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President Joe Biden will deliver his second major speech on his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan today as he tries to raise support among Republican voters. White House aides have said they want significant progress made in Congress on the package by Memorial Day. While the recent procedural win means the administration will not have to rely on GOP support for much of that progress, Biden will have to be careful not to alienate any senators from his own party. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin has already expressed doubts on the tax measures in the plan.

 

Southeast Asia's most valuable startup is ready to go public, making its debut in the SPACsphere. Grab (GRAB) was founded as a ride-hailing company in 2012, before expanding into payments in 2016 and food delivery in 2018. It also offers loans, insurance and has been granted a digital banking license in Singapore.  The merger would be the largest between a private business and a blank check company, in a deal that will value SoftBank-backed Grab at about $35B.

 

Forget about toilet paper, hand sanitizer and semiconductors, restaurants are having trouble securing enough ketchup. With the COVID-19 pandemic turning many sit-down restaurants into takeout businesses, packet prices have risen 13% since January 2020, according to restaurant platform Plate IQ. Some stores can't even get their hands on enough of the condiment, WSJ reports, with managers using generic versions, dishing out bulk ketchup into single-serve cups or seeking secondary suppliers due to the demand.
 



With much of the market closed on Friday, investors will get their chance to react to the blow-out payrolls number this morning. Friday's report showed the jump in hiring had a broad base across industries, with leisure and hospitality leading gains. Those numbers were reflected in survey data which showed a record share of small-business owners reported job openings in March.

 

President Biden's second major legislative initiative so far looks unlikely to draw more bipartisan support than his first $1.9T COVID-19 relief package. Republicans are taking aim at the $2T infrastructure plan released last week, with Senator Roy Blunt urging the administration to significantly scale back the project if Biden wants GOP support. It may not matter. Over the weekend, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Biden is willing to push through the American Jobs Plan. He would prefer to have GOP backing, she told CNN's State of the Union, but if that does not work, he would likely support using reconciliation to allow Democrats to pass it in the Senate.

 

Stocks aren't the only market to have rallied for much of the last year. In fact, the real estate sector has seen some of the fastest house price growth in more than a decade and there aren't many communities where prices have fallen since the pandemic. Despite rising costs and mortgage rates, homes are still getting snatched off the market at a record pace, per a new Redfin report. About 59% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within two weeks of hitting the market, while more than 40% of homes sold above the original asking price.  U.S. home prices soared 11.2% in January, their biggest annual increase in 15 years, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national index. The data also "remained consistent with the view that COVID has encouraged potential buyers to move from urban apartments to suburban homes



The S&P 500 crossed the 4,000 threshold for the first time yesterday as Wall Street built on a solid March following the rollout of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.  The Stock and Bond Markets are closed today in observance of Good Friday.

 

A measure of U.S. manufacturing activity soared to its highest level in more than 37 years in March, driven by strong growth in new orders, the clearest sign yet that a much anticipated economic boom was probably underway.  The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Thursday its index of national factory activity jumped to a reading of 64.7 last month from 60.8 in February. That was the highest level since December 1983.  A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the U.S. economy. 

 

A group of Democrats in the Oregon legislature wants their peers to look closely at who gets the largest housing subsidy in the state and consider scaling them back.  They are proposing changes to the mortgage interest deduction in order to reduce the tax break, they want to remove the deduction for second homes and for primary homes of people with an adjusted gross income of more than $250,000.  The legislature’s continued interest in cutting popular tax write-offs was enough to get the Oregon Association of Realtors to send mailers in the Portland area, urging people to reach out to their representatives and tell them they did should “protect the dream of home ownership. ”



U.S. states saw a bigger than expected drop in initial unemployment claims last week as claims fell to a fresh pandemic-era low.  Initial unemployment claims came in below 700,000 for the first time since mid-March 2020, declining more than anticipated after last week's unexpected jump.

 

The U.S. housing market is suffering from its lowest supply in history, and that is taking an increasingly hard toll on sales.  Pending home sales, a measure of signed contracts on existing homes, fell a wider-than-expected 10.6% in February compared with January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were 0.5% lower year over year.  The demand for a home purchase is widespread, multiple offers are prevalent, and days-on-market are swift, but contracts are not closing due to record-low inventory.

