Retail sales indicate strengthening economy
Sales figures for retailers, including Target, Gap and Macy’s, released on Thursday, indicate that February was a better than expected month for all. Overall, according to the Associated Press, merchants reported a 6.7 percent increase for February compared to a year ago. This represents the largest gain since June of 2011 when the increase was 6.9 percent. Consumer shopping represents 70 percent of the overall economy.
China Diversifies Away From Dollar
An analysis of US Treasury data suggests that China, with its $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, has begun to rapidly diversify its portfolio, according to the Wall Street Journal. China’s holdings of US debt rose 7 percent to $1.73 trillion as of June 30, an increase of $115 billion from twelve months earlier. The percentage of dollar holdings in its overall portfolio fell to 54 percent from 65 percent in 2010. Experts warn that if China cuts back its purchase of US securities, US interest rates could climb, damaging the US economy.
AT&T stops offering unlimited data plans
AT&T has announced that a limit will be placed on the 17 million subscribers using its service that currently have unlimited data plans. According to the Wall Street Journal, users that exceed the monthly data cap will have excessively slow speeds. Users can, of course, switch out of the grandfathered plans into more expensive data plans to avoid the slow speed. AT&T indicates that the increased fees are needed to update and protect its networks.
Facebook seeks bigger credit line to pay employee taxes after IPO
Facebook, which intends to pay the taxes for employees on the gains of the restricted stock units owned by employees after the company goes public, is seeking a bigger credit facility. Reuters reports that Facebook has set up a $1.5 billion credit agreement with affiliates of Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch and Barclays Capital, the leading underwriters of the IPO. In September, that credit line was increased to $2.5 billion. It is always better to line up cash before it is needed, and Facebook is clearly following the rule.
Oil leaps to highest level since 2008
Oil leapt to its highest level since the market peak of mid-2008 following a disputed report of a pipeline blast in Saudi Arabia, according to the Financial Times. The report was swiftly denied by Saudi Arabia, but oil jumped to $128.40 per barrel. The price was the highest since the all-time high of $147.50, hit in June of 2008. Tensions are high between Iran and Saudi Arabia since the Saudis have increased oil production in recent months, at the same time Iranian oil is subject to an embargo.
Nasdaq’s 3,000 reading more important than Dow 13,000 say critics
When the Nasdaq finished over3,000 earlier this week, experts indicate that it is a stronger indicator of economic measures than the Dow, according to CNBC. Because the Nasdaq is based primarily on strong earnings reports of smaller and technology based companies, its success is arguably a better reflection of what is happening with most businesses. The Dow represents only 30 industrial companies. On Thursday the Nasdaq closed at 2,988 and the Dow closed up 28 points at 12,980. Asian markets closed up on Friday and European markets are mixed.
Catherine S. McBreen is President of Millionaire Corner. McBreen plans and develops content for Millionaire Corner. Catherine balances editorial content to meet the informational needs of both new and seasoned investors. She designs special monthly surveys on topical issues affecting the economic environment.
McBreen has a B.S. in speech communications from Northwestern University and a J.D. from DePail University College of Law. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association.
Well-known for her expertise in the affluent and retirement arenas, McBreen is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She has been quoted widely by the financial media, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Research, Private Asset Management, On Wall Street, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Dow Jones Newswires and Worth. Cathy has appeared as a guest on CNBC Closing Bell, First Business Morning News, Neal Cavuto at Fox Business News, ABC and CBS radio.
McBreen is co-author with Spectrem President George H. Walper, Jr. of the book "Get Rich, Stay Rich, Pass It On: The Wealth-Accumulation Secrets of America's Richest Families" (Portfolio, January 2008)
Catherine is the mother of four and is involved in many school and community events.