MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- 3M Co. has agreed to pay the state of Minnesota $850 million to settle a major case alleging the manufacturer damaged natural resources and contaminated groundwater by disposing of chemicals over decades, Minnesota's attorney general announced Tuesday....
Broadband speeds are lagging in the US. A recent report reveals that the US ranked 62nd out of 88 countries around the world for 4G download speeds. As show in this chart by Statista, based on data from Open Signal, the speed of an average broadband download in the US is below that of Croatia, Lithuania, and South Korea.
And significantly slower than some of the top countries in the world. The place with the fastest broadband in the word? Singapore.
LONDON (AP) -- Latvia's official on the European Central Bank's top policymaking council rejected calls to resign Tuesday amid suspicions of bribery and an Associated Press report on allegations of extortion and connections to money laundering....
25 Republican senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to get the US back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Trump pulled the US out of TPP on the third day of his presidency, but recently said he is open to renegotiating the deal.
But recent moves by the Trump administration suggest that the president is favoring more protectionist trade policies.
More than two-dozen Republican senators on Tuesday released a letter they sent to President Donald Trump, requesting the president reengage on talks to join one of the world's largest trade agreements.
The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, asked Trump to reconsider his decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The president signed an executive order to begin the process of removing the US from TPP negotiations on January 23, 2017 — just three days after he took office.
The multilateral trade deal was designed help lower barriers to trade among 12 countries along the Pacific Rim, including Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Since the US backed out, the remaining members have developed a new deal, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.
Trump suggested during an interview in January that the US could get back into the deal if more favorable terms were presented, but no formal talks have been announced.
"I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal," Trump said in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP."
The GOP senators said in their letter that getting back into the deal would be beneficial for the US economy.
"As you know, increased economic engagement with the eleven nations currently in the TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of US businesses, support millions of US jobs, increase US exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers," the letter read. "Increasing access to a region and market that has a population of nearly 500 million can create widespread benefits to the US economy."
Trump repeatedly railed against the TPP during the campaign, saying that the deal was harmful to US workers and even calling it "a rape of our country."
The GOP lawmakers, much like the Obama administration during TPP negotiations, also argued that the TPP could pay geopolitical dividends by cementing the US's influence as a counterbalance to China.
"Further, TPP can serve as a way to strengthen ties with our allies in the region, counter the influence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and increase pressure on the PRC to adopt substantive and positive economic reforms," the letter reads.
Trump recently imposed tariffs on washing machines and solar energy equipment and said he may slap "substantial tariffs" on imports of steel and aluminum.
In addition to those imminent actions, the administration is also engaged in a review of Chinese intellectual property theft and negotiations on a rework of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday denied AT&T Inc's request to see White House communications that might shed light on whether U.S. President Donald Trump pressured the Department of Justice to try to block the wireless carrier's purchase of Time Warner Inc .
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday rejected billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen's request to temporarily seal a lawsuit accusing his hedge fund firm Point72 Asset Management LP of sexism toward women.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow and S&P 500 fell on Tuesday to snap a six-session winning streak as a sharp decline in Walmart weighed heavily, but gains in Amazon and chip stocks helped the Nasdaq hold near the unchanged mark.
The world's largest retailer reported adjusted earnings of $1.33 per share where Wall Street expected $1.37.
Revenue was better-than-expected, but contributions from e-commerce fell by 27 percentage points from last quarter.
Shares of Walmart fell more than 10% Tuesday after the retailer posted a 42% drop in fourth quarter earnings that missed Wall Street’s expectations.
However, the word’s largest retailer reported better-than-expected revenues of $136.27 billion, where analysts polled by Bloomberg had anticipated $134.83 billion. On a per share basis, Walmart missed, bringing in an adjusted $1.33 versus the $1.37 that was expected.
Online sales grew 23% in the final quarter of the year, the company said, down from 50% a year ago as it finalizes the integration of its $3.3 billion Jet.com acquisition from 2016.
"Walmart U.S. eCommerce sales growth in the fourth quarter was 23 percent, down from 50 percent in the third quarter," CEO Doug McMillan said in a statement. "The majority of this slowdown was expected as we fully lapped the Jet acquisition as well as creating a healthier long-term foundation for holiday. A smaller portion of the slowdown was unexpected, as we experienced some operational challenges that negatively impacted growth."
