Bridge to nowhere? Some doubts on U.S. economy justified, doom and gloom is not

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Wall Street scurrying for the exits? More and more investors apparently see the economy becoming a bridge to nowhere.

Just a few months ago, investors drove the U.S. stock market SPX, -2.33%  to an all-time high. Now they’re scurrying for the off-ramp and showing fresh doubts about economy. Have things really gone south that fast?

Not really.

The economy is forecast to grow at an above-average speed of 2.6% in the fourth quarter, for one thing. Consumer confidence is at a two-decade high. The unemployment rate remains at a 49-year low. And the holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a big one.

Still, some warning signs have emerged.

Home sales have softened after a rise in mortgage rates. Corporate investment has tapered off. Job creation slowed in November. And a festering trade dispute with China and resulting tariffs have raised costs for businesses and consumers.

“It’s becoming clearer by the day that the best days for this economic cycle are behind us,” asserted Scott Anderson, chief economist of Bank of the West.

The sudden shift in perception is forcing the Federal Reserve to reconsider how many times it will raises interest rates in the next year.

Not only does the economy seem a touch more vulnerable than it did a few months ago, a recent upturn in inflation also appears to have crested. The Fed has been gradually raising rates to head off an unwelcome increase in rates, but now the problem seems less urgent.

One sign came last week in a weaker-than-expected November employment report. The economy added just 155,000 new jobs — well below the 190,000 forecast — and the yearly increase in hourly wage growth stood pat at 3.1%.

More evidence might emerge this week. The consumer price index, which tracks the cost of living, could show a flat or even negative reading for the first time in eight months. The annual rate of inflation as measured by the CPI could drop to a nine-month low of 2.2% from 2.5%

Similarly weak readings are likely in other inflation barometers for wholesale U.S. goods and imported products.

What’s a common thread?

Falling oil prices . A surge in petroleum helped fuel an upturn in inflation earlier this year that spurred the Fed to raise U.S. interest rates three times. Now lower oil prices are acting as a brake on inflation.

Lower oil prices CLF9, +1.24%  will probably deliver seemingly disappointing retail sales in November.

Americans spent a lot less filling up at gas stations, making it look like retailers had a bad month. Economists polled by MarketWatch predict a lackluster 0.2% increase.

“Here’s a word of advice on anyone planning to use the November retail sales report as a guide to how the holiday shopping season is going: don’t,” said chief economist Richard Moody of Regions Financial.


Impress Everyone On Your List With These Stylish Decor Gifts


There’s one category of gifts that will satisfy everyone on your list. Whether it’s for bosses, your best friend, babies or even those people you don’t know too well, a home accessory is a bold and meaningful choice. Here are the most stylish decor gifts to give (and also to receive) this holiday season.

Samsung “The Frame” Television

This tv isn't art, but it's close enough.

This tv isn’t art, but it’s close enough.Evine

Is it a work of art or a television? It’s both! Samsung’s “The Frame” television is designed with style in mind. It’s a 4k UHD SmartTv that’s an even smarter gift.

Petrossian Ecume Caviar Presentoir

Upgrade your caviar.

Present caviar with class.Petrossian

Caviar is the ultimate foodie gift. So why not upgrade and include this luxurious presentoir from Petrossian? Available in white, gold or platinum, each presentoir comes with a choice of various caviar tins. Luckily, it’s impossible to pick the wrong one.


2 Minneapolis cops on leave after Christmas tree decor

Image result for 2 Minneapolis cops on leave after Christmas tree decorTwo Minneapolis police officers were placed on paid leave Friday after their apparent involvement in Christmas tree decorations that the city’s mayor called “despicable.”

The Christmas tree at a precinct station on the city’s North Side was decorated with items such as Newport cigarettes, police crime tape, a can of malt liquor, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup, and other things that Mayor Jacob Frey said amounted to a “racist display.” A picture of the tree circulated online before the items were removed.

Frey initially called for the officer involved to be fired by day’s end, but later recognized that a process has to be followed. Instead, two officers were placed on paid leave while the department investigates.

“This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” Frey said in a statement early Friday. “Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action. Termination is necessary — both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message: Chief (Medaria) Arradondo and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values.”

Arradondo called the display “racially insensitive” and said it was removed. He said he has started a full investigation into the incident.

“I am ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of trust, accountability and professional service,” Arradondo said in a statement.

The head of the police officer’s union did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The tree is in the police station on the city’s North Side, which has a fractured relationship with police. The precinct was the site of more than two weeks of protests after the 2015 fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man. While Arradondo said the police department has made positive changes, “this recent incident shows we still have much work ahead.”