 

President Joe Biden wants $2 trillion to reengineer America’s infrastructure and expects the nation’s corporations to pay for it.  The president landed unveiled what would be a hard-hatted transformation of the U.S. economy as grand in scale as the New Deal or Great Society programs that shaped the 20th century.  White House officials say the spending will take place over 8 years and will be financed through higher corporate tax rates.

 



U.S. stocks fell again yesterday as major technology stocks came under pressure again after the 10-year Treasury bond yield touched its highest level since January 2020.

 

The S&P Case-Shiller 20 city home price index increased 11.2% over last year.  That year over year gain was the largest since they began keeping records nationally.  Phoenix, Seattle, and San Diego saw the largest gains.  The median price for a house in the US is now $350,000.

 

According to the Conference Board the consumer confidence index is now at 109.7, up considerably from the February reading of 90.4 and at its highest level since the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020.  Consumers' renewed optimism boosted their purchasing intentions for homes, autos and several big-ticket items.  However, concerns of inflation in the short term rose, most likely due to rising prices at the pump, and may temper spending intentions in the months ahead.


The Oregon Legislature is moving to wipe out more than $300 million in state taxes triggered by federal stimulus payments,  but it could take several months for 900,000 taxpayers to get all the money back.

 



U.S. stocks fluctuated on both sides of the flat line yesterday amid weakness in bank stocks caught in the downdraft of Friday’s margin call of the big hedge fund Archegos, as investors assessed the ripple effect from the forced block sells.


The CDC has extended the national ban on evictions through the end of June.  The eviction ban was scheduled to expire in two days, and advocates warned of a spike in evictions without an extension.  About 20% of adult renters said they didn’t pay last month’s rent.  This is putting a squeeze on smaller landlords, who are unable to directly access Covid rental relief funds, and some are starting to sell properties to recoup losses.  This will likely reduce the much-needed, affordable rental stock in an already unaffordable housing market.


Shares of Boeing traded higher after Southwest Airlines announced they agreed to buy 100 of Boeing’s 737 Max 7 planes as they plan to retire older jets, sticking with the manufacturer that has been the backbone of its fleet for 50 years.  Southwest, which operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet, said its order, the largest Max sale since two crashes caused a worldwide grounding in March 2019, is a vote of confidence in the planes. 



US Stocks finished a volatile trading week last week to close at record highs.

 

This week investors are awaiting updates from President Biden about his infrastructure plan which could cost more that $3 trillion. The president is expected to unveil his plan when he travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday Biden plans to roll out two packages in the coming months, the first covering infrastructure and the second covering health and family care.

 

U.S. consumer sentiment continued to improve in late March to a one-year high as more Americans got vaccinations and business restrictions eased in many states.  The University of Michigan’s final sentiment index increased to 85.


Six straight weeks of increases have put the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at its highest level in nine months.  According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average jumped to 3.17 percent.  It was 3.09 percent a week ago and 3.5 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate average hasn’t been this high since June.  The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage has also risen for 6 straight weeks and stands at 2.45 percent.

 

 



The ship that has completely blocked the Suez Canal remains stuck in place. While operations to free the channel continue today, the best chance to move the vessel may not come until Sunday or Monday when the tides are highest. The blockage is halting $9.6 billion a day of traffic, and the knock-on effects of closing one of the world's most important transit points is likely to worsen for ships carrying everything from crude oil to cement to live animals.

 

First-time claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly fell sharply last week amid signs that hiring has picked up in the U.S. economy, the Labor Department reported Thursday.  Claims totaled 684,000 for the week ended March 20, the first time the number has been below 700,000 during the Covid-19 era. The level was a substantial decline from the 781,000 from a week earlier and was the lowest since March 14, 2020, just as the pandemic had begun.

 

Fresh concerns about companies from China being kicked off American exchanges have helped push an index of U.S.-traded Chinese stocks into bear-market territory.  The S&P/BNY Mellon China Select ADR Index tracks the American depositary receipts for 48 major U.S.-listed Chinese companies. The technology-heavy gauge includes e-commerce companies Alibaba Group BABA Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc., JD and electric-car maker Nio Inc.  The benchmark tumbled 6.4% Wednesday, leaving it 23% below a record hit on Feb. 16.  Chinese tech stocks are partly struggling because of the threat of delisting, as well as heightened regulatory risk at home.



Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell are set to face lawmakers in Congress for two days of hearings starting at 9am PST. Yellen is likely to push the case for more spending, repeating her argument that the U.S. has a lot of room for borrowing with interest rates so low. Yellen will be closely questioned on the administration's spending plans today as President Joe Biden's advisors are set to present him with a new infrastructure-heavy spending plan that could reach $3 trillion. In his prepared testimony Powell said that while the economic recovery is progressing well, it is still far from complete and so the Fed will continue to provide support.

 

Discord, a social media company popular with gamers, has held deal talks with Microsoft for a transaction that could top $10 billion, according to people briefed on the situation. Many of Microsoft’s acquisitions in recent years have focused on online communities, such as its purchases of LinkedIn, GitHub, and the gaming developer that created Minecraft. Last summer, Microsoft was in talks to buy the video app TikTok in what would have been a blockbuster acquisition; the discussions later fell apart. In September, Microsoft also bought ZeniMax Media, the parent company of several large gaming studios, for $7.5 billion.

 

AstraZeneca’s US clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine developed with Oxford university has shown 79 per cent efficacy at preventing symptomatic disease and 100 per cent efficacy against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation. The results are similar to those from other Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, said Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford and co-designer of the vaccine. A fifth of the participants in the AstraZeneca trial were over 65 and the jab showed 80 per cent efficacy in these older participants.



Yesterday afternoon the Federal Reserve sharply ramped up their expectations for economic growth here in the US and indicated that there are no interest rate hikes likely through 2023 despite an improving outlook and a turn this year to higher inflation.  As widely expected, the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee also voted to keep short-term borrowing rates near zero, while continuing an asset purchase program in which the central bank buys at least $120 billion of bonds a month.

 

Taxpayers will have more time to get their taxes in order this year.  The IRS is planning to push back the deadline for filing tax returns by about one month, from the usual April 15 to May 17th.  This will give taxpayers additional time to file their 2020 tax returns and pay any amounts owed to the IRS.

 

U.S. homebuilding dropped to a six-month low in February as severe cold gripped many parts of the country, in a temporary setback for a housing market that remains supported by extremely lean inventories amid strong demand for larger homes.  The report from the Commerce Department also showed a sharp decline in building permits last month.



The National Association of Home Builders’ monthly confidence index dropped two points to a reading of 82 in March. This was the index’s lowest reading since August. Index readings over 50 are a sign of improving confidence. The index had fallen below 50 in April and May in the immediate wake of the onset of the pandemic. Builder confidence peaked at a level of 90 last November and has trended lower as housing affordability has declined.

 

Industrial output fell sharply in February as severe winter storms battered much of the country, disrupting a wide range of manufacturing activities from autos to chemical plants. The expectation is that the drop will be temporary although there are concerns about growing global supply chain problems. The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that industrial production fell 2.2% in February, reflecting a big decline in output at factories and oil and gas refineries.

 

Oregon added 13,900 jobs last month, nearly twice as many as it gained in January, but the jobless rate remains stubbornly high. Unemployment was 6.1% in February, according to new data from the Oregon Employment Department. That’s on par with the national rate and down just a tenth of a percentage point from January. While the jobless rate has fallen for 10 straight months, the rate of improvement has slowed to a crawl over the past three months.



US Stocks were higher again yesterday notching their 14th all-time-high in 2021 as shares of Big Tech companies and economic reopening plays like airlines led the major averages higher as the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues.

 

U.S. airline executives are pointing to concrete signs of domestic leisure travel recovering as a slowing pandemic drives spring and summer bookings, pushing airline stocks to their highest level since the coronavirus crisis hit the sector a year ago. United Airlines expects to halt their cash burn by the end of March, the first major carrier to say it could hit the industry’s milestone. The Dow Jones Airline Index rose 5% on the news.

 

Tesla has added “Technoking of Tesla” to billionaire Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s list of official titles, in a regulatory filing that also named the companies CFO Zachary Kirkhorn “Master of Coin.”The electric-car maker did not explain the reasons for the cryptic new titles. Musk also shared a new electronic music track about a non-fungible token, or NFT - a new type of digital asset that is authenticated by blockchain.



US Stocks jumped to another record high last week as rising reopening optimism continued to encourage the rotation into cyclical stocks. Meanwhile, surging bond yields rekindled valuation fears and took the comeback momentum out of tech stocks.