Since Amazon's entrance into the grocery industry, Walmart has teamed up with Google to explore voice-command shopping much like Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices, as well as cut prices in stores, and rolled out curbside grocery pick up in thousands of locations.
Shares of Walmart have gained 38% in the past year.
(Reuters) - U.S. semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc on Tuesday unveiled a sweetened $44 billion agreement to acquire NXP Semiconductors NV , its most defiant move in its defense against a hostile $121 billion bid from Broadcom Ltd .
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walmart Inc , the world's biggest retailer, on Tuesday posted a sharp drop in profit and online sales growth during the critical holiday period and forecast annual profit at the lower end of expectations.
FAIRFAX, Va. (Reuters) - A Virginia state court judge on Tuesday rejected a request by the U.S. unit of Volkswagen AG to delay several of the company's trials over excess emissions because of "inflammatory" comments made by a lawyer representing car owners that it fears will prejudice the jury.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela on Tuesday was set to become the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, a move it hopes will provide a much-needed boost to its credit-stricken economy....
News of the fresh C-suite entrant, coupled with new menu items, have added more than $2 billion to Chipotle's market value as Wall Street becomes increasingly enamored with the company's turnaround plans.
"We were surprised Chipotle was able to hire Mr. Niccol away from Yum Brands! Taco Bell division," Stifel analyst Chris O'Cull said in a note upgrading the stock from sell to hold. "Over the past three years, Mr. Niccol has pushed the boundaries at Taco Bell and solidified their position in the consumer's awareness. Chipotle needs a similar reboot to help the brand reengage lapsed customers."
O'Cull has a price target of $275 for Chipotle — 15% below where shares were trading Tuesday afternoon.
Chipotle recently hinted more new menu items might be in the works. Its founder, Steve Ells, said in a call with investors the company was considering "salads with different kinds of grains," as well as "traditional things" like nachos and quesadillas.
Wall Street has an average target of $304 for the stock — 4% below Tuesday's prices — but some analysts are even more bullish.
"Following an unfounded lawsuit that sharply slowed Taco Bell's momentum in 2011, Niccol was a key player in first stabilizing the brand and then reaccelerating growth," Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore, who has a price target of $500 for Chipotle, said last week. "He spearheaded development of the brand's innovative digital strategy and disruptive marketing content that led to high customer engagement. He also led the acceleration of Taco Bell's expansion plans overseas."
Despite this week's gains, shares of Chipotle are still down 26% over the past year.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada are asking a judge to force the U.S. government to turn over emails and other documents related to President Donald Trump's approval of the project....
(Reuters) - U.S. grocer Albertsons Cos Inc said it would buy drug store chain Rite Aid Corp to create a company with $83 billion in annual revenue, giving it more clout to compete with bigger chains in an industry fearing the entry of Amazon.Com .
BERLIN (Reuters) - Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler has rejected suggestions he is about to be ousted and believes he has the support of parent company Volkswagen , a German newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The S&P 500 has yet to fully regain its losses after a 10% correction.
According to technical analysts at Goldman Sachs, the market could be headed higher still, and 3,020 is a key level from which to "watch for signs of a top/turn."
Their work is based on the Elliot Wave Principle, which studies charts to identify up-and-down trends in the market.
US stocks still have a ways to go before peaking, according to technical analysts at Goldman Sachs.
The S&P 500 fell by more than 10% from its most recent peak on January 26 and as of Monday, had only recovered about half of its losses.
While fundamental traders focus on the level of interest rates that could be harmful to stocks, the impact of earnings growth, or other fundamental factors, Sheba Jafari and her team are watching the charts.
Specifically, they used theElliott Wave Theory to show the S&P 500 could rise to as high as 3,020, a level from which investors should "watch for signs of a top/turn."
The Elliot Wave Principle identifies up-and-down trends in the market on charts. Its basic idea is that markets mirror human behavior and tend to move, then revert, in identifiable cycles, especially as traders act like a herd. What goes up eventually comes down.
A complete cycle has eight waves — the first five (numbered one through five) are the impulsive waves, while the last three (labeled A, B, and C) are the corrective waves.
Jafari presented three scenarios for which waves the S&P 500 has completed and is heading to next — two bearish, one bullish. Two of these are highlighted below:
"The base case/higher probability right now (Scenario 1) is that the index is in wave B of a 5-3-5 ABC count," Jafari wrote in a note on Sunday.
