Dow finishes with April Gain
Despite economic woes in Europe, the Dow eked out a gain for the month of April. This is the seventh straight monthly gain, according to the Wall Street Journal. Personal spending slowed in March, according to the Commerce Department even though personal income rose at 0.4 percent, topping the 0.2 percent estimate. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its business barometer fell to 56.2 in April, down from 62.2 in March and hitting a 9 month low. Despite relatively somber business news, the Dow fell only 14 points, ending the day at 13, 213. Overall it was 1.59 points higher than at the start of April. May Day is a holiday in 80 countries and markets are closed in many places so light trading is expected today.
Caterpillar employees to strike but little disruption planned
Caterpillar employees in the Joliet, Illinois plant are expected to strike today, May Day, but the company expects little disruption, according to the ChicagoTribune. The dispute is between Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction machinery, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the IAM, who claims wage stagnation. Caterpillar spokesman said the strike involves about 800 workers and back up work plans have already been created by the company. The company says the facility will remain on schedule.
Home ownership rates drop to 15 year low
The number of individuals who own their own home fell to a 15 year low in the first quarter according to the Commerce Department. Reuters reports that the home ownership rate is currently at 65.4 percent, the lowest since the first quarter of 1997. The peak was 69.4 percent in 2004. Yet despite falling real estate prices and low interest rates, home ownership is going down due to uncertainty within the economy. Home buyers are required to put 20 percent down, which is a challenge with an unemployment rate at 8.2 percent. Rental rates, in contrast, are increasing with vacancy rates at the lowest level since 2002.
Delta buys refinery to cut fuel costs
In an interesting strategy to control jet fuel costs, Delta has purchased the Trainer, Pennsylvania refinery, near Philadelphia, for $150 million from Phillips 65. The refinery was struggling to make money, according to the Associated Press and ConocoPhillips was about to shut it down. Delta’s planes used 3.9 billion gallons of fuel last year, costing $11.8 billion and representing 36 percent of its operating costs. Delta believes that by controlling the refining process it can maintain lower overall expenses. The deal includes pipelines that will deliver the oil to Delta hubs at LaGuardia and JFK airports. The deal is anticipated to close in June and be effective by the third quarter.
Most student loans will not be affected by upcoming increase
A lot of political mis-information is being circulated in the current debate regarding extending lower interest rates to student loans, according to USAToday. Apparently the increase would only affect interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans issued after July 1, 2012. Interest rates for existing loans will not change because they are fixed for the life of the loan. About a third of undergraduates receive Stafford loans which are based on financial need. Even if rates do rise for newly issued Stafford loans, most private loans have higher rates, even though they are advertised as lower rates. Private loans generally have a variable rate. Overall Stafford loans are great if one is able to qualify and newly issued loans may or may not have a lower interest rate, dependent upon our government once again working out the kinks.
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.