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Tuesday 04.04.2017

Americans Want More Than Just Money to Live On

Donald Trump’s election as president should have reminded liberals that Americans want more than money from their work. They responded to Trump’s promise of jobs more than to Hillary Clinton’s promise of government benefits because in addition to money, people also need dignity, a sense of self-reliance and respect within their community. For centuries, jobs have provided all of those.

To say that work is disappearing would be an exaggeration. But despite the low unemployment rate, fewer Americans have jobs than in years past.

This new class of non-workers may be able to survive on the government dole, the charity of friends and family or via black-market activities like drug sales. But they’ve probably lost some of the dignity and respect that used to come with working for a living. Falling employment has been linked to declining marriage rates, reduced happiness and opiate abuse. Some economists even blame disappearing jobs for the recent rise in mortality rates afflicting white Americans.

What’s more, the longer people stay out of the labor force, the more trouble they will have getting back into it. They lose work ethic, skills and connections, and employers become suspicious of the large gaps in the resumes. Economists Brad DeLong and Larry Summers have shown that this so-called labor-market hysteresis can have potentially large, long-lasting negative effects on the economy.

Dallas mayor on saving police pensions: 'This is a poison pill'

Mayor Mike Rawlings said Sunday that he won't support legislation meant to save the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Rawlings plans to testify about his opposition to the long-in-the-works bill on Monday in Austin during a House Pensions committee hearing. The mayor told committee Chairman Dan Flynn, R-Van, on Sunday that a key provision — which binds the city to minimum payments into the pension system — is unpalatable

"This is a poison pill that, as inserted, would damage the city of Dallas and its services for decades to come," Rawlings said in an interview. Rawlings' stance frustrated Flynn and escalates what had been a tense, high-stakes political standoff between Dallas police and firefighters, retirees, the pension system and City Hall. A combination of unsustainable benefits and overvalued and underperforming investments have left the first responders' pension system on track to become insolvent within 10 years if the Legislature doesn't change the laws that govern the retirement fund.

Flynn and his staff had played broker in the dispute for months. And all sides had believed the state representative would eventually come up with a deal they could tolerate. But Flynn talked tough about the mayor on Sunday. Through a spokesman, Flynn said in a statement that he is "deeply disappointed" and hopes "the mayor thinks better of" his opposition. Flynn added that "10,000 police and fire retirees and active members and their extended families will be damaged" by Rawlings' position.

Sam Zell: Trump 'Creating a Lot of Hope' in Economy

Billionaire real estate mogul Sam Zell advises savvy investors to keep the faith despite some rough sailing in the early weeks of President Donald Trump’s administration. “I think he's creating a lot of hope,” he recently told Fox Business Network.

“I think that the last eight years has been a period of lack of confidence by the business community in the political leadership of our country and I think the result has been failure to make commitments and failure to take risks, corporate America has more cash today and balance sheet at any time in history,” said Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments and a member of the Forbes 400,

“How do you make commitments when you don't know what tomorrow is going to be like?” he asked. He said the key to Trump’s success in part will be slashing most of the burdensome regulation imposed by Barack Obama.

“The regulatory burden has been just unbelievable, I mean, I know we are a small player in the regulation world and cost of compliance has gone up five times in the last four years,” Zell said.

The “Liberal dogma of the unelected academics”

Buffett's Newspaper Group Slashes 289 Jobs

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. eliminated 289 jobs at its newspapers amid a decline in print readership and advertising revenue.

The cuts include 108 vacant positions, according to a memo Monday from Terry Kroeger, chief executive officer of BH Media Group. Some papers are also reducing the amount of pages they publish.

“While more readers than ever turn to our digital products, our digital revenue is not growing fast enough yet to offset print revenue losses from both advertising and circulation,” he wrote. “Therefore, we need to cut our expenses.”

Buffett, who called a teenage job delivering newspapers his “one brief flirtation with honest labor,” expanded his bet on the industry in recent years, buying papers from Virginia to Oklahoma. The billionaire has praised newspapers that focus on local communities, which he says can be profitable.

