USA finance and payments news summary | 29 April 2022
Headlines | Friday 29 April 2022
- Interest rates for the most popular fixed-term mortgages rises to highest level since the Great Recession
- Amazon sees its worst day on Wall Street in more than eight years, losing around 15 percent of its value since markets opened
- As inflation cuts into the purchasing power low-income households, some states are sending larger SNAP benefit amounts to beneficiaries
- White House says decision on student debt cancellation will be made in the coming weeks
- Maine will be sending stimulus checks worth $850, citing inflation and high gas prices
- Nebraska’s electricity cooperatives help to keep utility prices down
Helpful links & Information
- Walmart and Exxon partner to bring down gas prices: what is planned?
- Within interest rates scheduled to increase, experts talk about the benefits of renting versus buying in the new market
- Gas cards in Chicago: how to access
AS USA's Jen Bubel takes a look at the direct payments sent out by the US government during the covid-19 pandemic.
With interest rates on the rise, prospective homeowners should consider their long-term housing plans before entering into a rental or mortgage agreement.
Biden outlines the importance of infrastructure spending
President Biden was not able to pass his massive Build Back Better proposals last year, but did sign into law a smaller, more targeted bipartisan package aimed at boosted investment in infrastructure. Speaking to reporters, Biden warned that the United States' position as a global leader is under threat if infrastructure issues at home are not resolved.
In a White House briefing released on Friday, President Biden confirmed that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law aims to “invest public dollars efficiently, avoid waste, and focus on measurable outcomes for the American people.”
Many local officials have sought to ease the financial burden on residents as the US economy readjusts in the aftermath of covid-19 lockdown requirements, but few go as far as the state of Maine to offer relief. The $850 Maine relief payments are available for full-time residents of the state, with an estimated 858,000 Mainers thought to be eligible for the support.
Gov. Janet Mills approved the proposal which is designed to help residents deal with the “increased costs as a result of pandemic-driven inflation, ranging from higher energy costs to increased prices of everyday goods.”
What's the latest news from Wall Street?
There was bad news for investors on Wall Street as numerous blue chip stocks posted considerable losses to end the month of April.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped more than 900 points, while the S&P 500 fell 3.6% and finished April 8.8% down. The technology sector faced the biggest drag this month and the Nasdaq composite, heavily weighted with technology stocks, ended April with a 13.3% loss.
That represented the largest monthly decline since the 2008 financial crisis and Amazon posted its first loss since 2015.
Sanders blames corporate greed for continued high gas prices
Few would argue that there were not a confluence of factors that had brought about the sharp rise in gasoline prices in the past few months. Widespread inflation, economic conditions and the sanctions on Russian oil have undoubtedly influenced the situation, but there is a growing feeling that the gas companies are partly responsible too.
Sen. Bernie Sanders points to the blatant profiteering of some major fuel companies in recent months, arguing that an additional windfall tax is required to protect consumers.
As inflation begins to impact the purchasing power of families around the country, some states are sending direct relief.
Maine will be sending an $850 stimulus check to many residents in the state, leaving some to wonder if they are eligible if they are able rely on other state assistance programs.Read our full coverage for more information on Maine's eligibility requirements.
Wall Street struggles for second week
Last Friday, Wall Street experienced its worst day this year. Today, history was repeated with markets closing down further than what was seen last week. In part this relates to strong losses from major companies including Amazon.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.77% lower than yesterday, and almost ten percent compared to last year. The NASDAQ Composite and the S&P500 tracked similar trends, with a 4.17 percnet and 3.63 percent drop today, and a twenty-two percent and thirteen percent decrease in value compared to this time last year.
This week signs of persistent inflation, reports of decreased GDP growth, and a possible lock down in Beijing have all contributed to massive sell-offs. Some are concerned that if these trends continue, a recession could be in the country's future.
The President is committed to doing everything he can to address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump as a result of Putin’s Price Hike and his unjustified war’s impact on global fuel supply. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is issuing an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season.
The waiver is a critical step to address the fuel supply crisis and follows President Biden’s announcement earlier this month laying out actions to increase use of biofuels in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the clean energy transition, build real U.S. energy independence, support American agriculture and manufacturing, and save Americans money at the pump. At current prices, E15 can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gas on average and many stores sell E15 at an even greater discount and today’s waiver will allow families to pay that lower price for months to come.
Compensation increases 1.4 percent from December to March
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported increases in compensation over the last year.
Compared to figures recorded in March 2021, compensation has increased 4.5 percent, but when accounting for inflation the agency says that this figure is actually -3.7 percent. In inflation adjusted terms, no sector (private, government, or civilian) saw an increase in their wages over the last year.
Currently, economist are divided over whether persistent inflation could lead to a recession. Many see the historic levels as side effects of the pandemic, which broke many global supply chains, leading firms to increase prices. When inflation is caused by a demand exceeding supply, the economy is in a much better position then when consumer demand decreases quickly and thus firms look to cut costs.
Holders of Amazon stock may be doing a double-take today after the value of a company share fell by more than fifteen percent in one day. The company attributes the slower than expected growth to various factors including inflation and a possible overestimation of consumer preferences for online shopping.
This news comes as a second warehouse in New York is expected to vote on a labor union, which the company has stated publicly they oppose.Read our full coverage for what this means for the future of the company.
As food prices increase across the country as fuel costs go up, many receiving SNAP benefits are hopeful that their state will boost their benefit amount. Have any states made such an announcement. Read our coverage for the full list of states that have made such a move.
Amazon stock tanks on poor earnings report wiping $170 billion off value
Amazon saw its worst day on Friday since 14 July, dropping to its lowest level since June 2020 and losing $170 billion in valuation. The selloff came after the online retail giant reported a loss of $4 billion in the first quarter of 2022, its first in seven years.
