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Biden Expands Food Stamps, Moves To Raise Minimum Wage As Stimulus Battle Brews

Biden Expands Food Stamps, Moves To Raise Minimum Wage As Stimulus Battle Brews

The Biden Administration’s flurry of no fewer than 50 executive orders, executive actions and legislative action-items continued apace on Friday as the administra

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Biden Expands Food Stamps, Moves To Raise Minimum Wage As Stimulus Battle Brews

The Biden Administration's flurry of no fewer than 50 executive orders, executive actions and legislative action-items continued apace on Friday as the administration turned its attention to combating economic and "racial" inequality, following Thursday's COVID focus. Biden is cooking up two new EOs on Friday, one which raises the minimum wage nationally, and another expanding food stamp accessibility.

The administration appears to be pivoting on from Thursday's theme - combating the COVID crisis - to Friday's theme (as previewed yesterday by the Hill a day ago)  which is focused entirely on "economic/racial" inequality.

First thing's first, Biden is signing two executive orders Thursday aimed at speeding pandemic stimulus checks to families who need it most, while increasing food aid for children who normally rely on school meals as a main source of nutrition.

Biden, who has proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package (at least the third since the start of this whole debacle, if one counts the measure passed last fall by Trump and his team), is using the two orders to try to ease the financial burden on Americans while Congress continues to battle over the next stimulus package, which is already seeing some (not-unexpected) pushback from Republicans like Mitt Romney who once lambasted Trump for his utter unwillingness to work with the other side (even though they once would have done the same.

Here's more on the package from Reuters:

Biden, who has proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, is using the two orders to try to ease the burden on people while the legislation is negotiated in Congress. He has made fighting the pandemic an early focus of his new administration.

The pandemic recession has hit Americans hard. Some 16 million are now receiving some type of unemployment benefit, and an estimated 29 million don’t have enough to eat. Women, minorities and low-income service workers have been disproportionately impacted, with Black and Hispanic workers facing higher jobless rates than white workers.

“We’re at a precarious moment in our economy,” Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters in a preview of the orders.

He said the actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief, “but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of American families.”

The new president's first agenda item will be taking steps to expand and improve delivery of stimulus checks.

In the first order, Biden will ask the Treasury Department to consider taking steps to expand and improve delivery of stimulus checks, such as establishing online tools for claiming payments. “Many Americans faced challenges receiving the first round of direct payments and as many as 8 million eligible households did not receive the payments issued in March,” a White House fact sheet said.

On the minimum wage front, Biden plans to sign a Friday Executive Order which would require federal contractors to pay their workers a $15 minimum wage as well as provide emergency paid leave. The Order will direct the Federal government to "start the work that would allow him to issue" and order "within the first 100 days" requiring the $15 per hour minimum wage.

Yet, as we noted on Wednesday, 75 years of minimum wage boosts have had a negative effect on employment, every time.

Biden is also seeking to supply more access to school children and families who normally depend on these school focused programs. But instead of doing it unilaterally, he wiill ask the Agriculture Department to come up with new guidelines promising at least one free meal a day for families with children who once  depended on in-school lunches. Per Reuters, this could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months.

"USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most. This would be the first step to ensuring that an additional 12 million people get enhanced SNAP benefits to keep nutritious food on the table," the fact sheet said.

Circling back to the massive nearly $2 trillion stimulus program, it looks like moderate Republicans who were the first to repudiate Trump are also being the first to back away from yet another "socialistic" stimulus package despite the demands from Janet Yellen for Congress to "Go Big" or go home.

As of now, it looks like the package won't pass muster in the Democrat-controlled Congress, where their slim majority in the Senate and the House could prove a sticking point, unless Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have their way.

Even as stocks rally to ever-higher highs, it's important to remember that millions of Americans were bitter abiuitSome 16MM are now receiving some type of unemployment benefit, and an estimated 29 million don’t have enough to eat.

"We’re at a precarious moment in our economy," said White House Economic Director Brian Deese, who gave reporters in a preview of the orders.

For millions of working-class Americans about to burn through the last of their savings, this could be a major lifeline. For the rest, it's just more fodder for their Robinhood-assisted options trading strategy. 