In this case, the index's recent recovery is counter-trend, according to the Elliot Wave pattern. It would need a final decline from the 5-wave impulsive level, and eventually slump to a C-wave low. "This could eventually take the index between 2,467 and 2,352 (23.6% retrace from ’09)," Jafari said.
But in an alternative, bullish scenario where the S&P 500 rises to the 2,793-2,834 level, this would begin to look more like an impulse wave than a corrective wave.
"In wave terminology, it might suggest that the 5-wave advance from Feb. ‘16 isn’t totally complete yet," Jafari said.
"Confirmation of a break will be given through the Jan. 26th high at 2,873. This would then open up the possibility of seeing an extended move towards 3,020 (1.618 target for a 5th wave from Feb. ‘16). Reaching 3,020 would again provide a level from which to watch for signs of a top/turn."
BNP Paribas has figured out a strategy that helps investors make money following volatility spikes.
The market was recently jolted out of a period of complacency, and BNP says that it was a perfect example of the type of volatility increase that creates opportunity.
When the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX) was awakened from its prolonged slumber earlier this month, the consensus was that it was a very bad thing for markets.
This was largely due to the cottage industry that had cropped up with the sole purpose of making a quick buck by shorting the VIX. That short-volatility trade blew up when the VIX jolted higher, causing the collapse of two wildly popular exchange-traded products, which in turn worsened equity selling.
But BNP Paribas argues that there was a profitable silver lining to the implosion — one that often presents itself following periods of considerable market turbulence. And the firm is here to help you make money using it.
BNP's strategy is activated when two qualifications are met: (1) the US economy is not in a recession and (2) the VIX rises more than 3.5 standard deviations above its one-year rolling average.
Once that occurs, the firm advises that traders enter a long-S&P 500 position the first time the VIX closes lower than the level when the signal first occurred. Since 1986, investors that abided by this strategy and held the trade for three months have made 5.2% on average, according to BNP data. And returns were positive for them 86% of the time.
As the above chart shows, BNP's strategy has resulted in a positive return not just on a three-month time horizon, but also on a one- and six-month basis.
Further, the first line of the table reflects the results of a trade that involves going long the S&P 500 five business days after the initial signal, while the third line shows a strategy that requires waiting until the VIX closes two standard deviations from the signal level. As you can see, they're both mostly profitable, but the middle approach — the one outlined above — is the most effective.
Still, if the short-volatility blow-up is any indication, trading the VIX can be a tough task if you don't know what you're doing. But BNP's methodology clearly establishes a series of steps that has proven lucrative over the past three decades — and it's hard to argue with that.
Pandora shares are spiking Tuesday, continuing big gains over the last 6 days.
The music streaming company is scheduled to report earnings Wednesday after the closing bell.
The stock is down considerably over the last year, but investors are confident ahead of earnings.
Pandora is rallying Tuesday ahead of its Wednesday earnings report. The stock is up more than 4% Tuesday, a continuation of gains for six straight days. Shares are up more than 14% over the last week.
The music streaming service reports fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2017 earnings Wednesday after the closing bell. Wall Street expects the company to make $375 million in revenue for the fourth-quarter, and earnings per share of -$0.28. Revenue of $375 million would be higher than the fourth quarter of 2016, when Pandora posted revenue of just above $313 million, although it only lost $0.13 per share in that quarter.
And while one of the latest checks on the user growth battle between Pandora and Spotify shows that Spotify has Pandora beat, investors are confident about Pandora recently. Although Pandora shares are down 59% over the last year, the stock has shot up in the last week ahead of earnings.
The official box office numbers are in and "Black Panther" had the second-best four-day opening weekend of all time with $242 million domestically.
That beats the opening by "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" ($241.5 million).
The official box office numbers are in, and "Black Panther" performed well beyond any industry projections.
The final numbers for the Presidents' Day holiday weekend came out Tuesday and the latest Marvel movie took in $242 million over the four days at the domestic box office, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That puts the movie in second place for best-ever four-day openings at the box office, passing "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" ($241.5 million).
"Black Panther" also dethroned "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to claim the biggest Monday earner on record with $40.2 million, surpassing the $40.1 million mark from "The Force Awakens."
The movie's three-day gross of $201.7 million places it as the fifth best all time, beating out "Avengers: Age of Ultron" ($191.2 million).