In a move to attract new customers to it subscription service and encourage current ones to renew, the Arkansas-based retail giant announced it will double its discount on gasoline for Walmart+ members. Starting Wednesday, the fuel savings will jump to 10 cents per gallon for Walmart+ members at more than 14,000 gas stations.
That represents a sixfold increase in the number of eligible locations where customers can fill up their cars for less made possible through a partnership with Exxon Mobil.
Inflation data released for March ahead of Fed meeting to raise rates
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis released data on Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index for the month of March on Friday. This is one of the preferred measures of underlying inflationary pressures for Federal Reserve policymakers who are set to meet to decide on next rate hike.
The headline PCE Price rose at by 6.6 percent over the past 12 months in March, that is up from 6.3 percent in February. Last month's rise was 0.6 percent was outpaced by the 0.9 percent reading for March.
The central bank is expected to raise interest rates by half a point at their next meeting in just over two weeks time to put the brakes on high inflation..
The high price of gasoline across the US has forced some states and local governments to consider financial support in the form of fuel ‘stimulus checks’. Chicago residents can begin accessing one such program aimed at easing the cost of travel. The initiative, introduced by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, will provide tens of thousands of prepaid gasoline and public transit cards from Wednesday, 27 March onwards.
If there is one thing Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Elon Musk (Tesla, and now also Twitter) have in common, it is that they have money, heaps of money. In addition to all three owning tech companies, they now also have another common business: cobalt. KoBold Metals, a mineral exploration company in which they all have a stake, has announced that it will drill in Greenland for materials used in electric vehicles, such as cobalt and nickel.
US spending strong but GDP down, what's the catch?
GDP was down in the first quarter of this year by 1.4 percent , the first time it has dropped since 2020. However, US households' personal consumption was up 2.7 percent and businesses invested 15.3 percent more in equipment. So that begs the question, if more was being spent how could GDP fall?
One crux of the problem is that the US was importing more and exporting less. Also businesses were winding down their inventories after stocking up for the holiday rush in the last quarter of 2021. Add to that the reduced government spending, which was primarily due to less defense spending which varies quarter to quarter.
Amazon warehouse workers on Staten Island say company is union busting
Around 1,500 workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island are voting this week on whether they will become the second to unionize. Before colleagues at the much larger JFK8 warehouse voted to unionize, the chances were seen as quite slim.
However, after that successful bid, the 8,000 workers voted by over 10 points in favor of the union, organizers have their hopes up for the LBJ5 warehouse where ballots will be counted on Monday.
Amazon is challenging the vote at JFK8, and organizers say that the company has ramped up union-busting activites at the LBJ5 location. Even paying union-busting consultants $400 an hour to work on the production lines to convince workers to vote against unionizing.
Airbnb employees to work remotely from now on
Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, announced that employees will be able to permanently work remotely anywhere in the US from now on.
The redesign came about after the company had its most productive two-year period in the peer-to-peer lodging service's history. Chesky sees remote working as the future and that it "will become the predominant way companies work 10 years."
Workers will also be able to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location.
In order to deepen human connections between employees, which is difficult over Zoom, most will meet in person on a quarterly basis for a week at a time, others more frequently. The endeavor is designed to "combine the best of both worlds."
The United States is the second-largest energy producer in the world. This level of energy independence has given the country more resources to weather the market shocks resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, that hasn't stopped energy prices from going up, but residents of these states may be saved from severe price hikes.
Inflation has been rising at a clip not seen in four decades, pushing up prices on just about everything, eating into household finances. To help residents “grappling with the increased costs as a result of pandemic-driven inflation,” the Maine legislature passed a budget that included relief checks for Mainers.
Is Russia causing the high price of gasoline?
There are a number of factors contributing to the high price of gasoline in the United States, but the most significant of the short-term issues is the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and the sanctions levied against Russian for the attack.
In response to those measures from the West, Russia has strangled the supply of its huge natural resources of oil and gas, sending prices skyrocketing.
“There’s no excuse for big oil companies to profiteer, to price gouge or exploit families."
“Congress must do more to beef up the FTC’s ability to crack down on potential gas price manipulation and price gouging."
“Republicans will face a dilemma: Which side are they on? ... On the consumer and lowering gas prices? Or on the side of the big oil?”
Democrats shift the blame for high gas prices
President Biden's approval numbers have taken a severe hit in the polls in recent months as the average price of gasoline has soared. Initially the White House was quick to point out that much of the reason for the sharp increase was the economic sanctions levied against Moscow for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However in recent weeks, as the actual cost of crude oil has fallen, the price at the pump has remained largely unchanged, causing many to point the finger of blame at profiteering gas companies.
Will Biden stick to student loan debt campaign promises?
During the campaign for the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden made some ambitious pledges on student loan debt, designed to ease the burden on borrowers. However more than a year after taking office, there has been no solid movement on the mountain of debt that is crippling millions of people across the country. Biden is now starting to speak publically about the prospect of widespread loan forgiveness, but he still needs to find greater support for the proposals.
While the White House has not budged from their opposition over President Biden using his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 worth of debt per borrower, smaller batches of loan cancellation have been announced.
AS USA takes a look at each of the three federal stimulus checks, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, that have been distributed to eligible Americans over the past two years.
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Lawmakers in Congress have pledged to tackle rising gas prices by going after "oil companies and retailers that are gouging their customers." Negotiations on Biden's stalled legislation to invest in families and combat climate change have resumed. Democrats say the proposals will help combat inflation. We'll bring you the latests on what is being done to tame rising prices.
The deadline to file a 2021 tax return and pay taxes has passed, but what can you do if you missed it? Looking for how to track your refund? Want to know what is being considered on Capitol Hill and in the states to support US households combat inflation? We have you covered.