*  *  *

Excerpts from The White House Fact Sheet: 

Today, the President is issuing an Executive Order that will launch an all-of-government effort to provide equitable emergency economic relief to working families, communities, and small businesses across the nation. The actions taken as part of this effort will provide relief to millions of American workers who have lost their jobs and had their hours or wages slashed through no fault of their own. They will help working families feed their children and keep a roof over their head. They will help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19 by clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance. And, they will help more unemployed workers pay for training and college so they can find better jobs and succeed in an increasingly competitive job market.

That all-of-government effort will:

  • Address the growing hunger crisis facing 29 million Americans — and as many as 12 million children – by asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider expanding and extending federal nutrition assistance programs. 

  • Ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments — by asking the Treasury Department to consider changing its delivery structure and focus on getting relief to the 8 million Americans who still have not received the financial assistance to which they are entitled.

  • Help approximately 2 million veterans maintain their financial footing by asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to consider pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts. 

  • Help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19 by asking the U.S. Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance.

  • Enable effective and equitable distribution of government assistance by establishing an interagency benefit coordination structure.

 

The President is also asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider taking the following steps to provide nutrition assistance to working families, including to: 

  • Increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures. Established under Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the school meals missed due to COVID-related school closures. To date, the program has only allowed P-EBT benefit amounts up to $5.70 per child per school day and many households have had trouble claiming benefits. To address these concerns and expand needed relief, the President is asking USDA to consider issuing new guidance increasing P-EBT benefits by approximately 15% to accurately reflect the costs of missing meals and make it easier for households to claim benefits. For instance, this action could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months.

  • Allow larger emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotments for the lowest-income households. Congress authorized emergency increases to SNAP benefits to help address food insecurity during the pandemic. So far, those benefit increases have not been made available to all of the lowest income households. USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most.  This would be the first step to ensuring that an additional 12 million people get enhanced SNAP benefits to keep nutritious food on the table.

  • Update food assistance benefits to reflect the true cost of a basic healthy diet. More than 40 million Americans count on SNAP to help put food on the table. Currently, however, USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face when trying to buy and prepare healthy food. As a result, the benefits fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households. Therefore, as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill, the President will ask USDA to consider beginning the process of revising the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy basic diet. 

PROTECTING AND EMPOWERING FEDERAL WORKERS AND CONTRACTORS

The federal government should only award contracts to employers who give their workers the pay and benefits they have earned; President Biden is today directing his administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an Executive Order within the first 100 days that requires federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers.

He is also taking critical steps to protect and empower federal employees, who dedicate their careers to serving the American people. They keep us healthy, safe, and informed, and their work transcends partisan politics. They are health care workers who care for veterans, the elderly, and the disabled. They are expert scientists, medical doctors, and technicians who maintain world-class standards, prevent and combat the spread of infectious diseases, and save countless lives. They deliver our mail, run our national parks, keep our federal buildings up and running, help protect us against climate change and environmental poisoning, and ensure that the law is applied faithfully and fairly. They are talented, hard-working, and inspiring Americans, worthy of the utmost dignity and respect. But, over the last four years, they’ve been undermined and demoralized. The President will sign an executive order taking steps to protect and empower federal employees who are so essential to this country. It:

  • Restores collective bargaining power and worker protections by revoking Trump Executive Orders 13836, 13837, and 13839. It goes further to direct agencies to bargain over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining when contracts are up for negotiation so that workers have a greater voice in their working conditions.

  • Eliminates Schedule F, which undermines the foundations of the civil service. Its existence threatens the critical protections of career employees and provides a pathway to burrow political appointees into the civil service.

  • Promotes a $15 minimum wage. The Executive Order directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour.

These steps will help ensure the federal government is a model employer and restore protections to career civil servants who are so essential to this country.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/22/2021 - 11:00

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Bitcoin Back Below $30,000 After A Record 8 Weeks In The Red

Bitcoin decoupled from equity markets to the downside on Monday after ending last week as the eighth consecutive weekly loss.

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Bitcoin decoupled from equity markets to the downside on Monday after ending last week as the eighth consecutive weekly loss.

Bitcoin has failed to hold the $30,000 level on Monday after scoring its eighth consecutive week in the red for the first time ever.

During these eight weeks, which began in late March and ended on Sunday, bitcoin has lost over 35% of its U.S. dollar value according to TradingView data. Before the beginning of the losing streak, BTC was trading at around $46,800.