Longtime civil rights activist Ron Edwards told the Star Tribune , that the items on the tree were a “wink wink” to racial stereotypes against black people.

“It’s a modern day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community,” he said.

The Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar, a group formed after Clark’s shooting, sent out a statement saying they were “outraged and disgusted” by the display. The group also called for the immediate termination of those involved.

Also Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted to reduce the mayor’s proposed police budget for 2019 by more than $1 million.


Senior center where rape reported installs jams on doors, windows

After a disturbing report of a resident at an assisted living center being sexually assaulted, News4Jax has learned that the facility has installed jams on windows and doors, preventing residents of first-floor rooms from opening them more than a few inches.

Vernon Bender is a 78-year-old veteran who lives in one of the rooms, and got so concerned he called his son.

“Saturday they came over here and closed these doors and put these boards in there. They are screwed in there, the fern strip, which means I can’t open this door to get out,” Bender said.

Bender has only lived at Brookdale Atrium Way for a few months. He said one of the reasons he chose the facility was the unit’s floor plan and patio on the ground level.

“I use it all the time. That’s my car parked right there. To get to my car now, I have to go all the way down to the end of the building and all the way back,” Bender said.


It’s not just the sliding glass door being closed off that has him upset.

“All these windows here have boards like this, screwed in. I can’t open this window. If I tried it, it only goes so far. That’s it. I consider this a fire exit,” said Bender.

Fire is the biggest concern for him.

“I have four exits to this apartment, three of them are blocked,” Bender said.


Bender’s son, Michael, called News4Jax after his dad notified him about the windows and doors.

“I am very concerned. In fact,  I have been talking with him, since seeing your article, about finding a new place for him to live,” Michael Bender said. “In my mind, if something happens here he has no way of getting out. He only has the front door, and if there is a fire in the hall, then he is stuck and there is nowhere else he can go. And the windows, he can’t even open those to crawl out.”

Instead of jams, both father and son have other suggestions to remedy the situation.

“A front gate, swipe in, swipe out. Cameras on all the doors that are around the building,” Michael Bender said.


News4Jax reached out to the managers at Brookdale who sent us the following statement;

We have taken additional actions to increase security options around the community. In conjunction with Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Fire Department, we installed sliding glass door locks on first floor apartments. We direct you to the fire officials for additional questions regarding fire code.”

News4Jax also reached out to the Jacksonville Fire Rescue’s Fire Prevention Unit and we are waiting to hear back from them.


Common errors made on home renovation projects

Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. - 123RF
Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. – 123RF

Home improvement projects can turn a house into a home. Homeowners plan scores of renovations to transform living spaces into rooms that reflect their personal tastes and comforts.

But homeowners going it alone may find things do not always go as planned. In fact, a Harris Interactive study found that 85 per cent of homeowners say remodelling is a more stressful undertaking than buying a home.

But homeowners about to embark on home improvement projects can make the process go more smoothly by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Failing to understand the scope of the project

Some homeowners don’t realize just how big a commitment they have made until they get their hands dirty. But understanding the scope of the project, including how much demolition and reconstruction is involved, and how much time a project will take can help homeowners avoid some of the stress that comes with renovation projects.

For example, a bathroom renovation may require the removal of drywall, reinforcement of flooring to accommodate a new bathtub or shower enclosure and the installation of new plumbing and wiring behind walls. So such a renovation is far more detailed than simply replacing faucets.

Not establishing a budget

Homeowners must develop a project budget to ensure their projects do not drain their finances. If your budget is so inflexible that you can’t afford the materials you prefer, you may want to postpone the project and save more money so you can eventually afford to do it right.

Without a budget in place, it is easy to overspend, and that can put you in financial peril down the line. Worrying about coming up with money to pay for materials and labour also can induce stress. Avoid the anxiety by setting a firm budget.

Making trendy or personal improvements

Homeowners who plan to stay in their homes for the long run have more free rein when it comes to renovating their homes. Such homeowners can create a billiards room or paint a room hot pink if they so prefer.

However, if the goal is to make improvements in order to sell a property, overly personal touches may make a property less appealing to prospective buyers. Trends come and go, and improvements can be expensive.

If your ultimate goal is to sell your home, opt for renovations that will look beautiful through the ages and avoid bold choices that may only appeal to a select few buyers.

Forgetting to properly vet all workers

It is important to vet your contractor, but don’t forget to vet potential subcontractors as well. Failing to do so can prove a costly mistake. Contractors often look to subcontractors to perform certain parts of a job, and it is the responsibility of homeowners to vet these workers.

