. We said: ‘We get it. Everybody has got to pull their weight,’” said Noah Karvelis, who helped organize last year’s teacher walkouts in Arizona that forced lawmakers to raise teacher salaries and partially restore education funding. “But 10 years later, the state’s economy is back, we’re doing really well, and still the cuts are there. It was a huge, huge thing for us.”

In Chicago, teachers who went on strike on Thursday are demanding that local officials devote more of a recent billion-dollar cash infusion from the state to raises. They point out that teaching assistants’ pay starts at around $30,000 a year but they are required by law to live in the high-cost city. And veteran teachers often leave the district during the several years in which they only receive cost-of-living increases. The teachers also want the district to hire more school nurses and librarians, who are in short supply across Chicago.

“In Chicago, the citizenry during the austerity talks believed it,” said Michelle Gunderson, a first-grade teacher on the union’s bargaining committee, referring to the lean contract negotiated in 2016. “At that time, we had a Republican governor who wasn’t funding our schools. But now an infusion of money has come in that has not made it to the classroom.” The school district has noted that $700 million of that money went directly to teacher pensions, and that the rest kept the district solvent. The district has proposed raising salaries 16 percent over five years and substantially increasing the number of nurses.

For its part, while G.M. has made $35 billion in profits in North America over the past three years, sales appear to be slowing in the United States and China. Domestic automakers also say they are under pressure from foreign rivals, which have lower labor costs in nonunion factories in the South, and to invest in developing electric vehicles.

That is one reason G.M. sought to preserve a so-called two-tiered wage scale introduced amid the company’s struggles over a decade ago, in which workers hired after 2007 make up to 45 percent less than the $31 an hour that veteran workers currently earn. The company also relies on a cadre of temporary workers who earn even less. As part of the tentative deal the company reached with the United Automobile Workers, G.M. appears to have agreed to a path for temps to become permanent workers, and to alter its tiered wage scale. Workers will vote on the agreement over the next several days, and a result is expected on Friday.

Some workers are skeptical that the union made sufficient progress on these questions, and on the extent to which G.M. can continue to shift production to Mexico, which has imperiled jobs in the United States. Selina Estrada, 32, who assembles doors at the G.M. plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., said she feared the company would prevent temporary workers from attaining permanent status by laying off those workers before they had achieved the required three years of “continuous service.”


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“They’ll keep turning them around and laying them off right before their three years,” she said. “It’s never going to happen.”







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Dow Jumps More Than 400 Points

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Dow was up more than 400 points, while the S&P 500 rose 1.5% and the Nasdaq jumped 1.7%. The gains put the Dow and S&P 500 on track to snap a three-week losing streak. Big tech shares such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet all gained more than 1%. Bank stocks also gained steam as Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase rose more than 1.5% each.

Chipmakers rose broadly. Micron Technology gained more than 2% along with Xilinx. President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that talks between the two countries were going “really well.” His comments came after he tweeted that he would meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House on Friday. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 2:45 p.m. ET.


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Trump’s comments were followed by China’s securities regulator announcing a timetable to remove a requirement that foreign financial companies must have a Chinese investor. Meanwhile, a White House official told Reuters that Thursday’s talks went well, “probably better than expected.” The New York Times also reported the two sides could announce a deal that would avoid raising tariffs on Chinese goods.

The U.S.-China trade war has dragged on for more than a year. In that time, the U.S. has targeted billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods with tariffs. China has retaliated with levies of its own, sparking fears of slower global economic growth and weaker corporate earnings.


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“While markets are reacting positively to the likelihood of a limited U.S.-China trade deal … it’s critical to remember that all existing tariffs are expected to remain in place,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell. “Until we get a deal that ends existing tariffs, 2020 earnings visibility will remain murky, especially in light of the ongoing weakness in the global growth outlook.”

On the data front, consumer sentiment figures for October are set for release at 10 a.m. ET.




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Federal Deficit For 2019 is Estimated at $984 Billion

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StockMarketNews.Today — The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday.


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The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis.The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent.

The CBO has warned that the nation’s debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.

Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.


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“Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks.

“This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse,” he added. The final Treasury Department figures for the fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, will be published later this month and could include worse news.


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Previous Treasury estimates projected the deficit for the year surpassing $1 trillion.




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U.S. Economy: The Economic Slowdown Will Only Get Worse

StockMarketNews.Today — The U.S. economy got off to a rough start this month, with various data pointing at a slowdown. Now economists are saying this trend will only get worse.


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The National Association for Business Economics said in a survey released Monday that US GDP growth next year will drop below 2% for the first time since 2016. In the previous survey, the consensus expectation for next year was 2.1% — now it has dropped to 1.8%. Although the 54 economists surveyed don’t yet expect a recession, the dour forecast is the latest example that a slowdown is no longer merely an expectation. It’s here now, and it’s likely to stay.

Last week, an Institute for Supply Management report found the manufacturing sector contracted for the second straight month in September. One index measured the industry’s monthly growth at its lowest since June 2009. The services sector, too, unexpectedly slowed. A mixed jobs report on Friday left investors wondering whether the Federal Reserve will step up again to stimulate growth later this month.



When put in perspective, however, the economy is not in bad shape.

For example, fewer jobs than expected were added in September, but America is near full employment. It makes sense that job growth is slowing: With the unemployment rate at 3.5%, its lowest since December 1969, there are not enough people available to fill open positions.

The economy is really still “in a good place,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday. It certainly is. This is the longest expansion of the US economy on record, and it’s still going — just at a slower pace.


 


The Fed has raised interest rates twice so far this year to keep growth going. But expectations for monetary policy in the remainder of 2019, are all over the place. The NABE economists are split, with 40% anticipating another rate cut this year. Three-quarters of them expect a rate cut by the end of 2020.

By comparison, market expectations call for a 78% chance of a quarter percentage point cut this month, and a nearly 90% chance for a decrease in December, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.But rate cut or not, the trade war remains a real risk to the economy.

“The rise in protectionism, pervasive trade policy uncertainty, and slower global growth are considered key downside risks,” said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics and survey chair for NABE.


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The uncertainty the US-China trade war poses for overall growth and individual sectors like manufacturing, which rely on both global demand and materials from abroad, is tremendous.

Financial markets have been getting slapped around by headlines all year, with stocks rallying at slightest signs of hope for a trade deal and then dropping with the next escalation. If the trade war were out of the way, the outlook for the economy could look very different.




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Dow Jumps 250 Points After Steady Jobs Report

® StockMarketNews.Today ® — U.S. stocks rose on Friday as moderate jobs growth in September offered some relief from a spate of dismal economic data this week that has rankled markets and fueled concerns that the United States was sliding into a recession. September jobs numbers are likely to keep open the prospect that the Federal Reserve considers another interest-rate cut this month.

The U.S. jobs report—which showed a gain of 136,000 positions and unemployment falling to 3.5%—does little to alter a debate over whether the Fed should lower its benchmark rate at its Oct. 29-30 meeting. The report showed the U.S. economy has retained resilience amid a broader global slowdown. But recent surveys of manufacturing and service-sector activity have hinted at future weakness. Friday’s jobs report should quiet those fears for the moment.

Fed officials have been mum so far about plans for the October meeting, neither explicitly signaling a rate cut nor pushing back strongly on rising expectations from investors. Recent data disappointments indicate a global growth slowdown, amplified by uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade war, may be taking a greater toll on economic activity, consumer confidence and business investment. All of this has led investors in recent days to anticipate another rate cut later this month.

Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida didn’t expressly support or reject those expectations at an appearance Thursday evening hosted by The Wall Street Journal. “I do think the economy is in a good place,” he said. Mr. Clarida said he was very happy that the Fed had recently lowered its policy rate because “that put us in the place we need to be.”

He offered less about future decisions. “We are not on a preset course,” he said, adding that officials “will act as appropriate” to sustain recent growth. The jobs data did little to change market expectations about the Fed’s interest-rate plans. Trading in futures markets showed investors placed a roughly 80% probability on Friday morning of another rate cut this month, down from 90% on Thursday but up from 50% one week ago, according to CME Group.

Fed officials were divided at July and September meetings over whether lower interest rates were warranted. A solid majority of officials, led by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, argued that steps to lower borrowing costs would help support an economy facing a global slowdown and increased risks.

Mr. Powell has argued that the costs of taking out an insurance policy against a sharper-than-anticipated slowdown are low at a time when inflation pressures have been tepid. Other colleagues have said that waiting for signs of a sharper deceleration in hiring is risky, saying that by the time labor markets weaken it may be too late for the Fed to stop a downturn.

“The idea that if you see trouble approaching on the horizon, you steer away from it if you can, I think that’s a good idea in principle,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference last month. “Applying that principle in a particular situation is where the challenge comes,” he said.


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Several colleagues on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee have resisted rate cuts. They say that despite rising risks to growth and a slowdown in manufacturing and businesses’ investment, the rest of the economy is strong enough to motor through. These critics have warned that cutting rates without stronger evidence of a slowdown could spur financial bubbles or waste ammunition needed to fight a downturn should it arrive.

Friday’s employment report provides grist for both camps. Wage growth slowed in September, indicating a possible decrease in demand for new labor. Hourly wages rose 2.9% for the 12-month period ended September, down from 3.2% in August and 3.4% in February.

The growth in average weekly earnings also cooled. Weekly wages rose 2.6% over the year ended September, the smallest gain in nearly two years and down from a recent high of 3.6% last October. Slower earnings growth should tamp down worries about rising inflation.


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Still, hiring has been strong enough in recent months to lower the unemployment rate, a sign of steady demand for labor. On average, employers have added nearly 157,000 jobs a month over the past three months, down from 189,000 for the year-earlier period. And the share of people 25-to-54 years old who are employed rose to their highest level since March 2007.




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U.S. Futures Down Ahead of Payrolls

StockMarketNews.TodayU.S. stocks were indicated to open lower Friday, as the market braced for a downbeat monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hiring in the U.S. economy is expected to have increased by a net 140,000 in September, up from 130,000 in August but still running at a clip well below that seen in recent years. Fears of a weaker number have risen after surveys of both manufacturing and services industries showed activity to have slowed sharply last month, with direct negative impacts on hiring. The numbers are due at 8:30 AM ET (12:30 GMT).

By 7 AM ET (11:00 GMT), Dow futures were down 94 points, or 0.4%, while the S&P 500 futures contracts was down 12 points, likewise a drop of 0.4%. Nasdaq 100 Futures were down in line with their old-economy counterparties.

This week’s data have forced market participants to drastically rethink the outlook for monetary policy, with many pricing in additional rate cuts from the Federal Reserve. Chairman Jerome Powell has repeatedly said that he’ll “act as appropriate” to sustain the economy and keep a long expansion on its legs. Powell is due to speak later at 2 PM ET (18:00 GMT).

“If jobs growth can remain robust, this may reassure markets on the growth outlook and could cause Powell to defer further easing until the December meeting,” said Mark Dowding, chief investment officer at BlueBay Asset Management, in a note to subscribers. “However, any suggestion that the slowdown in manufacturing and business investment is causing hiring to slow and businesses to shed jobs could be a clear catalyst for additional action on the monetary policy front.”

Among individual stocks, Apple is set for a strong opening after a Japanese newspaper report that it’s planning to increase iPhone 11 production by around 10%, as its decision to cut the new model’s price underpins demand. The company hasn’t confirmed the report but CEO Tim Cook said separately in an interview with France’s Les Echos that he expects a big upgrade cycle in smartphones.



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HP Inc is set for a more mixed opening after saying it will cut up to 9,000 jobs – 16% of its workforce – to shore up profitability. The maker of laptop computers, printers and other hardware is also expanding its buyback program and raising its dividend. The company’s shares fell 5.9% in after-hours trading.

Elsewhere, Crude oil futures drifted sideways, rising 0.1% to $52.49 a barrel, while gold futures also edged higher to $1,514.95 on expectations of lower interest rates. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six developed-market currencies, inched down 0.1% on the same factors to 98.475.




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29% of Americans are Considered {Lower Class}


StockMarketNews.Today — American Lower Class ♦


Nearly one-third of American households, 29%, live in “lower class” households, the Pew Research Center finds in a 2018 report. The median income of that group was $25,624 in 2016.

Pew defines the lower class as adults whose annual household income is less than two-thirds the national median. That’s after incomes have been adjusted for household size, since smaller households require less money to support the same lifestyle as larger ones.



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The share of U.S. adults considered lower class varies depending on where you live, Pew notes: “The metropolitan areas with the largest shares of lower-income adults are located primarily in the Southwest.” The metro with the highest share is Laredo, Texas, where almost half of households (49%) are considered lower class.