Half of Americans are responsible for only 3 percent of health care costs

Here’s a simple reason crafting health policy is so devilishly hard: Most Americans are pretty healthy and a few are really sick.

The top 1 percent of health-care spenders use more resources, collectively, than the bottom 75 percent, according to a new study based on national surveys. Slice the data a different way, and the bottom half of spenders all together rack up only about 3 percent of overall health care spending — a pattern that hasn’t budged for decades. This creates a fundamental inequality in the country's health spending that is the crux of the challenge policymakers face: They need a system that works for people who are ill, but is attractive to those who are healthy and spend little on health care.

The political debate over health care often focuses on how a new system will meet the needs of the sick: Will cancer patients or people with diabetes access and afford care when they need it? But the Health Affairs study, “Most Americans have good health, little unmet need and few health care expenses,” shows just how important the healthy people who spend very little on health care are. The message you draw from that, however, may depend on your politics.

“The key takeaway message really is most people are in good health; they don’t spend a lot of money, and yet it’s important to have them be part of our insurance system. If they’re left out of the system, we’re not going to have the funds to take care of people who are very sick,” said Marc Berk, a health policy researcher and contributing editor of Health Affairs who led the analysis.

UPS unveils Saturday delivery -- and 6,000 new jobs

The expanded drop-off schedule, announced Monday, means UPS (UPS) to go head-to-head with FedEx (FDX) and the United States Postal Service. Both of those companies already deliver packages to people's homes on the weekend.

The change is "one of the largest in the company's 109-year-history," a UPS statement said. It will also generate jobs. Saturday delivery is expected to create 6,000 new U.S. positions by the end of 2018, boosting the company's domestic operations by 1.7%.

Hiring is already underway, spokeswoman Dawn Wotapka told CNNMoney, and UPS aims to open up about 4,000 of these jobs this year.

The move is a no-brainer for UPS, with online sales booming. Shipments from businesses to consumers represented almost half of packages delivered in the U.S. in 2016, according to regulatory filings.

The Yahoo, AOL Brands Will Soon Die, To Be Replaced By ‘Oath’

Two of the last vestiges of the original internet boom will soon be lost to history. Verizon will soon shove Yahoo and AOL under one, new — and entirely forgettable — brand name: Oath.

Business Insider first reported that the name change will take place once Verizon finishes its billion-dollar acquisition of Yahoo’s core internet businesses and merges those assets with fellow dotcom bronze ager AOL, which Verizon acquired in 2015.

Unless Verizon keeps the Yahoo name around in some other form, the once-huge brand will be lost to the ether. Even the part of Yahoo that isn’t being sold — basically a shell company that owns a lot of Alibaba stock — is ditching the name. The company announced in a January Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it would change the name for the remaining company to Altaba.

Verizon’s road to purchasing Yahoo began last summer when the company was among a number of other tech giants to bid on the company’s assets. Verizon ultimately won with a $4.8 billion bid. That deal was reduced by $350 million in February after Yahoo was linked to two massive data breaches.

Your Employer Wants You to Stop Raiding Your 401(k)

The initiatives vary, according to the Wall Street Journal: It could be anything from a company-funded consultation with a financial counselor to a required number of days between paying off one 401(k) loan and initiating the next one.

“Employers have done a lot to encourage people to save 401(k) plans, such as automatically enrolling them,” Lori Lucas, defined-contribution practice leader at Callan Associates, an investment consulting firm, told the Journal. “But there is a growing recognition that if the money isn’t staying in the system, the objective of helping employees reach their retirement goals isn’t being met.”

Economists at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research suggest leakage — or the borrowing of retirement funds early — poses a threat to wealth across all U.S. retirement accounts. Leakage occurs in three different ways: withdraws for hardships, cashing out when a person leaves a job and through loans, according to economists.

Movement Mortgage, a mortgage lender in Fort Mill, S.C., and Home Depot are two examples of employers that have recently targeted this issue in several ways, the Journal reported. Movement Mortgage now requires employees who start a 401(k) loan to meet with a financial counselor before they do so, while Home Depot requires employees to wait at least 90 days between paying off one 401(k) loan and initiating another.

