The Financial Times reports that oil is trading at $103/barrel in European markets due to the Libyan crisis. Additionally, many Middle Eastern countries are buying gold. They are seeking to move away from reliance on the dollar to prevent their assets being put on hold in overseas markets.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Nissan plans to restart production of parts and vehicle assembly at 6 factories this week, although they will not be at full capacity due to rolling blackouts. Toyota began production at 7 plants last Thursday. Mitsubishi has restarted production but is providing 3 day weekends to limit usage of power.
States are pressuring online retailers to collect state sales tax. A new law passed in Illinois requires any company with affiliates in Illinois to collect taxes, thus requiring Amazon to collect tax. Amazon dropped all of its affiliates in Illinois, according to the Associated Press. A 1992 Supreme Court decision found that a business was not required to collect state taxes unless it had a physical presence within a state. Therefore online stores such as Amazon do not have to collect taxes whereas the online division of a Macy's or Walmart would have to collect taxes because they have a physical presence. A University of Tennessee study estimated that uncollected online taxes would be approximately $10.14 billion, an amount that would be helpful to the states fighting to balance their budgets. Additionally, Congress could pass a law submitting these businesses to the jurisdiction of these states, but that would be seen as a tax increase and therefore unlikely to happen. Many states are lining up behind Illinois with various bills to try to accomplish the collection of their own state taxes from the online vendors.
A story in the Wall Street Journal states that investors are once again turning to a risk on/risk off strategy based upon the headlines rather than sticking to investment fundamentals. This was apparently the pattern in 2010 and earlier but had begun to return to normal recently. Today stocks and bonds have a negative correlation, which means they move in opposite directions. This is not the traditional correlation. Experts, however, believe that it may be a long time before the risk aversion of investors allows them to back away from the headlines. They also believe that the flood of money in the market pumped in by the quantitative easing program has caused some of the unusual market trends.
Google says that China is blocking gmail and making it seem as if the problem is with the software, according to both the Financial Times and the Associated Press.
Rates for CDs and other deposits remain low due to soft loan demand, according to an article in the American Banker on 3/18/11. Rates are lowest in states such as Georgia, Illinois and Florida. These states formerly had the highest rates and were considered some of the best banking states. Today the states with the highest rates include Oklahoma and Kansas due to the strong agricultural economy.
The Associated Press reports that General Motors will be cutting back on excess spending in light of potential parts shortages due to the Japanese crisis. It's nice to know that the company taxpayers bailed out less than two years ago already has excess spending.
According to the Wall Street Journal the Nasdaq OMX hostile bid to takeover the NYSE instead of Deutsche Borse AG, could potentially raise anti-trust issues in the U.S. Additionally, although Nasdaq boasted that it was keeping ownership in the U.S., the largest shareholders of Nasdaq are Investor AB (the Swedish royal family) and Borse Dubai.
Atlantic City experienced a 6.2% decrease in tourists dropping to only 26.2 million visitors in 2010. This was the fifth straight year of a revenue decline for the city. The Associated Press reports that the city is countering by creating marketing campaigns promoting the city as a "destination vacation". Bus traffic, traditionally a staple for Atlantic City, has decreased 13%, because of competition from regional casinos.
The Federal Trade Association (FTA) is being forced to review its bus safety standards due to the increasing weight of the average bus rider. USA Today reports that the existing standards were based upon information in 1960-1962 when the average American weight fell between 150 and 175 pounds. Today the Center for Disease Control estimates the average American weight to be 194. It is still unclear whether the FTC will require the redesign of busses or will limit the number of passengers. Maybe some of those passengers could walk a little more ultimately reducing the average American weight??