Financial Review

Discount of the Day

…US-North Korea summit nixed; coins still on sale. Rolling back Dodd Frank. Existing home sales drop – tight inventory, higher rates. Europeans get digital privacy, and it spills over on you. Netflix quietly grows.

Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 05-24-2018

DOW – 75 = 24,811
SPX – 5 = 2727
NAS – 1 = 7424
RUT + 0.61 = 1628
10 Y – .02 = 2.98%
OIL – 1.17 = 70.67
GOLD + 11.10 = 1305.10

 

The Dow Industrials dropped as much as 250 points before a partial recovery.

 

In a letter released by the White House, Trump wrote he’s canceling the proposed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent statements. The sudden decision dashed hopes for the end of nuclear saber-rattling between the United States and North Korea. The North Korea news could complicate Trump’s efforts to reach a trade agreement with China. Fears of a trade war with China had been abating in recent days. However, Trump suggested earlier this week that Chinese President Xi Jinping could be behind the more hostile rhetoric out of North Korea. The financial markets seemed to take it all in stride; probably because even if Trump had made it to Singapore, the talks were never going to go where he wanted. Historically, American threats tend to feed the paranoia about a US invasion that underpins the nuclear program itself. They lead the North not to abandon its nuclear program but to redouble its efforts on it, as the North Koreans believe it’s their best deterrent against such an attack. It was probably a fantasy to imagine that North Korea would voluntarily denuclearize. Good to try but not very realistic.

 

But don’t worry: The White House will continue to make — and sell — commemorative coins of the Trump-Kim summit that never was. Just a few days ago, it was revealed that the White House Communications Agency had commissioned special coins to be made to commemorate the upcoming historic event. The coins feature Trump and Kim looking at each other in front of their respective flags, divided by a jagged line vaguely reminiscent of the DMZ. For those lucky few who spent $24.95 on the coin, the White House gift shop says it “Will be Made Whether or Not the Summit Occurs as Scheduled.” But if you act now, you can buy one for at a discounted price: The coins are now sold at the Gift Shop’s “Deal of the Day” price of $19.95.

 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced late Wednesday he’s launching an investigation into whether auto imports are hurting US national security. That could lay the groundwork for tariffs on American imports of autos.

 

Meanwhile, Trump has signed a bill which rolls back bank regulations. The measure eases restrictions on all but the largest banks. It raises the threshold to $250 billion from $50 billion under which banks are deemed too important to the financial system to fail. Those institutions also would not have to undergo stress tests or submit so-called living wills, both safety valves designed to plan for financial disaster. It eases mortgage loan data reporting requirements for the overwhelming majority of banks. It would add some safeguards for student loan borrowers and also require credit reporting companies to provide free credit monitoring services.

 

An independent review of the proposed 2019 budget estimates that future deficits would be twice as large as the White House projects. The federal deficit would total $965 billion in fiscal 2027 and $1.1 trillion in 2028, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The White House had predicted the deficits would total $450 billion in 2027 and $445 billion in 2028. In a report issued Thursday, the CBO concluded government spending would be higher and tax revenues lower than the White House predicts. Lower tax revenue would stem in part from tax cuts.

 

Sales of existing homes dropped 2.5% in April. The National Association of Realtors said that homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.46 million, down from 5.60 million in February. Home sales have dropped 1.4% over the past year, largely because the number of sales listings has declined 6.3%. The relatively healthy job market has bolstered demand to purchase homes. But the inventory shortage, rising prices and higher mortgage costs are weighing on the real estate market. Tight inventory and climbing mortgage rates have amplified the competition for buying a home. Homes lasted a median of just 26 days on the market in April, down from 39 days a year ago. With supply levels so low, the median sales price has risen 5.3% from a year ago to $257,900.

 

The past week, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose from 4.61% to 4.66%, the highest level since May 2011. The rate is up from 3.95% at the start of the year and a recent low of 3.78% last September. Thirty-year mortgage rates have risen in 15 of the first 21 weeks of 2018, the largest share since Freddie Mac began tracking the data in 1972. The nearly three quarters of a percentage point increase in mortgage rates so far this year would boost the monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage by about $85.