Director Ryan Coogler's long-awaited adaptation of the legendary Marvel character is shattering box office records in a time of year when it's thought nobody goes to the movies. Industry insiders tell Business Insider that's all going to change now, as the success of this movie and "Deadpool" in 2016 proves that the early months of the year are fertile ground for big business.
But the success of "Black Panther" also proves that diverse audiences have a hunger to see stories told by them for them. According to comScore (via THR), 37 percent "Black Panther" ticket buyers were African-American. They made up on average 15% of the audience for superhero movies.
The movie also broke the record for biggest February opening of all-time (beating "Deadpool") and is the biggest opening ever for a black filmmaker (F. Gary Gray, "The Fate of the Furious").
On Tuesday, the company announced that Shamyl Malik, who previously ran the firm's blockchain efforts, will take over as CEO. It also announced plans to spin off its original beverage business into a separate company.
Malik previously worked in electronic FX trading in London for Morgan Stanley as well as Citigroup, before joining Long Blockchain's board in January. He will receive a salary of $250,000 per year, the company said.
Last week, the company told shareholders it will appeal a second delisting notice from exchange operator Nasdaq for failing to keep its market value above $35 million. A hearing is set for Wednesday. Shares were down 5% in trading Tuesday at a price of $3.06 a share, giving the company a market cap of $27.98 million. The stock needs to stay above $3.42 a share to maintain a $35 million market cap.
"It was always our intention to spin off our beverage business following our shift to Blockchain technology and we believe that it is currently the appropriate time to take such action," outgoing CEO Phillip Thomas said in a statement.
"Shamyl has shown great initiative and leadership since joining the team, and his appointment as CEO and our planned spin-off will allow the Company to execute on a clear, focused Blockchain strategy."
The blockchain pivot in December provided an easy boost for Long Blockchain. The announcement spurred a near tripling of its share price overnight — but its financial documents paint a very different story.
According to its most recently filed balance sheet from November, Long Blockchain owns no blockchain assets. However, it has announced plans to merge with a New Zealand firm called Stater Blockchain Limited, a "technology company focused on developing and deploying globally scalable blockchain technology solutions in the financial market," according to its website.
If the buyout is approved, Stater Blockchain would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Long Blockchain. This means Long Blockchain would finally have tangible blockchain assets, including Stater’s in-house currency futures brokerage.
The Census Bureau tracks patterns in marital status by age among Americans.
In recent years, older Americans are more likely to have been divorced, separated, or in a second or later marriage than in previous decades, while younger Americans are more likely to be never married or in a first marriage.
A lot of people get married. And if things work out, they'll stay happily married.
But things don't always work out.
Last week, to commemorate Valentine's Day, we looked at the likelihood of Americans being married at each year of age. Now, with the day celebrating love and romance behind us, we're turning to the odds of marriages ending.
Based on responses to questions about marital status and number of marriages, we found the proportion of the population at each age that had never married, was in a first marriage, was widowed, or was in a situation in which a first marriage had ended. That last group combines people who responded they were divorced, separated from their spouse, or in a second, third, or later marriage.
In 2015, about 10% of 30-year-olds had already ended one marriage. The proportion of people who were divorced, separated, or married multiple times maxed out at age 62 when about 42% of respondents fell into this category. That was just shy of the 43% of 62-year-olds who were in their first marriage:
We also compared the 2016 proportions of people who were divorced, separated, or married multiple times to those proportions from earlier decades. The 1960 and 1980 Census long form survey, the predecessor of the American Community Survey, also included questions about marital status and number of marriages.
The results were interesting: In 1960 and 1980, a higher proportion of 20-somethings had a marriage end than in 2016. More people were in second or third marriages by their late 20s in 1960 and 1980 than in 2016.
On the other hand, older Americans have been more likely to fall in this category in recent years: In 2016, respondents over 40 were far more likely to be divorced, separated, or in a later marriage than people of an equivalent age in earlier decades:
Applebee's announced on Tuesday that it plans to close 60 to 80 locations in 2018.
Applebee's shuttered 99 locations in 2017.
Executives have blamed the chain's failed attempt to win over millennials for its downward spiral.
IHOP, Applebee's sister brand, is also planning to close 30 to 40 locations this year.
Applebee's and IHOP are planning to close up to 120 restaurants between the two chains this year, as the brands try to correct some major missteps.