Expecting everything to go as planned

Optimism is great, but you also should be a realist. Knowing what potentially could go wrong puts you in a better position to handle any problems should they arise. The project might go off without a hitch, but plan for a few hiccups along the way.

Overestimating DIY abilities

Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. In the long run, leaving the work to a professional may save you money.

Home improvements can be stressful, but homeowners can lessen that stress by avoiding common renovation mistakes.


US homebuilding rose in October on a rebound in multifamily housing projects.

U.S. homebuilding rose in October amid a rebound in multifamily housing projects, but construction of single-family homes fell for a second straight month, suggesting the housing market remained mired in weakness as mortgage rates march higher.

Other details of the report published by the Commerce Department on Tuesday were also soft. Building permits declined last month and homebuilding completions were the fewest in a year. Housing starts increased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.228 million units last month.

Data for September was revised to show starts dropping to a rate of 1.210 million units instead of the previously reported pace of 1.201 million units.

Building permits slipped 0.6 percent to a rate of 1.263 million units in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.225 million units last month.

The housing market is being hobbled by rising borrowing costs as well as land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventories and higher house prices. This is making home buying unaffordable for many workers as wage growth has lagged.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering at a seven-year high of 4.94 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year ago, trailing house price inflation of about 5.5 percent.

Residential investment contracted in the first nine months of the year and housing is likely to remain a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter. Economists expect housing activity to remain weak through the first half of 2019.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by Tuesday’s housing starts data.

Single-family homebuilding stalls

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 1.8 percent to a rate of 865,000 units in October after declining in September.

Single-family homebuilding has lost momentum since hitting a pace of 948,000 units last November, which was the strongest in more than 10 years.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among single-family homebuilders dropped to a more than two-year low in November, with builders reporting that “customers are taking a pause due to concerns over rising interest rates and home prices.”

Single-family starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of homebuilding, fell 4.0 percent last month. Single-family homebuilding jumped 14.8 percent in the Northeast and fell 2.0 percent in the West. Groundbreaking activity on single-family homes dropped 1.6 percent in the Midwest.

Permits to build single-family homes fell 0.6 percent in October to a pace of 849,000 units. These permits remain below the level of single-family starts, suggesting limited scope for a strong pickup in homebuilding.

Starts for the volatile multifamily housing segment surged 10.3 percent to a rate of 363,000 units in October. Permits for the construction of multifamily homes fell 0.5 percent to a pace of 414,000 units.

Tuesday’s data also suggested that housing supply is likely to remain tight in the near term. Homebuilding completions in October fell 3.3 percent to a rate of 1.111 million units, the lowest level since September 2017.

Realtors estimate that housing starts and completion rates need to be in a range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month to plug the inventory gap.


Supreme Court to take up Sabarimala review pleas on January 22

Sabarimala temple

In what is being claimed as a victory by few groups, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to reconsider its September 28 verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. The court said it will hear the review petitions in the case on January 22 and there will be no stay of its judgment till such time.

Forty-nine entities, including organisations and individuals, have questioned the verdict on temple entry on the grounds that rationality can’t be a yardstick to assess whether a religious practice or belief is integral to the faith of a community or group.

The petitions said the SC ruling had other flaws. The petitioners had appealed for an open court hearing saying that will give their lawyers a chance to put forth their arguments before the judges and even respond to queries. Review petitions, as a norm, do not get listed in open courts and are generally dealt with in chambers by the judges who decided the specific matter.

The Sabarimala verdict by delivered through a 4:1 majority by a Constitutional bench that included former CJI Dipak Misra, Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone dissenting judge, found no fault with the practice of the barring entry of women of menstrual age into the temple.

On Tuesday, CJI Ranjan Gogoi replaced his predecessor on the bench while retaining the other four judges who decided the case. “All review petitions along with all pending applications will be heard in open court on January 22, 2019 before the appropriate bench. We make it clear that there is no stay of the judgment and order of this court dated September 28, 2018.”

On the fresh petitions challenging the verdict, the SC asked the petitioners to wait till judges decide on the review petitions. “If review petitions are dismissed, your petitions will be taken up. If they are allowed, your petitions will get tagged along,” said CJI Gogoi.

All-party meeting called

Hours after the development in the Supreme Court, the Kerala government called for an all-party meeting on November 15 to discuss the issue.

The two-month long annual ‘Mandala Makkaravillakku’ season will start on November 17 and the meeting will also take stock of the arrangements for devotees.