 

Your digital privacy is getting new protection, thanks to Europe. GDPR is the European Union’s new data privacy law. It gives people more control over their personal data and forces companies to make sure the way they collect, process and store data is safe. The EU hopes to achieve a fundamental change in the way companies think about data — its central idea is “privacy by default.” Any organization that holds or uses data on people inside the European Union is subject to the new rules, regardless of where is it based. The International Association of Privacy Professionals and EY estimated that Fortune Global 500 companies spent roughly $7.8 billion to prepare for the new rules. What do you need to do? Well, first off, read those emails that are flooding your inbox. Many companies will have reached out to customers by Friday, asking for consent to keep your personal details. Google, Facebook and Twitter, have also changed their privacy settings in recent weeks in preparation for the new rules. WhatsApp has changed its minimum user age in Europe to 16 from 13. You will need to agree to the new policies and confirm your age to continue using many services. Children under 16 will need parental consent in most European countries.

 

Companies can still collect personal data – they just have to have a contract to do so, or a legal obligation that allows them to do that. They can also simply obtain an individual’s consent in order to store and process personal data. Such requests must be clear and written in plain language — no more hiding of consents in general terms and conditions. They could also be processing data to perform tasks that are in the public interest — such as the police collecting information about suspected criminals.

 

Or they might need to collect personal data to protect someone’s life. For example, a hospital will be able to access the personal details of an unconscious patient with life-threatening injuries without having to ask for consent. Businesses will have to pay a lot more attention to the security of personal data, and they won’t be allowed to hold onto it for longer than is necessary. Anyone can ask for their personal information to be deleted from a company’s servers, with a few exceptions. Business will also be required to tell authorities about any data security breach within 72 hours of discovering it. The European Union said the new rules are necessary to protect consumers in an era of huge cyberattacks and data leaks.

 

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a report on the Uber self-driving Volvo car that killed a pedestrian in Tempe in March. The report says the car spotted the woman about 6 seconds before impact. The self-driving system software determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed 1.3 seconds before impact, but the system wasn’t turned on and doesn’t have a way to alert the human operator. Uber told the NTSB the system was turned off to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The self-driving system data showed that the vehicle operator intervened less than a second before impact by engaging the steering wheel.

 

Disney’s shares tumbled this week after rival Comcast confirmed plans to make a hostile and superior bid for Twenty-First Century Fox, which Disney previously agreed to buy for $52.4 billion in cash and stock. Comcast is said to be waiting on regulators to rule on AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner, which is expected by June 12, to make a bid. Disney wants Fox’s assets to shore up its content library as it enters the streaming-video space. It recently launched a subscription streaming service for its sports network ESPN, and plans to launch a family-friendly service next year. It also wants to continue growing the streaming service Hulu, which Disney, Fox, and Comcast are all part owners of. Whichever company succeeds in buying Fox’s share would take a majority stake in Hulu. Cable operator Comcast wants to buy Fox in order to gain an international foothold and diversify its business further. And while all that was going on, Netflix’s market capitalization rose to around $152.5 billion as of mid-day today, while Disney’s dipped to around $152.1 billion. Netflix overtook Comcast’s market value earlier this month.

 

Energy shares led losses today, down 1.7%, with financials not far behind, down 0.7%. Exxon Mobil dropped 2.3% and Chevron was down 1.6%. The Dow Jones Transportation Average climbed 1.1%.

 

Hormel Foods shares fell by 1.1% after the company reported fiscal second-quarter results that were a touch shy of forecasts. Best Buy reported earnings that came in above expectations, but shares sold off nevertheless, closing 6.7% lower. Medtronic reported earnings and revenues that were above expectations, sending shares 2% higher. McKesson reported first-quarter revenue above, but profit short of, Wall Street’s estimates. Shares fell by 1.9%.

 

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