More than half of American households, 52%, are considered middle class, Pew reports, while 19% are upper class. The median income of middle class households was $78,442 in 2016. For upper income households, it was $187,872.

According to the report, “the wealth gaps between upper-income families and lower- and middle-income families in 2016 were at the highest levels recorded.” The widening gap is “the continuation of a decades-long trend,” Pew adds: In 1970, when it first analyzed income data in America, the median income of upper-income households was 6.3 times that of lower-income households. That ratio increased to 7.3 in 2016.

More recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that the gap between the rich and the poor has grown since 2016 and hit a new record in 2018.


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Billionaires like Ray Dalio and Bill Gates have weighed in on growing income inequality in the U.S. Dalio called it a “national emergency” earlier this year — and has called for higher taxes on the rich, like himself, to use toward things like public education and infrastructure.

“One way or another, the important thing is to take those tax dollars and make them productive,” he said on an episode of “60 Minutes.”

Self-made billionaire and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates would also like to see higher taxes levied on the top earners. “I think you can make the tax system take a much higher portion from people with great wealth,” he said during an appearance on “The Late Show” with his wife, Melinda, in February 2019.

I think you can make the tax system take a much higher portion from people with great wealth.—Bill Gates

For practical reasons, Bill and Melinda Gates don’t want lawmakers to get bogged down in arguments about the top marginal rate, which is currently 37%. “If you focus on that, you’re missing the picture,” Bill said in an interview with The Verge.

“In terms of revenue collection, you wouldn’t want to just focus on the ordinary income rate, because people who are wealthy have a rounding error of ordinary income,” he said. “They have income that just is the value of their stock, which if they don’t sell it, it doesn’t show up as income at all. Or if it shows up, it shows over in the capital gains side.”

Instead, he suggested the government should be more progressive with “the estate tax and the tax on capital. … We can be more progressive without really threatening income generation.”

During a conversation with hundreds of high school students in New York City earlier this year, the couple specifically spoke out about the estate tax, which is levied on assets passed from one person to another, often from parent to child, at the time of death. Currently, it only applies to those who inherit estates worth more than $11.4 million.


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If you’re going to give money to your children, “you should be taxed at a very high rate for passing that on,” said Melinda, “so that a lot of it goes to the government and some goes to your kids.”

Bill chimed in: “You can go a long ways raising the estate tax, raising the capital gains tax and collecting more resources for the equity things we want government to be able to do.”




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Trade War News: China Waives Tariffs on Some US Goods for First Time


♦ Trade War Latest News — Stock Market News Today ♦


China just waived import tariffs on more than a dozen US goods. It’s the first time Beijing has issued such exemptions since the US-China trade war began.


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The Chinese government issued tariff exemptions on 16 products, including shrimp, fish meal and cancer treatment drugs. Chinese importers can apply for a refund of tariffs already levied on 12 of the products. Four products, including whey, are eligible for the exemption but not for refunds.

The exemptions will start Sept. 17 and last for a year. The move is notable because it comes ahead of the next round of face-to-face talks between US and Chinese officials in Washington. But analysts pointed out that the exemption list didn’t include major goods subject to tariffs, like soybeans or meat.

Chinese tariffs that really matter are the ones on US agricultural and manufacturing goods, produced mainly in states with strong support for [President] Donald Trump,” said Artur Baluszynski, the head of research at Henderson Rowe. “We just don’t see China willing to negotiate on them before the race for US presidential elections really kicks off.”

Iris Pang, economist for Greater China at ING, added that while the exemptions could be seen as a “gesture of sincerity,” they are “probably more a means of supporting the economy.”


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The trade war is weighing on the Chinese economy, which is suffering a major slump in growth. And tariffs have only been getting more severe lately. The United States has levied tariffs on Chinese goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Beijing has retaliated with its own tariffs that target more than 5,000 US products. Some of those have already taken effect, while others are expected to take effect in the coming weeks.

China’s State Council Tariff Commission, which made Wednesday’s announcement, said it will continue to review exemption requests and announce new lists in the future.

Beijing is also finding other ways to offset the pain brought on by tariffs, including diversifying its sources of agricultural imports. On Tuesday, Argentina’s agricultural ministry announced that China would allow the import of soybean meal from that country. Soybean meal is Argentina’s largest export product.

Soybean farmers in the United States have been hit particularly hard by the trade war. China was their biggest market before the outbreak of hostilities and buys a majority of the world’s soybean production.

If China doesn’t resume purchases of US soybeans this year, then Argentina is capable of filling the gap in demand, according to Tian Yaxiong and Shi Lihong, analysts at China Futures, a brokerage firm based in Chongqing.


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Argentina isn’t the only South American country that China’s soybean industry is turning to because of the trade war — Chinese farmers have also stepped up imports from its neighbor, Brazil.






Trade War – As U.S. and China Squabble, Australia Seizes Trade Opportunities




Trade War: China & U.S. to Hold Trade Talks in October




Stock Market News: Stocks Climb to Near Records … But Memories of 2018 Leave Investors Uneasy




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Stock Market Today: U.S. Stock Futures Point Sharply Lower

U.S. stock futures pointed to a sharply lower open on Tuesday as concerns over the latest escalation in the U.S.-China trade war drove investors into safe haven assets. The blue-chip Dow futures shed 203 points, or 0.7% by 6:52 AM ET (10:52 GMT), S&P 500 futures were down 21 points, or 0.7%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures was down 6 points, or 0.8%.


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The declines came as U.S. markets prepared to reopen after the long Labor Day weekend.

The U.S. on Sunday began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods. Meanwhile, China began imposing new duties on U.S. imports including crude oil, and on Monday filed a formal complaint over the U.S. tariffs at the World Trade Organization.

Although U.S. President Donald Trump has said both sides would still meet for talks later this month, there was no agreement over the weekend on the timing. Investors were looking ahead to the ISM manufacturing survey, due at 10 AM ET (14:00 GMT).

Last month’s index reading of 51.2 was the lowest since Trump was elected in 2016. Analysts expect it to inch down to 51.1, still just above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction.

“The ISM … is going to be (a) particular important market mover as those who have been buying bonds strongly, suggesting that the U.S. is on course for recession, need to see some sort of justification,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments.


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IHS Markit’s PMI for U.S. manufacturing, which already last month suggested the sector was in recession is also due.

Outside of equities, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against six developed-market currencies, was up 0.4% to 99.22, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury was last trading at 1.48%, still below the yield on the two-year note.

The British pound was the big mover in foreign exchange markets, falling below 1.20 to its lowest level in three years after lawmakers started a move to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson to abandon his plans that could lead to a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31.

In commodities, gold futures were up $11.75, or 0.7%, at $1,541.1 a troy ounce, while crude oil was down 89 cents, or 1.6%, to $54.19 a barrel.







Stock Markets: New U.S.-China Tariffs add to Global Gloom




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Bond Market Recession Signal …




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U.S. Stocks Open Higher on Hopes for Trade Talks


◊ U.S. Stocks News Today ◊


♦ Stock Market News Today ♦ …U.S. stocks advanced Thursday amid renewed hopes for progress in the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 267 points, or 1.1%. The S&P 500 added 1%, led by gains in trade-sensitive industrial and material stocks. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 1.3%.


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A batch of steady economic data and stronger-than-expected earnings reports from discount retailers helped ease some of the fears about slowing economic growth, as investors continued to weigh developments on the U.S.-China trade front.

Beijing hopes to prioritize discussions over removing the latest tariffs announced by President Trump last week, to prevent a further escalation of the trade war, Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry, said Thursday.

The ministry said the U.S. needed to create the necessary conditions for trade negotiations to proceed, while noting that the countries remained in communication over possible talks in September.

Stocks have had a turbulent August amid renewed anxieties surrounding trade tensions, with all three major indexes down at least 2.2% this month. Still, all three are sitting within roughly 5% of their records. Shares of industrial conglomerates Caterpillar and Boeing climbed 2% and 1.3%, respectively.




“Any news around negotiations starting up or retaliations not happening are going to have a move in markets,” said Bert Colijn, senior eurozone economist at Dutch financial-services firm ING Group.

Investors were also sorting through a wash of economic data. U.S. gross domestic product—the broadest measure of the nation’s output of goods and services—rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2% in the second quarter, compared with the previous estimate of a 2.1% rise.

The government said consumers spent more than previously estimated in the April to June period, but the housing sector, exports and inventory investment were more of a drag than initially thought.

Meanwhile, U.S. jobless claims rose slightly to 215,000 last week, though the figure remains at a historically low level.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury climbed to 1.486% Thursday from 1.469% Wednesday, and the two-year Treasury yield edged up to 1.514% from 1.504% Wednesday, according to Tradeweb. Yields fall as bond prices rise.

In Thursday’s action, shares of Best Buy fell 5.1% after the consumer electronics retailer reported second-quarter sales that disappointed investors.

Discount retailers got a lift, with shares of Dollar Tree rising 2.5% on higher second-quarter sales and Dollar General shares gaining 7.2% on stronger-than-expected earnings.


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Meanwhile, the pound fell 0.2% against the U.S. dollar and the euro a day after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to suspend Parliament, a tactic aimed at stopping opposition lawmakers from blocking an abrupt break with the European Union.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1%. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite and Japan’s Nikkei both slipped 0.1%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.3%.




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Trump Orders U.S. Businesses to Find Alternative to China

{ Trade War and Tariffs – Stock Market News } … President Trump said U.S. companies were “hereby ordered” to start looking for alternatives to doing business in China after Beijing said it would impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of additional U.S. products.

“Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years,” Mr. Trump wrote in a series of tweets. “They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.”


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Mr. Trump’s comments came in response to China’s plan, laid out Friday, to impose tariffs of 5% and 10% on almost all the remaining U.S. imports on which it has yet to impose punitive taxes, including vehicles and car parts, in retaliation against U.S. moves to slap punitive tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods.

The president demanded that U.S. companies “immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”

Trade tensions are disrupting supply chains in China that have churned out electronics such as Apple’s iPhone and Nintendo’s Switch. The sharp escalation in the prolonged trade conflict between the two countries comes weeks after Mr. Trump said he impose the fresh tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing had vowed to retaliate. China’s new levies on U.S. goods are set to go into effect on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, timed with the next two rounds of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Chinese tariffs on U.S. automotive goods are set to begin Dec. 15.

Mr. Trump also said he would require shipping companies to block shipments of fentanyl from China and elsewhere. The president has blamed Beijing for not following through on a commitment in earlier trade negotiations to curb flows into the U.S. of the addictive and potentially lethal painkiller.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to questions about the president’s demand that shipping companies “SEARCH FOR & REFUSE” deliveries of fentanyl or offer further details on his demand that U.S. companies find alternatives to China.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter he would formally respond to China’s announcement later in the day. Items China plans to impose tariffs on include agricultural products, apparel, chemicals and textiles.

Some major car companies will be hit hard by the increase in tariffs, particularly Tesla Inc. and Ford Motor Co., as well as Germany’s BMW AG and Daimler AG ’s Mercedes-Benz. These companies build a significant number of vehicles in the U.S. for export to China—mostly premium models—and a higher tariff could force them to raise prices.


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In all, auto makers exported roughly 230,100 U.S.-built cars to China last year, according to forecasting firm LMC Automotive.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 450 points, or 1.7%, ending what had been a relatively quiet several days for markets. Yields on U.S. government bonds also tumbled, as did commodities markets, such as oil and copper, that are sensitive to the two countries’ trade battle.

Shares of retailers and semiconductor companies that manufacture parts and materials in China were among the hardest hit. Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. dropped more than 6%, while Nvidia Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. slumped about 5%.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday offered his most forceful warning of the risks emanating from the administration’s trade policy. “We have much experience in addressing typical macroeconomic developments under” the Fed’s policy-making framework, he said in a speech, “but fitting trade policy uncertainty into this framework is a new challenge.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro played down the broader economic impact in an interview on Fox Business Network.

“The risk here for China, when it does things like this, is simply to galvanize support even more” for President Trump in the U.S., Mr. Navarro said, adding that $75 billion “is not something for the stock market to worry about” when compared with the $21 trillion U.S. economy.


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A spokeswoman for Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on the tariffs.

“Everyone knew this was coming, which is why we should have come into this fight with allies and a discernible strategy, instead of letting America’s workers and consumers bear the brunt of Donald Trump ’s erratic trade war,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “Meanwhile, China’s market is more closed than ever to American goods.”