On Tuesday, Applebee's announced that it anticipated the closure of 60 to 80 locations in 2018. Its sister brand, IHOP, is expected to close 30 to 40 locations.
Applebee's closed 99 locations in 2017 and 46 locations in 2016. IHOP closed 23 locations last year and 16 the year before.
Both Applebee's and IHOP are owned by Dine Brands Global, Inc. Dine Brands changed its name from Dine Equity, effective Tuesday, as part of the company's "ongoing transformation strategy."
"The expected closures will be based on several criteria, including meeting our brand and image standards as well as operational results," Dine Brands said in a statement.
In the past, executives have said that failed attempts to win over millennial diners is at least partially to blame for the brands' struggles, especially in the case of Applebee's.
"Over the past few years, the brand's set out to reposition or reinvent Applebee's as a modern bar and grill in overt pursuit of a more youthful and affluent demographic with a more independent or even sophisticated dining mindset, including a clear pendulum swing towards millennials," John Cywinski, Applebee's brand president, said in a call with investors last year.
He continued: "In my perspective, this pursuit led to decisions that created confusion among core guests, as Applebee's intentionally drifted from what I'll call its 'Middle America' roots and its abundant value position. While we certainly hope to extend our reach, we can't alienate Boomers or Gen-Xers in the process."
On Tuesday, the company said in a call with investors that Applebee's was "wonderfully diverse from an age perspective with an equal percentage of millennials, Gen Xers, boomers."
Applebee's isn't the only sit-down casual-dining chain that has struggled in recent years.
Chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings, TGI Friday's, and Ruby Tuesday have similarly faced slumping sales and store closures. As a result, some chains — including TGI Friday's and Buffalo Wild Wings — are attempting to distance themselves from the casual-dining category, rebranding as more bar-centric chains.
Despite the closures, Applebee's and IHOP both plan to open new locations in 2018. Applebee's is expected to develop between 10 and 15 new restaurants, most of them outside the US. IHOP plans to develop between 85 and 100 restaurants, primarily in the US.
Dine Brands reported on Tuesday that Applebee's same-restaurant sales increased 1.3% in the US in the fourth quarter. IHOP's domestic same-restaurant sales dropped 0.4% in the same period.
Shares of the company's stock skyrocketed more than 15% on Tuesday morning after Dine Brands reported fourth quarter earnings.
"We continue to make excellent progress against our plan to stabilize and grow performance at both brands," Dine Brands CEO Stephen P. Joyce said in a statement.
He continued: "We are working on several exciting initiatives to expand our revenue channels, continually enhance the guest experience, improve operations and grow our global presence while investing in the long-term health of our two strong brands."
Once the Albertsons and Rite Aid deal is complete, Albertsons shares will trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Albertsons shareholders will own 70.4% to 72% of the combined company on a diluted basis, and Rite Aid shareholders will own 28% to 29.6%.
Under the agreement, Rite Aid shareholders will be able to receive either one share of Albertsons common stock as well as $1.83 in cash or 1.079 shares of Albertsons stock for every 10 shares of Rite Aid.
The combined company expects to operate approximately 4,900 locations, 4,350 pharmacy counters, and 329 clinics around 38 states and Washington, D.C. They anticipate revenues of $83 billion in 2018, according to a joint statement.
Rite Aid's stock was trading at $2.14 per share and was up 0.7% for the year.
While Citi acknowledged that the redesign could have a positive long-term impact on the photo-sharing company, it cited an app review from App Annie showing that, since November, Snap's apps reviews have declined. Five star ratings went from 2.1% to 1.3% in that span, and one star ratings went from 28% to 86%.
"While the recent redesign of [Snap's] flagship app could produce positive long-term benefits, [there is a] significant jump in negative app reviews since the redesign was pushed out a few weeks, which could result in a decline in users and user engagement, and could negatively impact financial results," analysts Mark May and Hao Yan wrote.
TORONTO (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp said on Tuesday Chief Executive Officer Jim Smith is in stable condition after an arrhythmia incident on Feb. 12 and is expected to be released from hospital within the next two weeks.
Apple held the top spot in the firm's portfolio as of December 31, according to the fourth-quarter 13-F filing published last week. Major investment firms, including hedge funds, are required to disclose their long positions in stocks every quarter. Because of a time delay, however, these positions may have changed or been closed by the time the filing is public.
