March 13, 2019
WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND HERE
Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day so celebrate in downtown Huntsville on Saturday, March 16th at 11:30 a.m. Click here for the parade route.
STOCKS STALL ON GLOBAL WORRIES
Global stocks stalled into a four-day losing streak as investors wrestle with record U.S. trade deficits, a trade war, an ECB policy shift and February’s employment data.
THIS WEEK’S ECONOMIC DATA
- Employment report indicated the U.S. gained 20,000 new jobs in February, with unemployment down to 3.8% from 4%.
- New home sales in December increased 3.7% from November.
- Weekly jobless claims fell slightly in the first week of March.
ECONOMY AND EQUITY MARKETS
The U.S. trade deficit widened in 2018 to a 10-year high of $621 billion, defying President Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce it, as tax cuts boosted demand for imports while the strong U.S. dollar and retaliatory tariffs weighed on exports. The annual deficit in goods and services increased by 12.5% to $68.8 billion, the Commerce Department said.
Municipal bonds are off to the strongest start to a year in more than a decade despite expectations that President Trump’s tax overhaul would dampen demand in the municipal market. Investors poured more than $15 billion into municipal bond funds in the first two months of the year, the best two-month start in at least 13 years, according to Municipal Market Analytics. The surge in demand following a tepid 2018 has led to higher bond prices, pushing yields lower.
INSIDE THE LOOP
Great American Companies – In revealing the most detail to date, the health care venture involving Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan announced it will be called Haven. The venture unveiled a website and a letter from CEO Atul Gawande, the surgeon, Harvard professor and writer chosen to lead the endeavor last June. Haven’s goal is to improve access to primary care, simplify insurance and make prescription drugs more affordable. It will initially serve 1.2 million employees of the three founding companies, but later plans “to share our innovations and solutions to help others.” Haven was formed because the companies “have been frustrated by the quality, service, and high costs that their employees and families have experienced in the U.S. health system,” Gawande said in a letter posted on the website. Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett says the venture’s goals will be to stop the extreme rise in medical costs and find a better system for employees. Buffett’s business partner, Charles Munger, said last month that it’s probably one of the hardest tasks on Berkshire’s agenda.
Busy Barbers – Barbers near Odessa, Texas, are making as much as $180,000 per year, thanks to an oil boom that has workers flooding into town, said Christopher Matthews and Rebecca Elliott in The Wall Street Journal. Five barbers working six days a week are making $700 to $900 a day. A cut costs $40, but patrons who are in a hurry and willing to pay even more—$60, or $75 with a shave—can skip the line.
The Job Market – Austin is the hottest job market in the U.S., according to a ranking of 53 metro areas with more than 1 million people. Austin had a 3 percent unemployment rate and 3.5 percent job growth in 2018. Other top cities included Orlando, which had the nation’s fastest job growth (4 percent), and Seattle, with the highest wage growth (9.5 percent).
Wednesday: Producer Price Index
Thursday: New Home Sales, Weekly Jobless Claims
Friday: Consumer Sentiment
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.” Sir Winston Churchill
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*Economy and Equity Markets…(Source: Bloomberg)
*Fixed Income…(Source: Wall Street Journal)
*Great American Companies…(Source: Bloomberg)
*Busy Barbers…(Source: Wall Street Journal)
*The Job Market…(Source: Wall Street Journal)