Bitcoin has scored losses for eight consecutive weeks for the first time in its history and it is starting the ninth with yet another red candle. Image source: TradingView.

Bitcoin is changing hands slightly below $30,000 at the time of writing. The peer-to-peer currency climbed as high as $30,600 earlier on Monday to trade at around $29,400 as the trading in equity markets nears its end in New York.

While bitcoin turns south, major U.S. stock indices have been in the green. The Nasdaq, which is said to be highly correlated with bitcoin, decoupled from the digital money along with the S&P 500 to denote modest gains near market close on Monday, per TradingView data.

While bitcoin, Nasdaq and S&P 500 were trading in tandem for some time on Monday, the P2P currency saw a sharp sell-off decouple it from the two indices and take it to a more than 3% loss for the day. Image source: TradingView.

A Tough Year For Bitcoin

Despite making two new all-time highs in 2021, bitcoin already erased nearly all of those gains in 2022.

Bitcoin’s choppy trading year so far can be partly attributed to a broader sentiment of economic uncertainty as the Federal Reserve tightens the U.S. economy, withdrawing liquidity from the market after almost two years of quantitative easing.

The central bank has already raised its basic interest rates two times this year, the last of which was double the magnitude of the previous one and represented the largest hike in two decades: While the Fed increased interest rates by 0.25% in March, it raised them by 0.50% earlier this month.

Image source: Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED).

When the Fed raises or lowers interest rates through its Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), what it is actually doing is setting a target range. The graph above depicts the lower and upper bounds of that target range in red and blue, respectively.

While the U.S. central bank system sets the target, it cannot mandate that commercial banks use it — rather, it serves as a recommendation. Therefore, what banks end up using for lending and borrowing excess cash between them overnight is called the effective rate. This is shown by the green line in the graph above.

The Fed previously hiked interest rates consistently from 2016 to 2019, until plunging it near zero in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, as noted in the graph.

Bitcoin’s higher sensitivity to liquidity and therefore interest rates can be explained by a greater participation of institutional investors in the market, whose allocations are based on the availability of capital and broader economic conditions, Morgan Stanley reportedly said.

Therefore, while Bitcoin was able to sustain a bull market in the midst of the Fed increasing interest rates in 2017, raising nearly 2,000% from January to December that year, the odds aren’t on the side of the bulls this year.

For two weeks, bitcoin has now closed below a level of weekly support it formed over a year ago and had respected since, indicating it might be turning into a zone of resistance. Image source: TradingView.

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Here’s What Will Be Open And Closed on Memorial Day

Rite Aid, Best Buy and Pizza Hut will be open. Not so much with the Stock Market, though.

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Rite Aid, Best Buy and Pizza Hut will be open. Not so much with the Stock Market, though.

Just in case you forgot to remember, Memorial Day will take place on Monday, May 30th.

Memorial Day is one of the most American of all holidays, second only to the Fourth of July. 

The holiday was created to honor people who served in the United States military. 

The first Memorial Day took place in 1868, though it is a holiday with a surprisingly murky history. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs says that 25 different cities and towns have claimed to have invented the holiday. 

Still, Memorial Day weekend has long served as the unofficial kick off of summer, with friends gather in backyards and public parks to hold BBQs and flout open container laws.

As with many federal holidays, it can be a bit unclear what business and government agencies will be open. 

Maybe you’re the type that always needs to buy some last minute potato dip at the grocery store, or if you’d prefer to go to a restaurant rather than deal with all that sunshine.

Either way, we’ve put together a list of what definitely won’t be open on Memorial Day, and what likely will be.

There is also the caveat that some chain restaurants and stores give their franchises the flexibility to set their own hours and days of operation.

What Will Be Open On Memorial Day?

Public Parks And Beaches

It just wouldn’t be Memorial Day without people grilling in the park and on the beach. 

While some public parks closed down during the pandemic, that is thankfully behind us. 

Some parks might close on the early side, but you should be all set for an afternoon picnic.

Movie Theaters

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, as well as the unofficial start of summer movie season. If you’re curious about checking out “Top Gun: Maverick,” most theaters will be open.

Subways and Buses

While a lot of government employees get the day off, subway and buses will continue to run, though in reduced capacity in some cities. 

Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens

Chain drug stores seemingly never take the day off, just in case you really need to buy some shampoo from Rite Aid  (RAD) - Get Rite Aid Corporation Report, CVS  (CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report or Walgreens  (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report

Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Big Lots, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and Home Depot

All the major big box stores will be open on Memorial Day, though some locations might close early.