The tariffs come just as the two sides had planned for another round of high-level trade talks. Beijing remains interested in a deal that would remove U.S. punitive tariffs, analysts say, and has left open whether its officials would travel to Washington in September for trade talks as previously agreed.

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“Now that China has imposed tariffs, it can go to the negotiations,” said Wang Huiyao, founder of Beijing-based think tank Center for China and Globalization. “If China hadn’t, it would look like they’re still under the gun of the U.S.”

Mr. Navarro said Friday the high-level trade talks between U.S. and Chinese officials were still expected to resume in September. Some business leaders on Friday warned that the rising tensions with China are hurting the economy.


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“Nobody wins a trade war, and the continued tit-for-tat escalation between the U.S. and China is putting significant strain on the U.S. economy, raising costs, undermining investment, and roiling markets,” said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.




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U.S. Mortgage Debt Hits Record


◊ U.S. Mortgage Debt 2019 ◊


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◊ Business & Financial News – Stock Market News Today ◊ — U.S. mortgage debt reached a record in the second quarter, exceeding its 2008 peak as the financial crisis unfolded.

Mortgage balances rose by $162 billion in the second quarter to $9.406 trillion, surpassing the high of $9.294 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday.

Mortgages are the largest component of household debt. Mortgage originations, which include refinancings, increased by $130 billion to $474 billion in the second quarter. The figures are nominal, meaning they aren’t adjusted for inflation.

“The big picture is that when you look at mortgages, which is the biggest piece of [household debt], it still looks pretty healthy,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase, noting that while household debt has grown, so have incomes.


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The milestone for mortgage debt has been long in the making. Americans’ mortgage debt dropped by about 15% from the 2008 peak to the trough in the second quarter of 2013 and has climbed slowly since then.

Total household debt has been on the rise since mid-2013. It rose by 1.4% from the first quarter to $13.86 trillion, the 20th consecutive quarter of increase.

Still, the household debt picture is much different in 2019 than it was 11 years ago, since lending standards are tighter and less debt is delinquent today.

The second quarter saw a steep drop in the 30-year mortgage rate, which boosted borrowers’ incentive to take out a mortgage or refinance. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped below 4% in May for the first time since early last year.

“What’s more interesting is when you look at the service burden, we don’t have more debt,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton.

Still, the housing market has been crimped by low inventory and high prices. Home prices hit a new nominal peak in September 2016 and have continued to climb since then.

Alongside higher home prices, a factor behind rising mortgage debt balances in the second quarter could be homeowners tapping into home equity for cash when they refinance.


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Refinancing accounted for about half of new mortgages in the second quarter, according to Guy Cecala, chief executive at Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry research group.

That represents a “mini refinancing boom” since the refinancing share of new mortgages was about 30% in 2018, when rates were rising, Mr. Cecala said.

Borrowers who refinanced in the second quarter and chose the option to cash out withdrew an estimated $17.5 billion in equity out of their homes, according to Freddie Mac, a mortgage-finance company. While that was $2.1 billion higher than the second quarter of last year, it remains well below the prerecession peak of $84 billion cashed out in the second quarter of 2006.

“American homeowners are being very prudent in liquidating home equity,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, citing the scars of the last recession.

Mortgages remain the largest form of household borrowing but have become a smaller share of total debt since the late 2000s as consumers take on more automotive and student loans.


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Despite the higher debt loads, Americans appear to be keeping up with their payments. The report found that 95.6% of balances were current, the highest level of the current expansion.

In the second quarter, Americans continued to borrow more for cars and their credit-card balances rose, although student debt declined slightly.

Outstanding student loan debt was $1.48 trillion in the second quarter, down $8 billion from the first quarter of this year. Student loan balances typically decline or stagnate in the second quarter before picking up in the third at the start of the academic year.


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Pre-Market Data: U.S. Futures Point To Dow Opening More Than 260 Points Lower


Pre-Market Data - Stock Market News Today

U.S. Futures on Monday pointed to a sharply lower open for U.S. stocks, but Dow futures pulled off their session lows of more than 325 points. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures implied an opening drop of more than 260 points on Monday as of 5:50 a.m. ET. Futures also pointed to opening declines for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq on Monday.

The moves came amid market turmoil in the Asian trading session on Monday, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropping nearly 3% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 falling more than 2.5%. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index also sank more than 2%.

U.S. Treasurys also saw large movements, with the yield on the closely watched 10-year note falling to as low as 1.768%. Markets were sent on a whirlwind late last week after tensions between Washington and Beijing re-escalated, when U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced on Thursday that America will be slapping 10% tariffs on another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods starting September 1.

Trade uncertainty sent the Chinese yuan lower on Monday, with the currency breaching a key psychologically important level of 7 yuan-per-dollar. The level was last breached during the global financial crisis in 2008, according to Reuters. The onshore yuan last changed hands at 7.0289, while its offshore counterpart traded at 7.0843.

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“The (People’s Bank of China) has allowed the renminbi to fall to its weakest level in a decade in response to trade tensions, ” Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note. “It appears to have decided that, given the increasingly dim prospects of a trade deal with the US, the boost to China’s export sector from currency depreciation is worth attracting the ire of the Trump.”

“The fact that they have now stopped defending 7.00 against the dollar suggests that they have all but abandoned hopes for a trade deal with the US,” Evans-Pritchard said.

Amid the trade turmoil, the S&P 500 saw its worst weekly drop of 2019 last week, falling 3.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its second-worst week of the year, declining 2.6%.

Global markets also tumbled last Friday, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropping more than 2% each, while losses were also seen in Europe.


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The Number Of Americans Filing Applications For Unemployment Benefits Increased Moderately Last Week


< StockMarketNews.Today > … Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended July 13, the Labor Department said, remaining in the middle of their 193,000-230,000 range for this year. Last week’s increase in claims was in line with economists’ expectations.

The claims data tends to be volatile around this time of the year because of summer factory closures, especially in the automobile industry, which occur at different periods. This can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.

Layoffs remain low despite the U.S.-China trade tensions, which have contributed to a dimming of the economy’s outlook and led the Federal Reserve to signal it would cut interest rates at its July 30-31 meeting for the first time in a decade.


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Last week’s claims data covered the survey period for the nonfarm payrolls component of July’s employment report. Claims were little changed between the June and July survey periods, suggesting strong job growth this month. The economy created 224,000 jobs in June.

“Firms remain extraordinarily reluctant to lay off workers and the labor market remains extremely tight,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. “There is no reason to expect anything but a solid jobs report for the month.”

The dollar was steady against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices fell. Stocks on Wall Street were lower.

WORKERS SCARCE… There are, however, concerns that a shortage of workers and the Trump administration’s tougher stance on immigration could impede job growth. The Fed’s Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide published on Wednesday showed some manufacturing and information technology firms in the Northeast reduced their number of workers from mid-May through early July.

It said “a few reports highlighted concerns about securing and renewing work visas, flagging this as a source of uncertainty for continued employment growth.”

Solid job growth is helping to underpin the economy, which is slowing as last year’s massive stimulus from tax cuts and more government spending fades. Weak manufacturing and housing, as well as a widening trade deficit are partially offsetting strong consumer spending.

The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product rising at a 1.6% annualized rate in the second quarter. The economy grew at a 3.1% pace in the January-March period.

The slowdown in activity was underscored by a second report on Thursday from the Conference Board showing its measure of future economic growth fell for the first time in six months in June. The 0.3% drop in the leading indicator, the largest since January 2016, “suggests growth is likely to remain slow in the second half of the year,” the Conference Board said.


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But manufacturing appears to be improving. In a third report, the Philadelphia Fed said its business conditions index jumped to a reading of 21.8 in July from 0.3 in June.

That was the highest level since July 2018 and reflected strong increases in measures of new orders, employment and shipments. The improvement in manufacturing in the region that covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware mirrors other measures on factory activity.

It probably overstates the outlook for manufacturing, however. A survey from the New York Fed on Monday showed a mild rebound in its business conditions index in July after contracting in June.

While overall manufacturing production increased last month, output at factories fell at a 2.2% annual rate in the second quarter, the sharpest decline in three years, the Fed reported on Tuesday. Manufacturing production dropped at a 1.9% pace in the first quarter. “The troubles that have plagued industry continue to linger,” said Roiana Reid, an economist at Berenberg Capital Markets in New York.

The Philadelphia Fed survey’s measure of prices received by manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region increased this month, as did a gauge of prices paid by factories. Both measures, however, remained well below their lofty readings over the past few month, consistent with expectations of moderate inflation.

The survey’s six-month business conditions index jumped to a reading of 38.0 this month, the highest reading since May 2018, from 21.4 in June. Its six-month capital expenditures index increased to 36.9 from a reading of 28.0 in the prior month.



 

U.S. Housing Starts Fall… Permits Hit Two-Year Low

StockMarketNews.Today — U.S. homebuilding fell for a second straight month in June and permits dropped to a two-year low, suggesting the housing market continued to struggle despite lower mortgage rates.

Housing starts decreased 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.253 million units last month as a rebound in the construction of single-family housing units was offset by a plunge in multi-family homebuilding, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

Data for May was revised slightly down to show homebuilding falling to a pace of 1.265 million units, instead of slipping to a rate of 1.269 million units as previously reported.


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Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts dipping to a pace of 1.261 million units in June.

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, increased 3.5% to a rate of 847,000 units in June, partially recouping some of May’s sharp drop. Single-family housing starts fell in the Northeast, but rose in the Midwest, West and South.

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Building permits tumbled 6.1% to a rate of 1.220 million units in June, the lowest level since May 2017. Permits have been weak this year, with much of the decline concentrated in the single-family housing segment.

The housing market hit a soft patch last year and has been a drag on economic growth for five straight quarters. It likely subtracted from GDP in the second quarter.

The sector is being hamstrung by land and labor shortages, which are making it difficult for builders to fully take advantage of lower borrowing costs and construct more affordable housing units. As a result, the housing market continues to struggle with tight inventory, leading to sluggish sales growth.


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The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped to about 3.75% from a peak of 4.94% in November, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Further declines are likely as the Federal Reserve has signaled it would cut interest rates this month for the first time in a decade.

A survey on Tuesday showed confidence among homebuilders increased in July. Builders, however, complained “they continue to grapple with labor shortages, a dearth of buildable lots and rising construction costs that are making it increasingly challenging to build homes at affordable price points relative to buyer incomes.”


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Permits to build single-family homes rose 0.4% to a rate of 813,000 units in June. Despite the increase last month, permits continue to lag housing starts, which suggests single-family homebuilding could remain sluggish.

Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment dropped 9.2% to a rate of 406,000 units last month. Permits for the construction of multi-family homes plunged 16.8% to a pace of 407,000 units.

40% of Americans say they still struggle to pay bills… This doesn’t look like the best economy ever…


 


In discussions with 30 Americans unable to pay all of their bills, a clear pattern emerged: Most were able to eke by until they faced an unexpected crisis such as a job loss, car trouble or storm damage.

The extra expense caused them to get behind on their bills, and they never fully rebounded. Economists fear such precarious financial situations put many Americans at risk if there is even a mild setback in the economy, potentially setting up the next recession to be worse than anything in recent history except the Great Recession.

“So many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Signe-Mary McKernan, vice president of the Center on Labor, Human Services and Population at the Urban Institute. “We are headed toward a political crisis, if not an economic one.”


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Their vulnerability is due to a confluence of factors. First, the average American family has yet to recover fully from the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve found, leaving half the nation with a diminished cushion to handle surprise expenses — or the next downturn.

The bottom half has less wealth today, after adjusting for inflation, than it did in 1989, according to Fed data through March of this year. While wage growth has accelerated in recent months, especially for the lowest-paid workers, families who have struggled for years have a ways to go to return to solid footing.

Half of U.S. jobs pay less than $18.58 an hour and more than a third pay less than $15, which makes it difficult to save or invest for a better future.

Trump and his team argue that a strong economy is lifting more and more Americans up financially, including blue-collar workers, the formerly incarcerated and minorities. In contrast, Democrats are calling for major expansions of government programs to address inequality. How to help the economically vulnerable is likely to be a key debate in the 2020 race.

“Just because folks on Wall Street think things are fine doesn’t mean most Americans feel like things are fine,” said Ray Boshara, director of the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “When every day is a rainy day for millions of families, things are not fine.”

To get by, Americans have borrowed heavily in recent years. Total U.S. household debt is now $13.7 trillion, surpassing the 2008 peak in dollar terms, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The surge in debt this time around is for cars and college, not mortgages.