 

According to the Labor Department the producer price index rose 0.5% in February. The gain was in line with the forecast of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. Wholesale inflation jumped 1.3% in January, the biggest gain since 2009.

 

The Federal Reserve’s latest snapshot of U.S. household wealth showed that the rich got richer during the pandemic, contributing to a record combined household wealth of $130.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020. Personal checking and savings accounts and money-market funds rose by $2.67 trillion to $16.5 trillion in 2020, even though yields were close to zero. Consumers also paid off a record $118.3 billion in credit card debt. The top 1 percent of U.S. households owned more than 30 percent of the wealth, by comparison, the bottom 50 percent owned just 2 percent of household wealth.



The gap between the vaccine haves and have-not nations is set to widen after Joe Biden doubled the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot treatment. The U.S. president faces a tough balancing act of meeting domestic needs and sharing with more needy allies. For now Biden said he needs to put Americans first while acknowledging that no one is safe until everyone is. Moderna Inc. has said its U.S. production is entirely for domestic use. Pfizer Inc. and J&J have declined to say whether they’ve exported any U.S.-produced doses or plan to. Meanwhile, Europe's slow vaccine take-up is causing investor alarm and outflows.

 

American Airlines has sealed the first portion of its industry-record $10bn debt deal that highlights the extent to which investors are searching for income even in sectors badly hit by the pandemic. The Texas-based airline issued $6.5bn worth of junk bonds on Wednesday as part of a package that also includes $3.5bn in loans. The $10bn fundraising marks the biggest debt deal ever by an airline, beating Delta's $9bn bond and loan sale in September.

 

With the House and Senate both approving the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the only thing separating Americans from a $1,400 stimulus checkis a signature from President Joe Biden. The American Rescue Plan Act is expected to be signed by President Biden on Friday, and stimulus payments could start being sent out within days of him signing. That means Americans could start seeing the money as early as next week.



The US Senate has voted to approve $1.9tn in stimulus legislation, taking the president’s plan to stoke America’s economic recovery a big step closer to its final passage in Congress but sending another jolt through financial markets. The upper chamber of Congress passed the fiscal stimulus legislation by 50 to 49, following party lines with all Democrats voting in favour and all Republicans present opposing.

 

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion package will easily pass a vote in the House after it is taken up tomorrow, according to leading Democrats. Economists have already factored the mammoth spending bill into their calculations for the year, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. seeing the unemployment rate tumbling to 4.2% by year end. Should everything go smoothly in the House, Biden will sign the measures into law before the aid from the previous package runs out on March 14.

 

Besides a broader correction that has weighed on tech stocks in recent weeks, the halo of the electric vehicle sector has been fading. That can be clearly seen with poster EV maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), whose shares are down nearly another 6% in premarket trade to $560. The company led by Elon Musk has seen its shares fall from an intraday high of $900.40 at the end of January to a low of $539.49 on Friday, marking a 40% plungeover the course of six weeks.



U.S. stocks fell sharply yesterday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell failed to reassure investors that the central bank would keep surging bond yields and inflation expectations in check.  With yesterday’s steep sell-off, the Nasdaq turned negative on the year.

 

 The US Economy added 379,000 jobs in February, well above the 210,000 economists had predicted.   The unemployment rate also dropped slightly to 6.2% from 6.3%.  The better than expected jobs report is pushing bond yields higher, with the yield on the 10 year Treasury Bond now above 1.6%.

 

New orders for U.S.-made goods increased more than expected in January, pointing to a sustained recovery in manufacturing even as the pace of business spending on equipment is slowing.  The Commerce Department said that factory orders shot up 2.6% after rising 1.6% in December.  Manufacturing, which accounts for 12% of the U.S. economy, has been driven by strong demand for goods, like electronics and furniture as 23.2% of the labor force works from home because of the virus.
 
 



Drugmaker Merck will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine in an effort to expand supply more quickly. The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose vaccine and accelerate the nation’s plans to vaccinate nearly all adult Americans in the coming months. Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization last Saturday. The company has promised to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June and this partnership will increase their odds of success.