Swedish company Epicenter implants microchips into employees

Some workers have been implanted with microchips that allow the companies that employ them to track their every move. Swedish company Epicenter will embed a chip into about 150 workers, so bosses can monitor toilet breaks and how long they work.

The workers volunteered to have the microchip, which is about as big as a grain of rice, implanted for free. Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter, an innovation and technology company, told the ABC the microchips inserted into employees’ hands would simplify life.

With the radiofrequency identification chip, they’ll be able to open doors and use office technology like photocopiers and it can even pay for lunch at the office cafe.

“You can do airline fares with it, you can also go to your local gym ... so it basically replaces a lot of things you have other communication devices for, whether it be credit cards, or keys, or things like that.”

Government orders Wells Fargo to reinstate whistleblower

The federal government has ordered Wells Fargo (WFC.N) to reinstate a former bank manager who lost his job after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior at the bank.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on Monday that the bank must rehire the employee, as well as pay back wages, compensatory damages and attorneys' fees totaling $5.4 million.

OSHA concluded that the manager was "abruptly" forced to leave a Los Angeles branch of the bank in 2010, after he told superiors he suspected two of his subordinates of bank, mail and wire fraud. The manager also called the bank's ethics hot line. OSHA determined his whistleblowing was "at least a contributing factor in his termination." The manager was not named.

The bank is planning to request a full hearing on the OSHA decision before the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. Such a step will not halt the initial reinstatement order.

Do immigration rights clash with raising minimum wage?

Record Gap Between Hard And Soft Economic Data

Since the end of last year, US business sentiment data has improved dramatically off the back of heightened business optimism. Expectations surrounding Donald Trump’s proposed regulation bonfire and corporate tax cuts has pushed so-called soft (sentiment) data in the US to an all-time high.

However, while the soft data appears to show a bright outlook for US businesses’ the hard data (quantifiable) shows a different picture altogether, as Goldman recently pointed out as well.

Morgan Stanley’s Graham Secker, chief European equity strategist and Matt Hornbach, the global head of rates strategy for the bank captured this divergence in a great chart published last week. The chart shows that upside surprises appear to be completely driven by soft data, while hard data is simply coming in as expected. To put it another way, the hard data is unfolding in line with the Federal reserve’s 2017 outlook, which is why the central bank has neglected to provide any upside revisions to its 2017 outlook.

The divergence between hard and soft data is having an impact on the various forecasts used by economists to predict economic growth for the US. For example, Morgan Stanley points out that the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s current Q1 GDP tracking forecast is currently 3% versus the bank’s own tracking of 1% and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracking of 1%. Both of Morgan Stanley’s analysts and the Atlanta Fed use mostly hard data to calculate tracking figures compared to FRBNY, which incorporates soft data into its tracking.

Ford, Chrysler Sales Disappoint as Cars Plunge

Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported the biggest declines, and automakers’ U.S. sales trailed analysts’ estimates as heavy incentive spending failed to keep struggling sedan and compact models from plunging.

Deliveries slumped 7.2% at Ford and 4.6% at Fiat Chrysler last month. General Motors Co. sales climbed 1.6%, a smaller gain than analysts projected, while Honda Motor Co. reported a surprise drop.

The early results cast doubt on estimates that industrywide U.S. auto sales would rise in March compared with 2016’s weakest month, when results were depressed by the early Easter holiday. Automakers are using heavy discounts to try to trim inventory that’s swelled to the highest level in more than a decade.

“Sales are under forecast and there were a lot of incentives during the month,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, said by phone. “Before long, we will see more production cuts.”

Debt load could snag students, hurt U.S. economy: Fed's Dudley

Rising student loan debt in the United States could ultimately hurt overall home ownership and consumer spending and erode colleges' and universities' ability to elevate lower-income students, a top Federal Reserve policymaker said on Monday.

New York Fed President William Dudley, an influential monetary policymaker who was citing research from his institution, pointed to rising costs of higher education and student debt burdens as culprits in the troubling trend.