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Older and wealthier — and usually white — Americans typically take on debt to buy homes or make investments that are likely to make them richer in the years to come. Most in this category have recovered the wealth they lost in the Great Recession as home prices and stocks have soared.

In contrast, data from the Fed and the credit-score company Equifax show that families of color, Americans born after 1970 and households earning less than $60,000 are the least likely to have recovered the wealth they lost in the crisis. And they tend to carry heavy debt loads, often taking out loans for college, which they cannot get rid of in bankruptcy, or loans to pay bills, which can put them further behind.

The prevailing view among Wall Street investors and Washington policymakers is that there is little to worry about because student loans are backed by the government and delinquency rates for other kinds of debt are fairly low, meaning most people can make their monthly payments.

Credit quality is about as good as I’ve ever seen it,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “There is nothing that suggests inordinate stress on low-income households . . . certainly nothing compared to times past.”


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But Boshara, of the St. Louis Fed, pointed out that credit card and auto loan delinquencies have risen this year, the opposite of what Wall Street expected in good economic times.

Four in 10 Americans say they still struggle to pay their bills, despite the strong economy, according to a quarterly survey by UBS that has shown no improvement since 2014. And looking at how households are doing by class, race or age reveals a concerning picture.

New Orders For U.S.-Made Goods Fell For A Second Straight Month May


U.S. factory orders fall for second straight month… New orders for U.S.-made goods fell for a second straight month May while shipments barely rose, pointing to continued weakness in manufacturing.

Factory goods orders decreased 0.7%, weighed down by weak demand for transportation equipment, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. Data for April was revised sharply down to show factory orders falling 1.2% instead of slipping 0.8% as previously reported.


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Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders falling 0.5% in May. Factory orders rose 0.9% compared to May 2018. Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12% of the economy, is struggling amid an inventory bloat, trade tensions between the United States and China, and a reduction in the production of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.

The weak factory orders data was flagged by a report last month showing the second straight monthly drop in demand for long-lasting manufactured goods in April, as well as a drop in manufacturing production.

A survey on Monday showed a measure of national factory activity dropped to a near three-year low in June, with manufacturers expressing concern over the U.S.-China trade tensions.


 


Transportation equipment orders dropped 4.6% in May after tumbling 7.6% in April. Orders for civilian aircraft and parts declined 28.2%. There were increases in order for computers and electronic products and machinery.

The Commerce Department also said May orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.5% instead of the 0.4% gain reported last month.


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Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, increased 0.6% in May instead of 0.7% as previously reported.

Overall shipments of manufactured goods edged up 0.1% in May after dropping 0.6% in April.

China Agree To Resume Trade Negotiations… U.S. agrees to halt additional tariffs on Chinese goods


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President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to resume trade talks and the U.S. consented to halt additional tariffs on Chinese goods for now, the Chinese side said, breaking an impasse that has been looming over the global economy.

Mr. Trump said after meeting Mr. Xi for about 80 minutes that trade talks with China are “right back on track.”

“We had a very good meeting with President Xi of China. Excellent, I would say excellent,” Mr. Trump said. The U.S. had threatened to impose 25% tariffs on an additional $325 billion in Chinese goods, meaning virtually all Chinese exports to the U.S. would be subject to tariffs.


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China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the U.S. agreed not to impose additional tariffs on Chinese products. The two sides agreed to restart trade talks on the basis of “equality and mutual respect,” Xinhua said.



It wasn’t immediately known what concessions the Chinese side might have made in exchange for the U.S. putting off the additional tariffs.

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Trump said he would discuss American actions toward Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. at the meeting.

So far, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on $250 billion in imports from China in the trade conflict, prompting retaliation from Beijing.

“We want to do some things that will even it up with respect to trade,” said Mr. Trump at the start of the meeting with Mr. Xi. The U.S. blames Beijing for a host of economic practices that it says hurt American companies.

Mr. Xi said at the start of the meeting that the U.S. and China “benefit from cooperation and lose from a confrontation.”


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Earlier Saturday, Mr. Trump said during a meeting with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he had already met with Mr. Xi on Friday night at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka. “A lot was accomplished actually last night,” Mr. Trump said.

Chinese officials have said reversing the blacklisting of Huawei is their top priority in trade negotiations. But the U.S. has been reluctant to mix what is seen as a national-security issue—whether Huawei equipment can be used for Chinese espionage—with trade matters.

One possibility, said people familiar with the administration’s thinking, is that the U.S. could drop extradition proceedings against Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou as a part of a deal.

Such a move is bound to provoke an uproar among Republican and Democratic lawmakers who advocate a stricter stance toward China. Mr. Trump ignored a question from a reporter on Saturday about whether he was prepared to drop the extradition request for Ms. Meng.


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In a possible reference to Huawei, Mr. Xi said he hopes the U.S. will treat Chinese businesses fairly, according to Xinhua. Mr. Trump said the U.S. will provide fair treatment to companies in both countries.

At the U.S.-China meeting Saturday, Mr. Trump was flanked by Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, and Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. treasury secretary. The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was also seated at the table with American economic and national-security officials.

The Chinese officials in attendance included Vice Premier Liu He and Beijing’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai.

The Federal Reserve Said The Biggest U.S. Banks Are Healthy Enough To Start Whittling Down Their Capital Stockpiles


All 18 banks reviewed passed round two of the Federal Reserve’s stress tests, an annual exercise designed to gauge banks’ ability to withstand a recession. It was only the second time since the Fed began administering the exams that no bank failed.

A few banks in regulatory hot water were cleared, opening the door for a wave of dividends and stock buybacks that could boost bank stocks left behind in the market rally. This year’s scenario was among the toughest yet, but a recent Fed overhaul of the test made it easier for banks to pass.



Banks have gotten better at taking the test, now in its ninth year, amassing enough capital and know-how to maximize shareholder payouts without failing, Fed officials said. The 18 banks, a group that includes giant U.S. lenders JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. , are expected, in aggregate, to increase their payouts to more than 100% of expected earnings.


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“The results show that these firms and our financial system are resilient in normal times and under stress,” said Randal K. Quarles, the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision.

The two-stage process, introduced by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, first measures how the banks would fare in severe economic scenarios, including double-digit unemployment and a 50% decline in U.S. stocks. Those results, released last week, showed an industry losing a total of $410 billion but left with more capital than in the prior year’s test.

For the second stage, the Fed measures how banks would fare under the same scenarios after increasing their dividends and stock buybacks. The outcome determines how much banks can return to investors and how much they have to keep socked away.

While no banks failed the second round of the test, JPMorgan and Capital One Financial Corp. had to resubmit their capital-return plans to stay above the Fed’s regulatory minimum capital levels. The Fed dinged Credit Suisse Group AG over its projections for trading losses in the test and gave it four months to improve its capital-planning processes.

JPMorgan’s ask was far more aggressive than expected. The bank was approved to boost share buybacks by $9 billion to $29.4 billion. Analysts had largely expected buybacks to remain flat. The bank also won approval to increase its quarterly dividend to 90 cents per share, up from 80 cents, in line with expectations.

Under its revised plan, Capital One boosted its buybacks to $2.2 billion from $1.2 billion and held its divided at 40 cents a share. The bank has higher credit-card loan losses than its peers.

Under a process known as the mulligan, banks are allowed to adjust their capital-return plans and retake the test if their initial proposals would put them below the line. Banks can be more or less aggressive under that process, giving themselves a capital cushion to stay well above the thresholds or cutting it close to pay out more to shareholders.

Wells Fargo & Co., which is operating under an unprecedented growth cap imposed by the Federal Reserve following a string of scandals, passed with a wide capital cushion.


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Deutsche Bank AG , which failed the test last year and was told to improve its forecasting and risk controls, also was cleared this year. The bank’s U.S. operations have been under heightened scrutiny since the Fed in early 2017 downgraded the operations to “troubled condition” status, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Last year, the Fed allowed Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to freeze their capital payouts at recent levels and obtain a “conditional non-objection” despite failing to clear regulatory requirements under the doomsday scenario. As a result, the banks avoided the black eye of failure without having to drastically cut shareholder payouts.

Both banks sailed through the tests this year. Goldman was cleared to return $8.8 billion to shareholders over the next year, up from $6.3 billion, including its biggest-ever dividend boost to $1.25 from 85 cents. Morgan Stanley can return $8.2 billion to shareholders in dividends and buybacks over the next year, up from $6.8 billion.

The results of this year’s stress tests could boost bank stocks, which have trailed the broader market this year on persistent concerns about the direction of interest rates and the possibility of an economic slowdown.

The steady pace of rate increases in recent years has allowed banks to charge more on loans while more slowly raising the interest they pay to depositors. The KBW Bank Index is up 12% this year, compared with a 16.7% gain in the S&P 500.

Seventeen banks skipped this year’s exercise under a new biennial schedule. Most of the 18 firms undergoing the test this year weren’t subject to a potential failure under the qualitative review, which evaluates a firm’s capital-planning analysis and internal controls.


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Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and other foreign banks remained subject to potential failure because they were newer to the test.

The chance for a public shaming under the stress tests could soon recede even further. The Fed last year proposed eliminating the threat of failure for big banks on the numbers-based portion of the test, integrating their results instead into a continuous capital requirement.

U.S. Crude Extends Weekly Gains To 10%


Stock Market News TodayOil prices extended gains to a three-week high on Friday as escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran added to a rally of nearly 10% in U.S. crude.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 45 cents, or 0.8%, at $57.52 a barrel by 7:56 AM ET (11:56 GMT), while Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S. gained 84 cents, or 1.3%, to $65.29.

WTI oil was on track for weekly gains of 9.5%, while Brent was up 5.3% from a week ago.


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U.S. President Donald Trump had authorized military strikes against Iran in response to the strike against a U.S. surveillance drone late Thursday, but called off the attack at the last minute, according to a New York Times report.

The report is the latest development in escalating tension between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf region where six oil tankers have been damaged by explosions in the past six weeks.


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“We continue to believe amid this growing tension in the Middle East, along with expectations of an OPEC+ deal extension, that oil prices will trend higher over the second half of the year,” ING commodities strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao said in a note.

OPEC producers have postponed their official meeting to July 1 with non-members joining the following day. “A weaker U.S. dollar, with a more dovish Fed only adds further support,” they added.


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In other energy trading, gasoline futures surged 3.4% at $1.8465 a gallon by 7:58 AM ET (11:58 GMT), while heating oil jumped 1.9% at $1.9197 a gallon.

Lastly, natural gas futures traded up 1.1% at $2.208 per million British thermal unit.


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Trump Promised Britain A Broad Free-Trade Accord Once It Leaves The European Union


UK US news


President Trump promised Britain a broad free-trade accord once it leaves the European Union, an offer that would require the U.K. to secure the decisive break with the bloc advocated by prominent Brexit backers in the race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May.

Such an agreement, though, could take years to materialize even after an abrupt split and would face multiple political hurdles in the U.K. and the U.S. At a press conference with Mrs. May on the second day of a three-day state visit, Mr. Trump talked up close economic links between the U.S. and its ally and said a free-trade pact had “tremendous potential” to boost trade between the two countries.


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“As the U.K. makes preparations to exit the European Union, the United States is committed to a phenomenal trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.,” he said. Brexit backers have long touted the prospect of a free-trade accord with the world’s biggest economy as a major prize from Britain’s EU withdrawal. But negotiating such a deal would require the U.K. to ditch many EU regulations and pull out of the bloc’s customs arrangements, threatening existing trade with the 27 remaining member states.

The issue strikes at the central question in Britain’s tortuous Brexit debate: whether to hug the EU close after Brexit or engineer a decisive, but potentially disruptive, split. Divisions over this choice have riven the main political parties since voters chose to leave the bloc in 2016, leaving Parliament in gridlock. How close the relationship is has far-reaching consequences for the economy, relations with Ireland and the U.K.’s ability to set its own rules on immigration and other policy areas.



Mrs. May presented a Brexit plan to lawmakers she billed as a compromise that would allow the U.K. to strike out on its own while maintaining close economic links to the EU. But lawmakers on three occasions rejected it, critically injuring her premiership. She is due to step down as prime minister on Friday, though will carry on official duties while a successor is chosen, a process that could take weeks.

The U.K.’s break from the EU, originally scheduled for March 29, has been delayed to Oct. 31. Mr. Trump’s promise of a post-Brexit free-trade deal is catnip to advocates of a decisive split, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.