The temple had witnessed a string of protests from devotees when it opened for monthly pujas for five days in October and two days early this month.

Over 3,700 persons have been arrested so far and 546 cases registered against various people for violence during protests across the state after the top court permitted women of all ages to pray at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

  • For centuries, women of menstruating age are barred from entry to shrine
  • SC on Sept 28 allows all women to enter temple, protests start
  • Opposers of ruling say rationality can’t be applied to assess whether a religious practice is integral to faith of group

I think it is a very good decision. I think Kerala is united on this issue and therefore, I am happy that the Supreme Court has decided to review the entire issue. In democracy, people are paramount.K J Alphons, Union Minister

Review petitions will be heard on 22 January, after the ‘Makaravilakku’ season ends. The state government will discuss with legal experts and move forwardPinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister

The blessings of Lord Ayyappa and prayers of lots of devotees are behind this decision to hear the matter in the open courtKandararu Rajeevaru, Head Priest of Sabarimala shrine


Home Depot beats earnings estimates and raises sales outlook as consumers keep spending on homes

Home Depot shares rise after earnings beat street

Home Depot shares rise after earnings beat street   8:15 AM ET Tue, 13 Nov 2018 | 05:59

Home Depot on Tuesday reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ expectations and raised its sales outlook for the full year, showing little sign of slowing down despite concerns about softening existing home sales.

Management warned during a conference call with analysts the company will still face tougher comparisons in the foreseeable future because of devastating storms late last year. In the fourth quarter, Home Depot will be comparing against roughly $380 million in hurricane sales booked during the fourth quarter in 2017, CFO Carol Tome said.

Home Depot shares initially rose in premarket trading but closed the day down less than 1 percent.

Here’s what Home Depot reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $2.51 vs. $2.26 expected
  • Revenue: $26.30 billion vs. $26.26 billion expected
  • Same-store sales: up 4.8 percent globally vs. growth of 4.7 percent expected

For much of the year, confidence in the U.S. housing market has been soaring, benefiting Home Depot and rival Lowe’s. But with mortgage rates climbing, attitudes had started to turn sour. This may lead to home prices rising at a slower rate and the market cooling down.

Still, Home Depot CEO Craig Menear said Tuesday there is continued “overall strength of demand in the home improvement market,” prompting the company to hike its outlook for fiscal 2018.

Home Depot reported fiscal third-quarter net income of $2.9 billion, or $2.51 per share, up from $2.2 billion, or $1.84 per share, a year earlier. Earnings per share came in better than the $2.26 expected by analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Net sales rose roughly 5 percent from a year ago to $26.30 billion, slightly beating expectations of $26.26 billion.

Sales at stores open for at least 12 months were up 4.8 percent globally and up 5.4 percent in the United States. Home Depot said sales per square foot were up 5.2 percent from a year ago, customer transactions rose 1.4 percent, and the average shopper’s ticket was up 3.6 percent.

Looking to the full year, Home Depot now expects sales to grow roughly 7.2 percent, up from a previous outlook of just 7 percent. It says same-store sales should be up 5.5 percent, up from 5.3 percent.

Analysts anticipate Home Depot may have an opportunity to gain market share in the appliance category after Sears filed for bankruptcy protection and continues to shut stores.

“There’s been a lot of concern out there in the marketplace about a slowdown in housing,” Brian Nagel, Oppenheimer senior equity research analyst, told CNBC. “As I look through [Home Depot’s] results, I’m not seeing it. … The underlying demand for housing seems to be quite good. That typically goes back to jobs growth.”

Given low unemployment, consumers are feeling confident enough to invest in home projects.

Home Depot also said Tuesday it now expects to complete roughly $8 billion in share repurchases for the year, up from initial plans for $6 billion.

As of Monday’s market close, Home Depot shares are up about 12 percent from a year ago to trade around $183.


Teacher on leave after recording device found in bathroom

– A Massachusetts teacher has been placed on leave while the school and police investigate allegations he recorded a student using the faculty bathroom.

Bellingham schools Superintendent Peter Marano told parents this week that the teacher at Bellingham Memorial School was “removed from the classroom” on Nov. 9.

The teacher’s name has not been made public because the investigation is ongoing and no criminal charges have been announced.

The teacher has coached at the school for 14 years and also coaches baseball.

Police say a 14-year-old boy told a school resource officer last week that when a coach told him he could use the faculty bathroom, the boy found a box with a hole and a cellphone recording inside.

Students in grades 4 through 7 attend the school.