Shopping Malls

Nearly all shopping malls will be open on Memorial Day, and many of them will be having sales.

Trader Joe’s, Publix, Walmart, Wegmans 

Most chain grocery stores like Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report and Trader Joe's will be open, though some might close on the early side. 

Barnes and Noble

Need to find a bathroom? Most Barnes and Noble  (BKS) - Get Barnes & Noble, Inc. Report book stores will be open on Memorial Day weekend.

Starbucks and Dunkin

Do you need coffee before the day drinking commences? Both Starbuck  (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report and Dunkin  (DNKN) - Get Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc. Report will have you covered.

The Apple Store

If you want to spend your day off at the Apple Store  (APPL) , that is an option available to you, as most locations will be open that day.

Fast Food

Not in the mood to make your own hamburger? More of a taco kind of person? 

Take heart: all the major fast food chains, including McDonald’s  (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report, Wendy’s  (WEN) - Get Wendy's Company Report, Taco Bell  (YUM) - Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report, Subway, Chipotle  (CMG) - Get Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Report and Pizza Hut will all be open. 

Chain Restaurants

Are you a fan of air-conditioning and having other people cook for you? 

Well as an American, you are entitled to go eat at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory  (CAKE) - Get Cheesecake Factory Incorporated Report, Bonefish Grill, Applebee's, Chili's or Olive Garden  (DRI) - Get Darden Restaurants, Inc. Report on Memorial Day.

Most chain restaurants will be open for takeout, delivery and dining in. Many will offer discounts to service members and veterans. 

Total Wine

If it’s your job to bring a six-pack to the BBQ, Total Wine will be open on Memorial Day, as will the majority of locally-owned liquor stores.

What Will Be Closed On Memorial Day?

The Federal Government

Memorial Day is a federal holiday, so federal courts and government offices will be closed. 

The State Government

Most non-essential state government offices will be closed, including the Post Office and most courthouses. 

Banks

Some local banks may choose to remain open for part of the day. But generally, national banks such as Bank of America  (BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report, Capital One  (COF) - Get Capital One Financial Corporation Report, Chase  (CCF) - Get Chase Corporation Report and PNC  (PNC) - Get PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Report will be closed.

The Stock Market

The New York Stock Exchange, Dow Jones, NASDAQ will all be closed on Memorial Day. Go eat some hotdogs, day traders.

Schools

(Alice Cooper Voice) School’s is out for the summer! 

Though in some cities, schools may be open until June, especially if it is trying to make up for time lost because of covid-19. 

But even then, students will have Memorial Day off.

The Department of Motor Vehicles

The DMV is a state agency, and not a federal one. They are generally closed on Memorial Day in most cities.

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Top Gas ETFs to Buy in 2022 with Soaring Gas Prices

To grab your piece of the rising energy costs, below are the top gas ETFs to buy in 2022. Let’s get started.
The post Top Gas ETFs to Buy in 2022 with…

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All anyone wants to talk about anymore is the soaring price of gasoline. After all, the cost to fill your tank has never been higher. With industry profits piling up, get your share with the best gas ETFs to buy before the second half (2H) of 2022.

First, the pandemic severely strained the industry as demand fell off from global lockdowns. As a result, over 100 oil and gas companies went out of business.

Then, as the economy reopened and demand started catching up, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stoked a fire under an already strained market. So, demand is outpacing supply as nations look elsewhere to fill the supply gap left by Russia’s massive presence in the commodity market.

Nonetheless, gasoline is essential to keep the economy running smoothly. You need gas for fuel to get to work and back. Not to mention, businesses rely on gas for transporting goods, which influences prices. To grab your piece of the rising energy costs, below are the top gas ETFs to buy in 2H of 2022.

What Are the Best Gas ETFs to Buy Right Now?

The top gas ETFs to buy are outperforming the market right now as soaring energy costs boost profits. For example, Natural Gas Futures (NG1) are up over 120% YTD and almost 200% over the past year.

Meanwhile, all major indexes are down significantly this year, with the Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX) slipping almost 30% YTD. On top of this, researchers at J.P. Morgan predict gas prices could remain elevated “even as far back as 2024” as supply disruptions will be hard to overcome.