Mr. Trump has expressed support for Mr. Johnson, who is considered the front-runner to become the U.K.’s next prime minister, and has said the U.K. should swiftly break with the EU without a deal to smooth its exit. Multiple studies, including analyses by the U.K. government and the Bank of England, have suggested such an abrupt split would damage the U.K. economy.

Mr. Trump spoke with Mr. Johnson for 20 minutes by phone on Tuesday, a person close to the former U.K. foreign secretary said. Mr. Trump is also close to Nigel Farage, a fierce advocate of a decisive break with the EU who leads the U.K.’s upstart Brexit Party. Mr. Farage was seen on Tuesday leaving the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, where the president was staying during his visit.

British lawmakers who favor close ties to the EU, along with many economists, are skeptical about the benefits of a U.S. trade deal. A 2018 government analysis concluded that leaving the EU would leave the U.K. economy smaller after 15 years than it would have been had the country remained a member state. The size of the hit ranged from 0.1% to 9% over that period, depending on whether the U.K. pursued close ties or opted for a decisive break.

Over the same period, free-trade agreements with the U.S. and other economies were forecast to boost the economy by 0.2%, the analysis found, irrespective of the manner of Brexit. The difference reflects the scope of the EU’s trading relationships, compared with more-conventional free-trade deals and the greater distances to the U.S. compared with Europe.

“The government must ask itself one simple question: Is such a negligible increase [in U.K. gross domestic product] really worth putting so many areas of the U.K. economy on the table for?” said Angus MacNeil, an anti-Brexit Scottish National Party lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary panel that scrutinizes U.K. trade policy. Some in the U.K. are hostile to the trade-offs that a deal with the U.S. could involve. British farmers worry the U.K. will be flooded by cheap U.S. imports, pushing them out of business.


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Another British concern is the state-run National Health Service, which voters don’t want to see opened to American corporate involvement in any trade pact. In a sign of that sensitivity, Mrs. May said on Tuesday that parties to a trade negotiation decide what is and isn’t open for discussion. Mr. Trump had a moment earlier said “everything is on the table” in a U.S.-U.K. deal, including health care.

Meanwhile, a trade pact with the U.K. is likely to face resistance in Congress, where some Democrats have said they wouldn’t ratify such a deal if an abrupt and messy break between the U.K. and the EU undermines peace in Northern Ireland by requiring the imposition of border controls between the U.K. region and the Republic of Ireland.

The U.S. Economy Created More Jobs Than Expected In March


U.S. Economy Created More Jobs Than Expected In March


| BY AIDANA IBRAGIMOVA | STOCK MARKET NEWS TODAY |

Nonfarm payrolls (NFP) rose by 196,000 in March, above consensus expectations for 175,000, while the jobless rate held steady as expected at 3.8%…

March’s job creation restored confidence in the state of the labor market after February’s weak increase in posts. Wednesday’s report from payrolls processor ADP, which showed the U.S. economy added the fewest private sector jobs in 18 months during March, had also been a source of concern.

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In an immediate reaction, U.S. futures extended gains after the release with S&P 500 futures up 0.4% compared to 0.1% ahead of the report. The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, gained some support, turned positive although it remained near the unchanged mark. In another positive sign for stocks, average hourly earnings grew 3.2% on an annualized basis, slowing from the prior month’s reading of 3.4%. Economists had expected no change.


 


The slowdown in wage inflation supported the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to be “patient” with further policy tightening. The Fed left interest rates unchanged in its March policy decision and said it was no longer projecting hikes in 2019. At the same time, it announced it will stop shrinking its bond portfolio in September. Both dovish moves imply that policymakers have become more concerned about the economic outlook.

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Some analysts suggest that the next change to rates could be a cut if fears over the U.S. and global economies, plagued by ongoing trade uncertainties, become a reality. Sluggish global growth, particularly in China and Europe, coupled with volatile financial markets and subdued inflation have supported the Fed’s “patient” stance.

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U.S. Manufacturing Output Declined For The Second Consecutive Month In February

Output at U.S. factories decreased 0.4% in February after falling 0.5% in January, according to Federal Reserve data released Friday. The decline was spread across multiple sectors, with output of machinery, electronics and apparel all dropping.

Friday’s Fed report showed the headline 0.1% rise in industrial production in February was driven by a rebound in utilities output, which tends to be weather related. The question now is how sharp and long-lasting the slowdown will be. Many economists see U.S. growth picking up later this year, but not to the rates experienced last year in the immediate wake of federal tax cuts and spending increases.


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The U.S. is a services-oriented economy, meaning manufacturing accounts for a small share of gross domestic product. Still, the sector is highly sensitive to swings in global demand, making it an important indicator of broader economic shifts. With the latest decline, the Fed’s index of manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level since July.

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell Friday to near 2.5%, a sign of growing investor anxiety in bond markets about the outlook for growth. Bond yields, which were near 3.25% in November, tend to fall when investors see less growth and less inflation.

Manufacturing is getting squeezed globally. The Bank of Japan Friday cited falling production in its gloomier view of the economy. It also pointed to a slowdown in some overseas economies. Germany’s statistics office recently reported industrial output there contracted 0.8% in January. Industrial output in China slowed in the January-to-February period, though it was still up 5.3% from a year earlier.

Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies—the U.S. and China—are blamed by many economists for igniting the global slowdown. Other worries, such as the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, are adding to business anxieties in Europe.


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The U.S. isn’t immune. The growth rate of gross domestic output—a broad measure of production—has been slowing since the second quarter of last year, and economists have sharply marked down their estimates for first quarter growth.

Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal last week on average said the economy would grow at a 1.3% annual rate in the first quarter. That was well below the average near 2% for the expansion and below last year’s growth of near 3%. For this year, a 2.1% growth rate is expected. When asked about the biggest risks to the outlook, nearly half of respondents, 46.8%, mentioned trade policy or China.

Weak manufacturing data reflect headwinds including slower global growth, a relatively strong U.S. dollar, which makes exports more expensive, and fading fiscal stimulus, said Greg Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

“The combination of these factors is really constraining manufacturing output,” Mr. Daco said. “These headwinds are more likely to more severely affect the industrial side of the economy. That may not pull the rest of the economy into the doldrums.”

While production and employment in the manufacturing sector were solid throughout 2018, some other measures have cooled recently. The Institute for Supply Management said its measure of factory-sector activity weakened in February, and hiring in the sector has slowed, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report.

Mr. Daco doesn’t see recession. Underlying domestic demand in the U.S. economy remains solid, he said. Income growth is steady, business confidence remains elevated and the Federal Reserve has signaled it is responding to the shifting economic outlook by keeping short-term interest rates steady rather than raising them. In a sign of steady undercurrents, the University of Michigan said Friday that household sentiment improved in early March.

Meantime, another government report this week showed business investment is holding up. New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for business investment, climbed 0.8% in January from December, the Commerce Department report said. George Cruz, project manager at K.D.K. Forging Co. outside Chicago, said on Friday that he expected business in the months ahead to match recent demand for the company’s fasteners and torsion bars.

“We don’t see any traps,” he said. “Orders are coming.” Executives at home-improvement chain Lowe’s Co s. are monitoring the health of the U.S. economy to determine how to balance investments in its businesses with returning cash to shareholders.

“We want to make sure that we don’t lever up to just run into somewhat of a bump in the economy,” said Chief Financial Officer David Denton at a conference on Wednesday. “We don’t see a slowdown in macro to be very clear, but by the same token, we want to watch that carefully.”


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U.S. Stock Index Futures Were Little Changed Early Wednesday As Uncertainties Linger Over Brexit And Boeing


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Today’s Stock Market News — U.S. stock index futures were little changed early Wednesday as investors continued to monitor political and economic uncertainties across the globe. At 6:30 a.m. ET, Dow futures implied an open of less than 5 points. Futures on S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also relatively flat.

U.S. stocks have been under pressure after Boeing posted another sharp decline amid worries over the safety of one of its most popular airplanes. Boeing shares fell more than 6 percent on Tuesday after several countries, including China, the European Union and Indonesia, grounded all flights involving the 737 Max model.

The plane has been involved in two deadly crashes in less than six months, including one on Sunday. Edward Jones also downgraded the stock to hold from buy, citing a possible “delay in orders” after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.


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Meanwhile, investor attention is firmly focused on the fallout from the U.K.’s decision to reject its Brexit deal with the EU on Tuesday evening. The agreement was rejected by 149 votes after 242 MPs voted for the deal and 391 MPs voted against it.

British MPs will now vote on Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. If they reject that option, as expected, MPs will then get to vote on Thursday on whether to request a delayed departure from the EU.

Back in the U.S., a slew of data are expected on Wednesday. Durable goods orders and producer price index numbers are due at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by construction spending data at 10 a.m. ET.

On the earnings front, Cloudera and MongoDB are set to report numbers after the bell.


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U.S. Stocks Rose After Five Straight Sessions Of Declines On Monday Boosted By Technology Stocks


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Today’s Stock Market News — U.S. stocks rose after five straight sessions of declines on Monday boosted by technology stocks. Boeing Co, the best performing Dow component this year by a wide margin, dropped 6.7 percent after many airlines grounded the company’s new 737 MAX 8 passenger jet.

Helping markets gain ground was the heavyweight Dow component’s stock bouncing off its session lows, while the Dow Jones Airlines index reversed course to trade 0.34 percent higher. Today the big news is Boeing and the rest of the market is bouncing off the five straight down days we had last week,” said Keith Gangl, chartered financial analyst and portfolio manager at Gradient Investments in Arden Hills, Minnesota.

“The markets have been really strong this year and people are expecting that to continue throughout 2019.”

The S&P 500 index fell 2.2 percent last week, its biggest decline since Wall Street tumbled at the end of 2018, weighed by fears of a slowing economy after data showed U.S. job growth almost stalled in February, China’s exports fell and as the European Central Bank slashed growth forecasts for the region.

Still, the benchmark index is now about 6 percent away from its record high hit on Sept. 20. All the major S&P sectors were trading higher, led by gains in the high-growth technology sector, which was up 1.81 percent.

Apple Inc rose 3.1 percent and was the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded the iPhone maker’s shares to “buy” from “neutral”.

Other marquee names also gained — Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc gained between 1.2 percent and 2.3 percent. Instinet upgraded social media giant Facebook to “buy” from “neutral”.


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At 11:10 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 112.41 points, or 0.44 percent, at 25,562.65, the S&P 500 was up 29.18 points, or 1.06 percent, at 2,772.25 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 109.13 points, or 1.47 percent, at 7,517.27.

The energy sector jumped 1.4 percent after crude prices rose as Saudi stood by OPEC-led supply cuts and a report showed a fall in U.S. drilling activity. Oil majors Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp rose about 1.4 percent each.

In other news, President Donald Trump will ask lawmakers to hike spending for the military and the wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border and slash other programs in his 2020 budget. The Republican president’s proposal, slated for release at 11:30 a.m. (15:30 GMT), is expected to be rejected by Congress.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.81-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.62-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded 19 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 36 new highs and 22 new lows.


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U.S. Job Growth Likely Slowed To A Five-Month Low In February


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U.S. job growth likely slowed to a five-month low in February as the weather-related boost in the prior two months faded, workers became more scarce and tighter financial conditions began to weigh on the labor market.

The U.S. Labor Department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday could show moderation in employment growth, in line with a slowing economy that in July will mark 10 years of expansion, the longest on record. It is likely to support the Federal Reserve’s “patient” approach toward further interest rate increases this year.



Nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 180,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters survey of economists. This would be the smallest gain since September. Payrolls increased by a total of 526,000 jobs in December and January as mild temperatures boosted hiring at construction sites and in the leisure and hospitality industry.

Temperatures turned chilly in February, which economists said could have reversed employment gains in these weather-sensitive industries. Economists also believed the effects of a stock market sell-off and jump in U.S. Treasury yields in late 2018 restrained February hiring, as household wealth plunged by a record $3.8 trillion and many sources of capital for companies froze up, according to Federal Reserve data..


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“We are due for some pay back after strong job growth over the last couple of months,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “I also think the timing is right for the tightening in financial market conditions last year to begin to affect the employment data.”

First-time applications for jobless benefits were elevated, a hint that February payrolls could surprise on the downside. Also, the Institute for Supply Management surveys showed measures of manufacturing and services sectors employment dropped in the month, while the Federal Reserve on Wednesday reported “modest-to-moderate gains” in employment in a majority of the U.S. central bank’s districts.

Though the economy grew 2.9 percent in 2018, the strongest in three years, it lost momentum as the year ended. Retail sales, homebuilding, business spending and exports all declined in December, setting the economy on a slower growth path.