 

Target’s earnings topped Wall Street’s estimates, as its sales got a lift from a strong holiday season and store traffic picked up in January. The big-box retailer has benefited during the pandemic as shoppers look for easy and safe ways to buy groceries and other items. Its 2020 sales grew by more than $15 billion — greater than its total sales growth over the prior 11 years.

 

Oregon small business owners who have struggled to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic can apply for help from the state beginning Monday, March 8. Small business owners with 100 or fewer employees will be able to apply together with their landlords for money to cover outstanding rent through the state’s new $100 million commercial rent relief program.



U.S. stocks started the month of March sharply higher yesterday in a broad-based rally as stocks tied to the economic reopening jumped on vaccine optimism, while tech names rebounded from steep losses last week.

 

U.S. manufacturing expanded in February at the fastest pace in three years and a gauge of materials costs accelerated the most since 2008 as supply shortages challenge the manufacturing industry.  According to the Institute for Supply Management a gauge of factory activity increased to 60.8 from 58.7 a month earlier.   Readings above 50 indicate expansion and the figure exceeded the 58.9 median estimate from economists.

 

U.S. construction spending reached the highest level on record last month as both local and federal governments began loosening the purse strings.  Spending hit a seasonally adjusted rate of $1.5 trillion across all sectors last month, the highest recorded since the Census Bureau began tracking this figure in 2002.  Homebuilding was largely responsible for the surge, but there was also an uptick in public and private non-housing-related construction.



US Stocks ended the month of February lower as investors worry about rising interest rates and the effect they will have on high flying tech stocks. The tech heavy NASDAQ suffered its worst week since October last week.

 

Americans increased spending in January for the first time in three months after the government sent $600 stimulus checks to families and boosted unemployment benefits as part of an effort to shore up the economy. Consumer spending jumped 2.4% last month, marking the biggest increase since last June.

 

Central Oregon’s economy appeared resilient in the fourth quarter of 2020, despite a pandemic that required businesses to shutter temporarily, according to the quarterly Central Oregon Business Index from Tim Duy at the University of Oregon. The index was 136.7 in the fourth quarter of 2020, creeping up slightly from the third quarter, Duy said. Jobs losses continued to drag on the economy, especially in the fourth quarter when Gov. Kate Brown closed restaurant businesses and limited the number of people who could gather, Duy said. But housing and lodging taxes were bright signposts indicating a full economic recovery could be ahead.



While investors are focused on the prospects for inflation and economic growth, during his testimony to Congress Powell highlighted how far the U.S. labor market is from maximum employment.  Jobless claims fell sharply last week despite brutal winter storms that swept across Texas and other parts of the South, the Labor Department reported Thursday.  First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 730,000 for the week ended Feb. 20, well below the Dow Jones estimate of 845,000. 


Rich countries’ governments borrowed $18 tril¬lion from bond markets in 2020—more than ever before—but their borrowing costs hit a record low, due to a big rise in bond purchases by central banks, as well as a lack of concern about public debt levels among private investors.  In contrast to the years that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in Sep¬tember 2008, there was no rise in bond yields in 2020, and governments faced a lower interest bill than they did before the financial crisis, the OECD said.


The FCC has announced the winners of a wireless airwave auction it conducted over the past few months which racked up a record $81B in bids. The mid-band spectrum, sometimes called the "Goldilocks band," is well-suited for 5G networks because it is able to transmit large amounts of data on a wavelength that can travel long distances. The 280-megahertz spectrum is also especially important to wireless giants who have been trying to fill out their spectrum portfolios.  Verizon captured the lion’s share for $45B.



The volatility in global bond and equity markets is easing today after Fed Chair Jerome Powell's reassuring comments to the Senate Banking Committee yesterday. He signaled that the central bank is nowhere near pulling back its economic support measures, saying there was still a long way to go to reach their inflation and employment goals. Powell will give testimony to the House Financial Services Panel today. 

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The global bond market is suffering its worst start to a year since 2015 as investors grow increasingly confident that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines will boost economic growth and fan serious inflationary pressures for the first time in decades. The Bloomberg Barclays Multiverse index tracking $70tn worth of debt has lost 1.9 per cent since the end of last year, in total return terms that account for price changes and interest payments. If sustained this would be the worst quarterly performance since mid-2018 and the sharpest first-quarter setback for the broad fixed income gauge in six years.