Overall U.S. household debt is expected to surpass its pre-recession high later this year. Proportionally, Americans have shifted away from housing-related debt and toward auto and student loan debt, with aggregate student loan balances $1.3 trillion at the end of last year, up 170 percent from 2006.

Dudley, whose Fed monitors economic indicators but who does not have any control over fiscal policies like college funding, noted that overall delinquency rates "remain stubbornly high" and repayments have slowed, even while the job market improved the last few years. There are "potential longer-term negative implications of student debt on homeownership and other types of consumer spending," he said at a news conference.

Record $10 Trillion Paper Gold Trading Market Continues To Depress Price

How do you depress the physical gold price? It’s quite easy… you throw $10 trillion paper dollars at it. Not only did global paper gold trading amount reach a new record in 2016, it surpassed the previous year’s total by nearly 50%.

This is simply amazing when we look around at the staggering amount of insanity taking place in the financial markets. With the economic and financial markets sitting at the edge of the cliff, it would seem prudent for investors to curtail their highly leverage bets in the “Paper Gold Casino” and buckle down by purchasing real physical metal.

Unfortunately, the Mainstream media and the Financial networks have totally lobotomized investors by removing the following vocabulary from the mushy substance between their ears….. Wisdom, Prudent, Long-term, Safe-haven and Gold-Silver.

With the advent of twitter, wisdom today comes down to reading no more than ONE SENTENCE. Anything longer than that is a complete waste of time when it is better spent sitting in front of six computer monitors trading digits. Forget about investing one’s money to build up a real company, when it is more stimulating to try and SCALP tiny profits by trading stocks all day fueled by a half dozen monster energy drinks.

Forget humans — not even American robots can find work in American factories

Numerous critics have asserted that President Trump's promises to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US ignore the looming threat of robotic automation. But the reality may be even further removed from Trump's vision than critics believe.

Across the US, companies of all sizes are turning to robots to mechanize tasks once done by humans. But not even those robots are American-made — the majority of them come from Japan and Europe, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

"If you want to build new production facilities in the US, a large part of the machinery and technology has to be imported because local alternatives are rarely available," Torsten Gede, a manager at the German investment group Deutsche Beteilgungs AG, told WSJ.

Most labor-economist predictions peg the 2030s as the decade that artificially-intelligent software and heavy-duty robotics will start to make up the majority of the US labor force. Beyond just factory work, which is already becoming rapidly automated, AI is expected to enter telemarketing, customer service, and food-service jobs.

Is Amazon Killing Traditional Retail Jobs?

For some people working retail, a career in brick-and-mortar is looking shorter. The closing of 100 stores by Macy’s, the country’s largest department store chain, will result in 10,000 job cuts alone. The New York Times highlights several trends behind the job cuts like those at Macy’s. Consumers, following a long recession, have pushed their shopping carts to low-cost chains like T. J. Maxx, and also away from brick-and-mortar stores, opting for virtual shopping carts at online retailers like Amazon.

Sears Holdings, which is closing 41 of its namesake stores and 109 Kmart stores, shocked investors recently when the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had “substantial doubt” it could survive. In the filing, Sears acknowledged the headwinds it faces as shoppers bypass traditional retailers for online sellers.

J.C. Penney announced it is closing 130 to 140 of its departments stores to “effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers,” but two Wall Street analysts warn more closures may be ahead for the mall mainstay. RadioShack, which employs about 5,900 people, in early March filed for its second bankruptcy and said it will close 200 stores. That same week office supply store Staples announced it was closing 70 more stores.

Those aren’t the only retailers struggling. More U.S. retailers are on the brink of dying than any time since the Great Recession, according to Moody’s Investors Service, as reported in MarketWatch. And the number of retailers in distress is heading toward record levels in the next five years, Moody’s said. That’s a tough blow for people working in the traditional retail sector, which has been feeling the pain for years. The New York Times reported that in the last four years, traditional retailers have cut more than 200,000 jobs, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm.

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