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U.S. Stocks Slid Thursday After The European Central Bank Unveiled Plans To Deploy Additional Stimulus


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U.S. stocks slid Thursday after the European Central Bank unveiled plans to deploy additional stimulus, raising fresh worries about the health of the global economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 263 points, or 1%, to 25409, heading for its fourth straight day of losses. The S&P 500 declined 1% and the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.1%.



Global stocks’ rebound has stalled this week as investors have grappled with lingering questions about U.S.-China trade relations, as well as the slowdown in the world economy.

The ECB said Thursday that it would leave interest rates unchanged at least through the end of the year, months longer than investors had previously expected. It also added that it would launch a fresh batch of ultracheap long-term bank loans, a measure meant to try to encourage growth and spending at a time when the global economy has shown signs of faltering.


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While the ECB’s moves showed it was willing to take aggressive steps to try to stimulate growth, it also illustrated the extent to which officials have become concerned about the eurozone’s slowdown. Worries about the global economic outlook have damped many investors’ optimism this year, even as stocks around the world have bounced higher.

“The big question is whether these policy adjustments are enough to avert a synchronized global downturn,” said Jon Hill, managing director and rates strategist at BMO Capital Markets. “If the accommodation isn’t sufficient, then we’re maybe seeing the start of the endgame.”

European stocks lost ground following the ECB’s announcement, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.8% after trading higher earlier in the session. In another sign of pessimism, the euro lost 0.7% against the U.S. dollar and yields on Italian and German government debt declined.


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U.S. Record Annual Trade Deficit. The Shortfall Grew Last Year Despite President Trump’s Aim To Reduce It


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The U.S. posted its widest monthly trade gap since 2008 in December and a record annual deficit in goods as sturdy economic growth underpinned higher spending by American consumers and businesses.

The international trade deficit in goods and services widened 19% in December from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $59.8 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a $57.3 billion gap. The shortfall grew last year despite President Trump’s aim to reduce it.



Over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on a range of goods that the U.S. imports from other countries, particularly China, in hopes of giving American producers a competitive edge. He publicly lambasted companies that outsourced jobs, renegotiated pacts with major U.S. trade partners like Mexico, Canada and South Korea, and rankled longtime European allies by deeming their steel and aluminum exports a threat to national security.

Still, the trade gap swelled 12% from 2017 to $621 billion. Excluding services that the U.S. sells to foreigners, such as tourism, intellectual property and banking, the deficit grew 10% to $891.3 billion, the largest level on record.

Economists say the shortfall was fueled, ironically, by another Trump administration policy: tax cuts and spending increases that juiced demand from U.S. consumers and businesses at a time when growth in the rest of the world was slowing. Concern that the U.S. economy could overheat prompted the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates four times in 2018, contributing to a strong dollar in the second half of the year that made foreign goods relatively cheap for Americans

As a result, U.S. imports grew 7.5%, while exports increased just 6.3%. “Higher take-home incomes for households have definitely proven to be very conducive to imports,” said Pooja Sriram, an economist at Barclays. “The outcome has been in almost the opposite direction of what the administration has wanted.”


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U.S. imports of consumer goods last year jumped 7.7% to $647.9 billion, fueled in part by a 22% rise in inbound shipments of drugs. Industrial supplies like fuel and crude oil were another driver of the trade gap, with imports rising 13% from 2017 to $575.7 billion.

Highlighting the limitations of Mr. Trump’s trade policies, the goods deficit widened most with China, the U.S.’s largest commercial partner and the main focus of White House efforts. That is partly because Chinese authorities responded to tariffs by drastically scaling back their country’s purchases of key U.S. exports like soybeans, cars and metals, production of which is concentrated in states that Mr. Trump won in the 2016 election.

U.S. goods exports to China fell 7.4% in 2018 to $120.3 billion, while imports from China grew 6.7% to $539.5 billion as Americans increased their purchases of electronics, furniture, toys and other products. But the deficit in goods also widened in other countries where Mr. Trump aimed his trade war, including the European Union and Mexico.


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Most economists disagree with Mr. Trump’s strategy of targeting a reduction in the trade deficit, saying it merely reflects underlying economic forces. But deficits do subtract from gross domestic product, and the widening of the trade shortfall at the end of 2018 was a factor in slower U.S. growth in the fourth quarter.

Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics, said that’s likely to continue in early 2019 with imports set to grow while weaker global demand weighs on exports.

“Trade now looks set to be a more serious drag in the first quarter,” Mr. Hunter said in a note to clients. He estimates annualized GDP growth will slow to just 1.5% in the first three months of 2019, down from 2.6% in the fourth quarter.


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Global Stocks Pause Ahead Of New U.S. Trade Data. Economists Expect The U.S. Trade Deficit Widened In December


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Stocks wavered Wednesday ahead of new U.S. trade data that could provide clues on the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute and the sustainability of growth in the world’s largest economy.

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 was broadly flat in morning trading. Futures pointed to small opening drops in the U.S. of 0.2% for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500.

In Asia, Chinese stocks led markets higher on hopes for new stimulus measures. The Shanghai Stock Exchange was up 1.6%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.3% and Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.6%.



Investors will watch closely as official trade data from the U.S. is published later Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal forecast the trade deficit widened to $56.9 billion in December.

Peter Heilbron, senior investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management, said U.S. data has been a “mixed bag” of late as the effects of President Trump’s tax policies fade. But investors’ outlook on the U.S. has been buoyed in 2019 by signals that the Federal Reserve will hold off from hurriedly tightening monetary policy.

While many analysts have praised the central bank’s patience, Mr. Heilbron flagged concerns that the economy could “overheat” with such accommodative policy, and said, “Does that virtue turn into vice as we move forward?”

Wednesday’s discussions on trade will be followed by fresh signals on the health of the U.S. economy later this week as the Labor Department releases new figures on worker productivity Wednesday and its jobs report Friday.


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Economists surveyed by the Journal expect productivity grew at a slower 1.7% pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, and predict the economy added 185,000 to payrolls while the unemployment rate nudged down to 3.9% in February.

Reports have suggested China and the U.S. are in the final stages of completing a trade deal. Still, there are signs that talks are stuck on the particulars of an agreement and investors are wary that the rivalry between the world’s two largest economies could continue. “It is hard to say when and how it is going to be resolved because obviously it’s not just about simple things related to cars and things like that, it’s more about intellectual property,” said Anna Stupnytska, global economist at Fidelity International.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of 16 currencies, was up 0.1% Wednesday. The 10-year U.S. Treasury edged down to 2.711% from 2.722% Tuesday. Yields move inversely to prices.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Brexit negotiations drag on with just weeks to go before the deadline for the U.K. to leave the bloc. Barclays analysts have flagged concerns that the political uncertainty around Brexit is weighing on employment in the U.K.

“With services businesses delaying hiring and manufacturers even cutting jobs, we expect households will increasingly be tempted to change consumption patterns and become more cautious in the face of job insecurity,” the analysts wrote in a recent note to clients.

The British pound was down 0.2% against the dollar and the euro Tuesday. The FTSE 100 index, which is dominated by large international businesses, gained 0.1%. Markets were awaiting a meeting of the European Central Bank’s governing council later this week against a backdrop of slowing growth across the region. In commodities, global benchmark Brent crude oil was down 0.3% at $65.65 a barrel.


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U.S. Stocks Fell On Monday After Data Showed Construction Spending Dipped In December


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U.S. stocks fell on Monday after data showed construction spending dipped in December, offsetting hopes that a U.S.-China trade deal was imminent and pushing the S&P 500 back after its first close above 2,800 points in four months.

A report over the weekend said U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign a formal trade pact at a summit around March 27, given progress in talks between the two countries.



The trade-sensitive S&P 500 industrials index was flat, while the other 10 major S&P sectors notched declines. “The theme the markets are dealing with is what level of slowdown makes sense,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

“The construction numbers reinforce just how the brakes were being slammed on the economy last year.” The Commerce Department reported construction spending fell 0.6 percent in December, further evidence the economy lost momentum at the tail end of 2018.

The technology index dropped 0.49 percent. The biggest hit came as health stocks tumbled 0.94 percent, led by health insurers UnitedHealth and Cigna. The S&P 500 breached 2,800 twice last week, before finally closing above that mark on Friday for the first time since Nov.8.


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“Right above the 2,800 level is a significant amount of resistance. Above this level is free air, above it is a return to the highs,” said Antonelli.

At 11:40 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 159.37 points, or 0.61 percent, at 25,866.95, the S&P 500 was down 12.13 points, or 0.43 percent, at 2,791.56 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 35.73 points, or 0.47 percent, at 7,559.63.

The trade optimism and a dovish Federal Reserve has spurred a strong run in stocks. The S&P 500 has surged about 11 percent this year and is now about 5 percent away from its Sept. 20 record closing high. Among stocks, Kraft Heinz Co gained 2.91 percent after brokerage Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the stock.

Dialysis service provider DaVita Inc slipped 1.9 percent after the Trump administration sought to cut dialysis costs. The S&P index recorded 40 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 15 new lows.


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U.S. Stocks Fell On Thursday, Pressured By Weak Economic Data And A Drop In Healthcare Shares


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U.S. stocks fell on Thursday, pressured by weak economic data and a drop in healthcare shares led by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), with investors keeping a close watch on U.S.-China trade talks.

New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in December amid declining demand for machinery and primary metals, pointing to a further slowdown in business spending on equipment that could crimp economic growth.

Another set showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the four-week moving average rose to a more than one-year high, suggesting the labor market was slowing down.



The Philadelphia Fed’s gauge on U.S. Mid-Atlantic business activity also showed a decline in February to its weakest level since May 2016. “The numbers on Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing and durable goods are volatile indicating that the economy is slowing,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.


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“Overall, it is showing that the economy is not as strong as it was in the summer of 2018.” Stocks have gained so far this week on hopes of a trade resolution, extending a rally since the beginning of the year on an upbeat fourth-quarter earnings season and a dovish Federal Reserve.

The United States and China have started to outline commitments in principle on the stickiest issues in their trade dispute, marking the most significant progress yet toward ending a seven-month trade war, sources told Reuters on Thursday.

“The market’s crept up waiting for an actual agreement (with China), anything short of that is a disappointment,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

At 9:59 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 77.76 points, or 0.30 percent, at 25,876.68. The S&P 500 was down 10.51 points, or 0.38 percent, at 2,774.19 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 40.95 points, or 0.55 percent, at 7,448.12.

Johnson & Johnson shares fell 1.3 percent and weighed on both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The drugmaker said it received subpoenas from U.S. regulators related to litigation involving alleged asbestos contamination in its signature Baby Powder product line. The S&P healthcare sector fell 0.65 percent.


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Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) shares dropped 1.0 percent, weighing the most on the consumer discretionary sector, which slipped 0.35 percent. A Nike sneaker worn by emerging basketball star Zion Williamson split in half 33 seconds into a hotly anticipated game between Duke University and North Carolina.

Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) shares fell 3.2 percent after brokerage Stifel downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy”. The Nasdaq Biotech index was down 1.17 percent. Among few gainers, lithium producer Albermarle’s shares jumped 5.8 percent after the company posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and gave a bullish 2019 outlook.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.90-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and five new lows.


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The U.S. Commerce Department Sent a Report on Sunday to U.S. President Donald Trump that Could Unleash Steep Tariffs on Imported Cars and Auto Parts


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The U.S. Commerce Department sent a report on Sunday to U.S. President Donald Trump that could unleash steep tariffs on imported cars and auto parts, provoking a sharp backlash from the industry even before it is unveiled, the agency confirmed.

Late on Sunday, a department spokeswoman said it would not disclose any details of the “Section 232” national security report submitted to Trump by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The disclosure of the submission came less than two hours before the end of a 270-day deadline.

Trump has 90 days to decide whether to act upon the recommendations, which auto industry officials expect to include at least some tariffs on fully assembled vehicles or on technologies and components related to electric, automated, connected and shared vehicles.

As the White House received the report, the industry unleashed what is expected to be a massive lobbying campaign against it. The industry has warned that feared tariffs of up to 25 percent on millions of imported cars and parts would add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses throughout the U.S. economy.

The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents auto parts suppliers, warned that tariffs will shrink investment in the United States at a time when the auto industry is already reeling from declining sales, Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, and tariffs on auto parts from China.

“These tariffs, if applied, could move the development and implementation of new automotive technologies offshore, leaving America behind,” it said in a statement. “Not a single company in the domestic auto industry requested this investigation.”

The Commerce Department started its investigation in May 2018 at Trump’s request. Known as a Section 232 investigation, its purpose was to determine the effects of imports on national security and it had to be completed by Sunday.