Continued fiscal and monetary support, coupled with the rapid rollout of vaccines, mean investors are increasingly confident in a strong economic recovery over the horizon. For the oil market this means forecasts of $100 a barrel crude are emerging, less than a year after the commodity traded in negative territory. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists said that the recovery in demand will outpace supply when they increased their third-quarter forecast for the commodity to $75 a barrel.



 The stock market’s highest flyers remain under pressure this morning. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 dropped 1.5%, after the index slumped 2.6% in trading yesterday on a selloff in some of the hottest pandemic buys such as Peloton Interactive Inc. which sank 10%. Tesla Inc. shares are set to tumble again at the open with futures trading well south of $700. CEO Elon Musk's bet on Bitcoin also took a hit with the cryptocurrency dropping significantly again this morning. 

 

Get ready for Fed Chair Jerome Powell's semiannual monetary policy testimony before Congress, which will take on additional importance this time around as investors size up the recent run-up in bond yields. Powell will answer questions from the Senate Banking Committee today and appear before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow. He's expected to reaffirm his commitment to an ultra-easy monetary policy, as well as the need for more fiscal stimulus, to support the economy as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.


In earnings news, Home Depot, home improvement retailer beat quarterly estimates with earnings of $2.65 per share. Revenue came in above estimates as well. Comparable store sales jumped 24.5% during the fourth quarter, more than the 19.2% consensus estimate of analysts polled by FactSet. Home Depot is not providing 2021 guidance, however, due to pandemic-related uncertainty. 



While the S&P 500 is coming off its first losing week in three, the market is going into the final week of February with solid gains. The Dow and S&P 500 have already climbed more than 5% this month, the Nasdaq advanced 6.2% and the small-cap Russell 2000 outperformed with a gain of 9.3%. The 10-year Treasury yield jumped 14 basis points last week to 1.34%, close to its highest level since February 2020. It even touched 1.37% overnight, meaning the benchmark rate has moved up 28 basis points so far this month.

 

Saudi Arabia and Russia are at loggerheads as they head into an OPEC+ meeting that's renewing the debate on global oil supply. Riyadh is said to prefer keeping output steady while Russia wants to proceed with an increase. Iran is also set to take part as the Islamic Republic engages in a diplomatic back-and-forth that could eventually lift sanctions on its crude exports. Attention will also remain on Texas as the state tries to recoverfrom the extreme weather.

 

The first real-world indication that immunization will curb transmission of the coronavirus comes from Israel, which is leading the world in the vaccine race. There, the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients becoming infected.



U.S. stocks were lower yesterday as investors were discouraged by a worse-than-expected jobless claims reading as well as a weak forecast from Walmart.

 

Another 861,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first-time last week, according to the Labor Department. That's nearly 100,000 more claims than economists had predicted and the highest number in a month. It was also an increase from the week before -- which was revised higher as well. America's jobs recovery has really lost steam and last week's initial claims were four times higher than in the same period last year.

 

Walmart shares dropped after their fourth-quarter earnings fell short of Wall St estimates. The big-box retailer sees sales growth slowing this year as the pandemic momentum ebbs. Walmart also raised wages for store workers in digital and stocking positions to $13-$19 an hour, though their minimum starting wage will remain $11/hr.

 

The cost to build a new house is going significantly higher. Lumber prices are now at an all-time-high of $1,004 per 1,000 board feet, which is double the price just 3 months ago.



U.S. stocks hovered near record levels yesterday as rising bond yields kept investor sentiment in check.  Many on Wall Street believe that surging interest rates could make the high-flying stock market less attractive, while posing a threat to sectors like technology that have benefited from the low-rate environment.

 

St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard said that he doesn’t see a bubble in asset prices and doubts the central bank needs to start tightening policy anytime soon.  With prices surging in the stock market and in alternative assets like bitcoin, Fed officials have faced repeated questions about whether low rates and trillions in bond buying have helped create dangerously high valuations.  The Fed has stated that still don’t see any clear signs of excesses in the US economy.

 

Buying nutritious food is getting costlier as hunger in the country remains at elevated levels during the pandemic.  The consumer price index (CPI) for food increased by 0.4% in December 2020 from the previous month, with food prices ending the year 3.9% higher than 2019, according to recent data from the Department of Agriculture. The year-over-year jump outpaced the 20-year average of 2.
 


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