The top-10 list below, via Bloomberg, is ranked in ascending order of the market value of Berkshire's positions at the end of the fourth quarter, and includes the gains made in that period. It also shows whether Berkshire bought more shares, sold, or did nothing. The list excludes Kraft Heinz, as this investment is accounted for with the equity method because Berkshire owns a significant controlling stake.
A New York Times columnist floated the idea that banks and credit-card companies could cut business ties with retailers that sell assault weapons and accessories.
Some finance-industry executives are already on board with the idea, the columnist says.
Credit-card companies have adopted similar measures in the past, such as banning purchases of bitcoin, cutting ties with the controversial classifieds site Backpage.com, and suspending payments to WikiLeaks.
Last week's deadly shooting at a Florida high school has renewed calls for gun-control legislation — but some finance-industry titans could take the issue into their own hands.
The New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote on Monday that he had spent several days speaking with "a handful of chief executives" to discuss how banks and credit-card companies could intervene in gun sales. Sorkin said he found universal enthusiasm, though none of the executives would speak on the record.
Sorkin drew upon Visa's espousal of "corporate responsibility" to argue that financial companies should change their terms of service to cut business ties with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump-stock devices designed to accelerate the firing rate of semiautomatic rifles.
"Assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system," Sorkin said.
The idea has precedent, Sorkin said. Major banks — including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America — have in the past barred clients from using their credit cards to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, citing their risk and volatility.
The financial industry has also intervened in cases where companies feared legal liability for their clients' purchases. In 2015, Visa and Mastercard cut business ties with Backpage.com after law-enforcement agencies accused the classified-ads portal of facilitating sex trafficking.
Visa and Mastercard also suspended payments and donations to WikiLeaks in 2010 after the anti-secrecy website published hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Mastercard argued at the time that its rules prohibited customers from "directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal."
Sorkin acknowledged that the idea may be a "pipe dream," noting that at least two executives said they feared the reaction of the National Rifle Association and worried for their employees' safety.
"None of this is a panacea. But it's a start," Sorkin said. "It takes leadership and courage — exactly what these executives say they have. If they don't want to back up their words with actions, the next time there's a school shooting that prompts a conversation about gun companies, it should also include the financial complex that supports them."
That represents a dramatic improvement over the initial popularity of the legislation as it moved through Congress. A poll done from the Times and SurveyMonkey in December found the bill only had 37% approval to 57% disapproval.
While the law is improving in overall popularity, Americans' enthusiasm for the law's changes to their personal finance remains muted. Just 33% of people think they will receive an income tax cut, 14% think they will receive a salary increase, and 8% said they will receive a bonus or increased bonus, according to the survey.
The law moving above water in the poll is part of a trend showing Americans coming around on it. Polls from Monmouth University, Gallup, and others over the past two months showed a steady increase in support for the law, as Republicans have touted its effects — including companies' announcements of new bonuses and pay raises for workers partly due to the tax cuts.
Republicans are banking on the tax cuts being a key issue in the 2018 midterm elections. Given that the tax law was the least popular piece of major tax legislation since at least 1980 when it was passed, the improvement likely buoys the party's electoral hopes.
At the same time the tax law has seen its support increase, so too has the electoral polling for the GOP. Once in a deep hole, Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in generic-ballot polling. And a recent Morning Consult poll actually put the GOP in the lead on the question.
At the Nasdaq Market Site, Business Insider Senior Finance Correspondent Linette Lopez spoke with famed short seller Jim Chanos about the reintroduction of inflation to the market for the first time since the financial crisis. It is causing volatility unseen in years.
That's not what worries Chanos most about the US economy, though. He's more concerned about what he calls the "rent seeking behavior" of corporations.
"In a highly competitive economy, if interest rates are so low, returns should be dropping," said Chanos. "Instead, returns and corporate assets are remaining high. And some of that might be technology. Some of it might be just simple lobbying — rent-seeking."
Jim Chanos: Well, I want to take whatever he's taking to feel like he's in his 20s again.
There's more volatility. But compared to historical — when Paul was in his 20s and I was in my 20s — I mean it's kind of nothing. Back then the 30-year bond, which is what we used to look at, would trade in a 30-basis-point band in a day. Now it moves three basis points and people get terrified.