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Automakers and parts suppliers are anticipating its recommendation options will include broad tariffs of up to 20 percent to 25 percent on assembled cars and parts, or narrower tariffs targeting components and technologies related to new energy cars, autonomous, internet-connected and shared vehicles. The Commerce Department alluded to a focus on emerging vehicle technologies when it opened the investigation.

Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the two trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner. Trump said on Friday that tariffs protect industry and also help win trade agreements.

“I love tariffs, but I also love them to negotiate,” he said. A report from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, published on Friday showed its worst-case scenario of a tariff of 25 percent would cost 366,900 U.S. jobs in the auto and related industries.

U.S. light duty vehicle prices would increase by $2,750 on average, including U.S.-built vehicles, reducing annual U.S. sales by 1.3 million units and forcing many consumers to the used car market, the think tank’s report said.

Major automaker groups said last year the cumulative effect for the United States would be an $83 billion annual price increase and argued there was no evidence auto imports posed a national security risk. Canada and Mexico each won duty-free access to 2.6 million vehicles as part of a new North American free trade deal even if the administration moves ahead with the tariffs.


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Analysts Warn Car Makers Could Be Forced To Cut Factory Production With U.S. Auto Sales Expected To Weaken In 2019


Today’s Stock Market News


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U.S. Auto Sales Expected To Weaken In 2019


By Adrienne Roberts and Alexander Tresold | StockMarket@News.Today

Car dealers are beginning 2019 with a heavier inventory of unsold vehicles on their lots, a situation that some analysts say will put pressure on them to cut factory output as U.S. auto sales are expected to cool this year.

There were 3.95 million vehicles on dealership lots at the end of January, a 4% increase from December and up nearly 3% from the prior-year January, according to data released Monday by WardsAuto.

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Today’s Stock Market News

While January is typically a slower month for new-vehicle sales, analysts say the rising stock levels are becoming problematic because car companies will start this year with more unsold inventory than they had three years ago when U.S. auto sales peaked at 17.55 million for the year. Industry forecasters and some auto executives predict sales this year will fall well below that figure, dropping to under 17 million vehicles for the first time since 2014.

General Motors Co. has already moved to end production at five North American factories this year in response to falling sedan sales, and aiming to get ahead of an expected U.S. car market downturn. More auto makers could be forced to follow suit as rising interest rates on new-car loans and more affordable options on the used-car lot are expected to put a damper on new-car sales this year.

“We could see more of the pain we saw last year with GM and inventory being taken out on the car side,” said Tyson Jominy, an analyst at J.D. Power.

Ford Motor Co. , which late last month reported a 27% drop in operating income for the full-year 2018, has moved to phase out slow-selling sedans and shift more production to higher-margin crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and trucks. GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV could provide more details about the year ahead when they report earnings this week.


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Auto makers sold 17.3 million vehicles last year in the U.S., a surprisingly strong performance that defied many industry forecasts.

U.S. auto sales in January, however, were down 1% over the prior-year month, according to industry trade publication Automotive News. Passenger-car sales, which include sedans, dropped 4% last month, underscoring a continued shift in consumer preference toward larger, more versatile crossovers and SUVs.

Jonathan Smoke, an economist with Cox Automotive, said last year’s strong results were lifted by sales to fleet buyers that aren’t likely to be repeated again this year.

The new tax-reform package made buying and replacing vehicles used for business cheaper because the entire expense could be written off all at once, Mr. Smoke said. That led to a surge in companies buying work vehicles at a low cost, he added. But now that those businesses have newer models, they’re not expected to make those purchases again this year.

Car companies also leaned more on sales to rental-car firms last year to keep results growing, analysts said. “It’s a short term Band-Aid,” said Mark Wakefield, a co-head for the automotive practice at consulting firm AlixPartners. Typically, manufacturers prefer to sell to showroom buyers because they can command stronger prices at retail. Rental-car firms often get a discount for purchasing cars in bulk.

And yet, auto makers plan to build about 17 million cars in North America this year, much of it destined for the U.S. market and similar to the factory output over the past two years when U.S. auto sales were at near-record highs, according to forecasting firm LMC Automotive.

At the same time, car companies are trying to resist deepening discounts to sell down unsold car-inventory. The industry spent an average of $3,720 per vehicle in January to incentivize sales, down $140 from the same year-ago month and representing the seventh consecutive month spending has fallen year-over-year, according to J.D. Power.

With sales projected to weaken this year, analysts say auto makers will be under pressure to trim factory production in order to avoid offering steeper discounts—a task made harder with many new crossovers and electric vehicles set to roll out in the coming years, further crowding dealer lots.


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About 48 new-model launches are planned for the U.S. this year, up from 42 last year and 36 five years ago, according to an analysis by Bank of America. Some dealers say auto makers are being overly optimistic for the projected demand.

David Rosenberg, chief executive for New England dealership chain Prime Automotive Group, said he is already getting flooded with too many recently launched crossover and truck models, such as the Toyota RAV4, Ram 3500 and Audi Q8. “There is an oversupply of new products, but not everyone is going to achieve their sales targets,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

Ryan Gremore, president of the O’Brien Auto Team, a dealership chain in Illinois, Florida and Kentucky, said low interest rates in the past have made it cheaper for dealers to carry higher levels of inventory. But with rates now going up, it will become more expensive to hold on to unsold vehicles and retailers are likely to be pickier about what they stock, he added. “We’ve carried too much inventory because we’ve been conditioned at artificial rates,” Mr. Gremore added.



 

U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest level in three years in December and house price increases slowed sharply


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U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest level in three years in December and house price increases slowed sharply, suggesting a further loss of momentum in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday existing home sales declined 6.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units last month. That was the lowest level since November 2015.

November’s sales pace was revised slightly up to 5.33 million unit from the previously reported 5.32 million units. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales falling 1.0 percent to a rate of 5.25 million units in December.


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Existing home sales, which make up about 90 percent of U.S. home sales, plunged 10.3 percent from a year ago. For all of 2018, sales fell 3.1 percent to 5.34 million units, the weakest since 2015.

The housing market has been stymied by higher mortgage rates as well as land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventory and more expensive homes. But there are glimmers of hope for the sector. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped a four-month low, with much of the moderation occurring in the second half of December, and house price inflation is slowing.

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A survey last week showed a rebound in homebuilders confidence in January amid optimism over market conditions now and over the next six months, as well buyer traffic. Homebuilders are hopeful that the moderation in mortgage rates “will help the housing market continue to grow at a modest clip as we enter the new year.”

A month-long partial shutdown of the federal government, which has delayed data on new home sales, housing starts and building permits is, however, making it difficult to get a good read of the housing market.

Last month, existing home sales fell in all four regions. There were 1.55 million previously owned homes on the market in December, down from 1.74 million in November, but up from 1.46 million a year ago.



At December’s sales pace, it would take 3.7 months to exhaust the current inventory, down from 3.9 in November. A six-to-seven-months supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.


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The median existing house price increased 2.9 percent from a year ago to $253,600 in December. That was the smallest increase since February 2012.

U.S. Recession Risk Hits Six-Year High. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg over the past week see a median 25 percent chance of a slump in the next 12 months


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Economists put the risk of a U.S. recession at the highest in more than six years amid mounting dangers from financial markets, a trade war with China and the federal-government shutdown.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg over the past week see a median 25 percent chance of a slump in the next 12 months, up from 20 percent in the December survey. The Federal Reserve is now projected to keep interest rates steady in the first quarter, instead of raising them, before two increases total this year — down from four moves in 2018.

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The median projection for 2019 economic growth edged down to 2.5 percent following 2.9 percent in 2018 as the boost from fiscal stimulus fades. Growth is still expected to be buoyed by a strong jobs market, rising wages and some lingering effects of tax cuts. If the expansion that began in 2009 lasts until July, it would mark 10 years and become the country’s longest on record.

“It’s not our call that there’s a recession coming soon by any means, but financial conditions have tightened materially over the past two months, you have ongoing trade issues that are weighing on global growth, and you’re seeing business confidence waning a bit,” said Brett Ryan, a U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank AG. “The government shutdown weighs on business confidence and could weigh on consumer confidence.”

Ryan gave a 20 percent chance of recession, up from 12 percent in the December survey.Analysts generally expect the partial government shutdown — which President Donald Trump said could last for months if not years, and is now in its third week — to weaken quarterly economic growth by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points every one to two weeks it drags on.



It’s already affecting projections. On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli cut his first-quarter growth forecast to a 2 percent annualized pace from 2.25 percent, citing the shutdown.

The shutdown has also delayed government data releases, such as retail sales and inventories, that investors and analysts use to assess the state of the economy. That puts more focus on companies such as retailers Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp., who gave disappointing reports on Thursday. Other figures from Johnson Redbook Research showed retail sales rising in recent weeks.

Less optimism among consumers would build on financial-market concern about a broader slowdown. Sectors where interest rates have been rising, such as the auto industry, will likely take a hit, according to Barclays Plc chief U.S. economist Michael Gapen.


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He said the trade war with China, which is contributing to overall slowing global trade and has raised prices for some U.S. companies, also is weighing on growth and increasing the risk of a downturn

U.S. services sector activity slowed to a five-month low in December


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U.S. services sector activity slowed to a five-month low in December, but remained above a level consistent with solid economic growth in the fourth quarter. The Institute for Supply Management said on Monday its non-manufacturing activity index fell to 57.6 last month, the lowest reading since July, from 60.7 in November.

Still the index stayed well above the 50 mark, suggesting expansion of the vast services sector. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of 59.0. Economists said while the drop in the services industries measure echoed recent declines in other business surveys, including the ISM’s manufacturing survey published last week, the reading was still strong by historic standards.

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“We have seen a range of different indicators lately that point to some softening in the economy as well as rising recession risks, but we think that the economy will continue to expand at a decent pace despite some moderation in growth,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are around a 2.6 percent annualized rate. The economy grew at a 3.4 percent pace in the third quarter. The dollar fell against a basket of currencies, pressured by growing expectations the Federal Reserve will either pause or halt its interest rate hike cycle. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher while U.S. Treasury prices were lower.



The ISM described growth as having “cooled,” noting that trade tensions between the United States and China remained a major concern for businesses. It also said that while capacity constraints had eased, finding workers was still a challenge.

A measure of services industries employment fell to a reading of 56.3 last month, the lowest since July, from 58.4 in November. While industries reported a modest increase in new orders amid strong exports, order backlogs declined sharply.

Companies in the wholesale trade industry said they were anticipating “a pullback year in demand for 2019,” citing several factors, including the trade dispute with China, a stock market sell-off, higher mortgage rates as well as labor shortages and higher material costs.

There were concerns in the company management and support services industries about the trade war with China, with companies saying they were expecting “lower profit margins and reduced sales for 2019 until our suppliers can source product from other countries.”



But retailers described business as being “very good.” Companies in the real estate, rental and leasing industries reported business as “exceeding expectations” and anticipated that “2019 should equate or exceed 2018.” News of the decline in service sector growth followed ISM’s data released last week that showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing activity in December.

The drop in factory activity and an ebb in consumer confidence had fueled investor fears of a recession. Those fears were allayed on Friday after a government report showed job growth in December was the largest in 10 months.


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“We believe this report adds further weight to the case that the economic data have solid momentum and that fears of a sharp slowing in growth are overblown,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed sharply to a two-year low in December amid a plunge in new orders and hiring at factories


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By Lucia Mutikani  | Reuters

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed sharply to a two-year low in December amid a plunge in new orders and hiring at factories, suggesting the economy was probably not immune to slowing growth in China and Europe.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey published on Thursday offered a downbeat assessment of the manufacturing sector, with almost all components declining last month. Concerns about the economy’s health are escalating despite the labor market remaining strong.

“The economy is just going to be spinning its wheels with subpar growth in 2019 if the purchasing managers report is to be believed,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “New orders have dried up and this will take a toll on business investment and growth in 2019.”

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity tumbled 5.2 points to 54.1 last month, the lowest reading since November 2016. The drop was the largest since October 2008, when the economy was in the throes of a recession. A reading above 50 in the ISM index indicates an expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.



The ISM said that demand had “softened.” It said while consumption continued to strengthen, with production and employment still expanding, this was “at much lower levels compared to prior periods.”

The ISM’s new orders sub-index plunged 11 points to 51.1 last month, the lowest reading since August 2016. The survey’s factory employment measure dropped to 56.2 in December from 58.4 in the prior month.

Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on steel and aluminum imports as well as a range of Chinese goods are hurting manufacturers. Transportation equipment manufacturers said “customer demand continues to decrease due to concerns about the economy and tariffs.”

Machinery makers complained that “the ongoing open issues with tariffs between U.S. and China are causing longer-term concerns about costs and sourcing strategies for our manufacturing operations.” Computer and electronic product manufacturers said “growth appears to have stopped.”

President Donald Trump has defended the duties as necessary to protect American industries from what he says is unfair foreign competition. The White House’s protectionism has lead to a trade war with China and tit-for-tat tariffs with other trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

In addition to the tariffs, which have raised input costs for manufacturers, factory activity is also being undercut by a strong dollar, a shortage of skilled workers, a fading fiscal stimulus and slowing growth in economies like China.

Data this week showed factory activity weakened across much of Europe and Asia in December, with Chinese manufacturing contracting for the first time in 19 months. Apple (O:AAPL) on Wednesday cut its sales forecast for its quarter ending in December, citing slowing iPhone sales in China.

U.S. stocks extended losses on the weak ISM survey, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) falling more than 600 points at one point. The dollar dropped against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury yields fell.

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The sharp stock market sell-off has raised the specter of a significant slowdown in growth this year, though economists see no recession. Some economists believe that the resulting tightening in financial market conditions could discourage the Federal Reserve from further raising interest rates this year.

The Fed increased borrowing costs last month for the fourth time in 2018, but forecast fewer rate hikes this year and signaled its tightening cycle is nearing an end in the face of financial market volatility and slowing global growth.

Despite signs of slowing economic growth, the labor market appears strong. The ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) National Employment Report on Thursday showed private payrolls jumped 271,000 last month after increasing 157,000 in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast private payrolls advancing 178,000 last month. The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics, was published ahead of the government’s more comprehensive employment report for December scheduled for release on Friday.

The ADP report has a spotty record predicting the private-payrolls component of the government’s employment report and last month’s surge probably exaggerates the strength of the labor market because of a seasonal quirk.

“The ADP employment report has been susceptible to large swings in December that we think may be in part due to a year-end quirk that has tended to result in ADP printing high relative to payrolls in the final month of the year,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.



Still, other labor market indicators were strong in December, including consumers’ perceptions of the job market. According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 177,000 jobs last month after rising 155,000 in November. The unemployment rate is forecast steady near a 49-year low of 3.7 percent.

With the labor market viewed at being at or beyond full employment, the pace of job growth is slowing as employers struggle to find workers. Some of the moderation in employment gains has been attributed to the stock market rout.

A third report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 231,000 for the week ended Dec. 29. Claims have now increased for three straight weeks.

Claims data tends to be noisy around year-end holidays. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, slipped 500 to 218,750 last week.


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“The claims data suggest that conditions in the labor market have softened relative to a few months ago when the claims readings were very upbeat, but the extent of any deterioration is not entirely obvious and does not look extreme at this point,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) in New York.

Global stocks rallied on Friday, adding to a week of seesaws on Wall Street that captured the uncertainty gripping investors heading into 2019


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Global stocks rallied on Friday, adding to a week of seesaws on Wall Street that captured the uncertainty gripping investors heading into 2019. The Stoxx 600 European benchmark was up 1.7%. France’s CAC 40 and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained 1.7%, too. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.1% and China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.4%.

The holiday period has been defined by wild market swings, with U.S. stocks slumping Thursday before staging a dramatic comeback just before markets closed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from an intraday 2.7% fall to close 1.1% higher.

In the U.S., futures pointed to a 0.5% opening gain Friday for the S&P 500 and the Dow. Technology and financial stocks led the European market higher, with German lender Commerzbank up 4.5% and Italy’s Banco BPM BAMI +4.65% up 4.7%, while Deutsche Bank , which has lost 56% over the past year, gained 3%.

Despite the rally late this week, analysts remain cautious about the prospects for equity markets into the new year. “Investors continue to be worried by the economic outlook,” said Charles St Arnaud, senior investment strategist at Lombard Odier Investment Managers. He also pointed to a string of news from Washington that has created uncertainty for investors, including President Trump’s complaints about the U.S. Federal Reserve, just as thin trading exaggerates market moves.

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Concerns that the U.S. economy is set for a slowdown have weighed on markets in recent months, as the effects of President Trump’s tax reforms wear off and the U.S. central bank tightens monetary policy. Equity markets rallied earlier this year, led by the technology sector, but those gains have been reversed in the past quarter.

The S&P 500 benchmark is down almost 7% this year, while the Stoxx 600 is down more than 14%. There have been few havens for investors, with gold, international bonds and cash equivalents all offering paltry returns.


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Top of mind in the U.S. this week is the partial government shutdown, which is expected to continue into January as the issue of funding a wall on the border with Mexico cleaves further open a partisan split in Congress.

“The U.S. economic data is not great and there is no reason to believe it will improve,” said Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Group, an emerging-market investment manager. “I expect U.S. stocks to have a tough time in 2019 and this sudden bounce on low volume is a great opportunity to offload in case you missed it earlier,” he added.

Chinese stocks closed modestly higher, up 0.4%, on the country’s last trading day of the year, a mild consolation to the end of a dismal year marked by the U.S.-China trade spat and slowing economic growth. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index recorded a 25% loss for the year, the biggest since 2008, when it plunged 65%.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, was down 0.4%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield ticked up to 2.754%, from 2.744% on Thursday. Yields move inversely to prices. Brent crude oil was up 1.5% at $53.53 a barrel.

U.S. consumer confidence posted its sharpest decline in more than three years in December


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By Jason Lange – (Reuters). A measure of U.S. consumer confidence posted its sharpest decline in more than three years in December, rattling investors already nervous about the prospect that a global economic slowdown was spilling over into the United States.

In a sign households were growing more worried about the economy, the Conference Board on Thursday said its consumer confidence index fell this month by 8.3 points to a reading of 136.4, the largest one-month drop since July 2015.


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Other data released by the Labor Department, however, showed the number of new applications for jobless benefits dipping in the latest week.

U.S. stocks, which enjoyed a huge rally on Wednesday, were trading sharply lower after Thursday’s data, with the S&P 500 index (SPX) down about 1.8 percent early in the afternoon. Prices of U.S. Treasuries were higher, while the U.S. dollarwas weaker against a basket of currencies.

U.S. stock prices have plunged in December as investors worried the U.S. economy could face headwinds due to the global economic slowdown. Adding to those concerns on Thursday was data showing earnings at China’s industrial firms dropped in November for the first time in nearly three years.

Whipsawing financial markets could lead to further drops in consumer confidence, which could eventually make consumers more shy about spending, said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

“It will definitely be worthwhile to keep a close eye on the various measures of consumer attitudes,” Stanley said.

The drop in consumer confidence in December was mostly fueled by falling measures of expectations, with more people expecting jobs will become more scarce.

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The labor market, however, appears to still be strong. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended Dec. 22, the Labor Department reported.

Initial claims have now fallen in three of the last four weeks and are just above the 49-year low of 202,000 reached in the week ended Sept. 15.


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After several years of near-steady falls, claims trended higher between mid-September and mid-December, prompting concern the U.S. economy was losing momentum.

It remains unclear how much of that increase was related to the difficulty government statisticians have in adjusting the claims data for seasonal swings. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims increasing to 217,000 in the latest week.

The latest claims data “signals improvement in the labor market relative to a few weeks ago, but softening in conditions relative to a few months ago,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan.

Worries about the economy have also been stoked by signs of weakness in the housing market. U.S. home prices rose just 0.3 percent in October, leaving the year-over-year increase at 5.7 percent, the smallest gain in more than two years, data from the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency showed on Thursday.

A report on new home sales in November will not be released on Thursday as previously scheduled due to a partial shutdown of the federal government.


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The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week for the fourth time this year, but forecast fewer rate hikes next year and signaled its tightening cycle is nearing an end in the face of financial market volatility and slowing global growth.

The plummeting stock market is signaling a serious slowdown, if not a recession. But the economy can turn quickly


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The plummeting stock market is signaling a serious slowdown, if not a recession. But shopping malls were packed into Christmas Eve. Only one of those trends will continue into 2019. Picking the winner will be profitable but won’t be easy.

The crux of the problem: The early indicators of trouble, such as stock-market selloffs and surveys of sentiment, are imperfect forecasters of a recession. But the hard economic numbers that more accurately predict a slowdown are lagging indicators, so they often just confirm what everyone already knows. This matters a lot right now.

Early indicators have more credibility when several of them are flashing warning lights, which is true now. Besides the stock market turmoil, short-term Treasury yields are almost as high as long-term yields, closing in on a yield curve “inversion” that in the past has portended recession.

Corporate bond yield spreads over comparable Treasurys are climbing. Business sentiment is slipping, with nearly half of chief financial officers in a recent Duke University survey forecasting a recession by the end of next year.

True, one or more of these may turn out to be wrong. The flattening yield curve, for example, could be a result of bond buying by central banks. But these indicators tend to reinforce one another, so if markets get worse, investors should be more nervous.

The next thing to watch are the most real-time of the lagging indicators. Among them, economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch point to initial jobless claims, auto sales, industrial production and aggregate hours worked. Of these, only auto sales, which have leveled off lately, provide any concern.

The others are sending an all clear, with jobless claims near multidecade lows, industrial production at a record high and aggregate hours—the combined amount of time Americans are spending on the job—growing steadily.

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Another good recession indicator, according to Goldman Sachs, is economists’ recession forecasts. This isn’t as silly as it sounds. Economists as a group may never correctly predict a recession, but the odds they place on one coming tend to rise in advance of a downturn.

This is what has happened: This month, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal put a 22% chance of a recession occurring over the next 12 months, compared with 14% a year earlier. Those odds would need to go higher before they amounted to a danger sign. In September 2007, three months before the last downturn began, economists’ recession odds were at 36%.



Before relaxing too much, the other thing to know about recessions is that they can start fast. Before the fall of 2007, recession indicators like jobless claims suggested nothing was seriously amiss, and then suddenly, they did. With the boost from last year’s tax-cut stimulus about to fade, the lagged effects of the Federal Reserve’s rate increases starting to take hold and fractious geopolitical environment, investors should acknowledge the blue skies overhead but also keep an eye on the horizon.

Third-quarter U.S. economic growth revised downward. The U.S. economy slowed in the third quarter a bit more than previously estimated


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U.S. Economy News

The U.S. economy slowed in the third quarter a bit more than previously estimated, but the pace was likely strong enough to keep growth on track to hit the Trump administration’s 3 percent target this year, even as momentum appears to have moderated further early in the fourth quarter.

Gross domestic product increased at a 3.4 percent annualized rate, the Commerce Department said on Friday in its third reading of third-quarter GDP growth. That was slightly down from the 3.5 percent pace estimated in October and well above the economy’s growth potential, which economists estimate to be about 2 percent.

The revisions to the third-quarter GDP reading reflected markdowns to consumer spending and exports. Inventory accumulation was, however, much bigger than previously estimated. There were downward revisions to business spending on equipment and nonresidential structures, as well as residential investment.

The economy grew at a 4.2 percent pace in the April-June quarter. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday for the fourth time this year, but forecast fewer rate hikes next year and signaled its tightening cycle is nearing an end in the face of financial market volatility and slowing global growth.

The U.S. central bank slightly lowered its growth projections for 2019. Growth is being driven by the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package, which has given consumer spending a jolt. The fiscal stimulus is part of measures adopted by the White House to boost annual growth to 3 percent on a sustainable basis.

But the economy appears to be slowing in the fourth quarter amid a widening trade deficit, sluggish business spending on equipment and a weak housing market.

The slowdown in growth is expected to spill over into 2019 as the fiscal stimulus fades and a bitter trade war with China and strong dollar undercut manufacturing. Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are around a 2.9 percent pace. An alternative measure of economic growth, gross domestic income (GDI), increased at a rate of 4.3 percent in the third quarter, instead of the 4.0 percent pace reported last month.

The average of GDP and GDI, also referred to as gross domestic output and considered a better measure of economic activity, increased at an unrevised a 3.8 percent rate in the July-September period.

After-tax corporate profits were revised up to show them rising at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter instead of the previously estimated 3.3 percent rate. Corporate profits rose at a 2.1 percent pace in the April-June period.


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Inventories increased at an $89.8 billion rate, instead of the $86.6 billion rate estimated in November. Inventory investment added 2.33 percentage points to GDP growth. That was more than the 2.27 percentage points reported last month and was the biggest contribution since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter, slightly down from the 3.6 percent rate estimated in November.