No. 3 Barclays iPath Series B Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex (NYSE: GAZ)

  • YTD Return: 124%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.45%

Although the Natural Gas Subindex is set up as an Exchange Traded Note (ETN), it can help you gain exposure to the surging gas market. An ETN differs from an ETF in that the fund consists of unsecured debt notes rather than holding a group of stocks.

The GAZ ETN seeks to replicate the returns of the Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex by investing in futures contracts. That said, the ETN does not pay a dividend. Therefore, GAZ is best as a short-term tool.

Since the ETN is not tied to any companies, only futures, it can carry additional risks. For example, investors are left with little or nothing if the issuer defaults. In comparison, ETFs hold several companies, helping to diversify and spread risk.

At the same time, the ETN moves alongside the price of natural gas contacts. So, if you are looking for direct exposure to gas prices, the GAZ ETN may be for you.

Keep reading for more on gas ETFs to buy.

No. 2 United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG)

  • YTD Return: 128%
  • Expense Ratio: 1.11%

The United States Natural Gas Fund is another way investors can invest in natural gas prices without physically trading futures. For one thing, UNG is a commodity pool. Or in other words, it pools investor money to invest in futures, swaps and forward contracts.

The fund aims to give investors access to daily changes in natural gas deliveries at the Henry Hub, a distribution center. As a result, the daily changes resemble changes in natural gas prices.

However, since management is consistently active, it will cost more to invest. Though the higher expense is not slowing UNGs momentum, up close to 130% YTD. Likewise, UNG is more geared for short-term trading as it holds near-month contracts.

No. 1 United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNL)

  • YTD Return: 113%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.90%

Similarly, the United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund is a commodity pool targeting the price of natural gas. But, UNL differs in that it holds futures contracts for the nearest 12 months.

In other words, UNL buffers itself from short-term movements. As a result, investors can gain exposure to changes in natural gas prices with less risk than short-term contracts.

If you wish to capture your piece of the soaring energy prices but want less risk of contango (higher spot price), UNL may be a better choice.

Best Leveraged Gas ETFs to Buy

To maximize your returns, you can opt for a leveraged ETF to multiply the changes in an underlying index. For example, the ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Natural Gas ETF (NYSE: BOIL) targets to return 2X the daily performance of a natural gas index.

As a result, investors can earn double the daily returns of natural gas changes. With this in mind, the BOIL ETF is up 322% in 2022 alone.

However, there is a significant risk of investing in leveraged ETFs. Though you can earn double the returns, you can also double your losses. Investing in these funds is only recommended if you are comfortable with the significant fluctuations.

Best Inverse (Short) Gas ETFs to Buy

For those that think gas prices will ease soon, finding an inverse gas ETF to buy in 2022 may be for you. Or, if you have earned a pretty penny on gas and oil stocks already, you may want to protect your downside.

Nevertheless, the ProShares Ultrashort Bloomberg Natural Gas ETF (NYSE: KOLD) is a way to earn (-2X) the daily performance of a natural gas index.

In comparison, the KOLD ETF is down 90% YTD while natural gas prices soar. So, it gives you an idea of how quickly earnings can dry up in these types of investments.

What Gas ETFs to Buy for Passive Investors

The funds listed above are the best gas ETFs to buy for capturing the explosive rise in gas prices. But, for passive investors, these may not be the best option. For one thing, the gas and oil market can change rapidly.

During the pandemic, oil prices plunged below $0 for the first time. Then, two years later, we are looking at record high prices of over $130. As a result, oil and gas ETFs are having wild swings.

Nonetheless, research from J.P. Morgan shows the cost burden of higher gas prices is around $7 billion per month. As a result, consumers have less to spend in other areas of the economy. We already see the evidence with companies like Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE: TGT) missing earnings estimates while blaming transportation costs.

In short, profits are being pulled from other parts of the economy to compensate for the lack of supply and rising demand. With this in mind, the energy sector looks ready to continue its run.

The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE: XLE) is an excellent option for passive investors looking to gain exposure with less risk. The XLE ETF is up 48% YTD while investing in top gas and oil companies like Exxon Mobile (NYSE: XOM). No matter your investing style, with the price at the pump holding steady, these are the top gas ETFs to buy this year to get your share.

The post Top Gas ETFs to Buy in 2022 with Soaring Gas Prices appeared first on Investment U.

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