Lopez: It's crazy because there are so many young Wall Streeters who have never seen a market like this. They've never been chained to their chairs. They've never been, you know, glued to their screens in the way they have to when the market is volatile. Do you have any advice for those kids?
Chanos: Well, back in my day ... I mean no one wants to hear that. What Wall Street has benefited from, among many things, is basically a probably once-in-a-lifetime move in rates from 14% to basically 2% or zero percent, depending on whether you're looking at short-term rates. And we're not going to repeat that, I'm pretty safe in saying. So what Wall Street hasn't seen — with the exception of a few graybeards like Paul and myself — is high interest rates or rising interest rates for any sustainable period of time. And the big change will come when that changes. So I don't know if that's what's happening now. We'll see. But, you know, when you see things like Greece borrowing at rates lower than the US for two-year notes —
Lopez: It's a little wonky.
Chanos: It's a little crazy. And so things are happening in the credit markets that are making people a little uncomfortable. We've moved to almost 3% on the 10-year. But based on where nominal growth is right now — I mean with or without a rising CPI — the 10-year should be north of 4%. So we're still in a very accommodative environment.
Lopez: We seem to have a stew going here. We have this tax cut. We have this massive budget agreement between the Democrats and Republicans that's going to add to the deficit. And it seems like corporations are really winning out. And it seems like labor — you have regular people like me who are kind of losing in this equation. This has been going on for years. How do you stop it?
Chanos: Yeah, the rent-seeking economy.
Chanos: You know, it really is a puzzle. And I was reading a column in The New York Times this morning talking about that. And why we haven't seen more competitive forces bringing returns down to where rates are. In a highly competitive economy, if interest rates are so low, returns should be dropping. Instead, returns and corporate assets are remaining high. And some of that might be technology. Some of it might be just simple lobbying — rent-seeking. And I think it's probably a combination of both. But what it does lead to is stagnating wages, lower capital investment, and a disproportionate amount of the economy going to the corporate sector and shareholders. And that's great for equity holders; it's not really great for everybody else.
Paul Singer's Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund, is beating the drum again about an impending market crash.
Elliott has long raised concerns about market conditions.
"If you think the human race is in a better and more knowledgeable state than in the past, good luck to you," Elliott wrote in its most recent client letter, which was seen by Business Insider.
"Our centered case is still that the prices of global debt instruments are significantly distorted (on the upside) by money-printing and artificially low interest rates, and that there will be some kind of significant downward price adjustment soon," the letter said.
Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Singer, is once again beating the drum about an impending market crash.
In a January letter to clients seen by Business Insider, Elliott dedicated a little more than two pages to its thesis, starting the section by saying: "We like the word 'dénouement' better than 'outcome,' and it sounds way more sophisticated and nuanced than 'the end is near' or “the chickens are coming home to roost."
The letter then sets out why Elliott believes the "long, steady, upward movement in asset prices" is a cause for alarm, saying the movement has been driven by unprecedented levels of new debt, accelerating growth of passive investing, emergency-level interest rates, and the confidence expressed in volatility-selling strategies.
"These drivers of asset-price levitation seem to us to presage the possibility of a sudden, possibly intense, downward readjustment (you may substitute “crash” for that phrase if you desire)," the letter said.
Elliott's letters are known for their bearish views, and this latest letter notes that advancing the possibility of a severe bear market or crash puts the firm "in the wild-eyed and 'a bit off' category."
"But we can say with assurance that unless the human race and the principles of finance and economics have entered an entirely new realm, with history being irrelevant, it seems like an extraordinarily treacherous period for the global economy and financial system."
The challenge for Elliott, according to the letter, is maintaining these contrarian views without "letting those views blow up careers, capital and credibility." After all, Elliott has been warning of a potential crash for several years now, in which time it's been expected to deliver a return in an environment where markets have continued to rise.
"We have faced this challenge for decades, but we cannot remember a sterner test than the challenge which is posed currently by the minefield of puzzling, silly and implausible structures and elements, combined with wildly inappropriate and widespread complacency," the letter said.
The hedge fund also wrote a brutal takedown of cryptocurrencies, saying they will likely one day be described "as one of the most brilliant scams in history," in its letter.
Elliott managed $34.1 billion as of January 1, according to the letter, making it one of the world's largest hedge funds. The Elliott Associates LP fund returned 8.7% last year, and has a compound annual rate of return of 12.1%, making it one of the better performing funds in the industry.