Posts by Rick Newman
- Yahoo Finance1 day ago
The 2014 Nissan Altima sedan is pretty much the same as the 2013 model, with one notable exception: It will no longer receive top marks from an influential safety-ranking organization.
That’s not because there’s anything wrong with the Altima. It’s because the safety group, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has raised the standards cars must meet to earn a “top safety pick +,” the institute’s highest score. The 2013 Altima earned that score, allowing Nissan to tout the designation in ads. The 2014 Altima that’s on sale now merely earns a “top safety pick” (without the +), lowering it to the institute’s second safety tier.
- The Exchange2 days ago
Ben Bernanke is known as “Gentle Ben” because of his avuncular demeanor and discreet use of words. But the Federal Reserve chairman made one comment in his latest (and last) official press conference that would make many voters angry if it had been expressed in a different manner.
“People don’t appreciate how tight fiscal policy has been,” Bernanke said, in his typical folksy econospeak. Put another way, that means Washington has been hurting the economy and holding back job growth when it should have been doing everything possible to help.
“Fiscal policy” refers to the government’s tax-and-spending plans, which are determined by Congress at the prodding of the president. Monetary policy — pushing interest rates up or down using a variety of measures — is the Fed’s responsibility. And one reason monetary policy has been so aggressive and controversial during much of Bernanke’s 8-year tenure is that fiscal policy has been so weak. With the Fed now starting to rein in one of its key tools — “quantitative easing” — Congress faces more pressure to act like grownups and stop relying on the Fed to do all the heavy lifting on the economy.
- The Exchange3 days ago
You have to go back nearly a decade, to 2005, to rediscover a time when the forthcoming year looked as if it would be a prosperous one. Little did most people know back then that a steroidal housing boom would peak in 2006 and enter a savage, six-year bust, followed by a financial panic and the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.
Forecasters are once again cautiously optimistic about the next 12 months. “All in all, the outlook appears balanced and better,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a recent preview of 2014. “For the first time in several years, we approach the new year with no major cloud on the horizon.”
A lot, for once, seems to be going right, or at least not going wrong. U.S. employers are slowly but consistently adding jobs, housing is picking up, Europe’s debt woes finally seem contained, the stock market has soared and there’s even a budget deal of sorts in the madhouse known as Washington, D.C. There’s still too much debt in the global economy, and other wounds need to heal, but the stage seems set for calm markets and modest growth in 2014.
- Daily Ticker4 days ago
If you really want to make an impression on your gift recipients this holiday season, there’s some awesome merchandise out there. I’m partial to the Star Trek captain’s chair ($6,500), and I don’t know how I’ve lived so long without a monogrammed meat brander ($40) that lets my dinner guests carve into my initials as they enjoy a steak from my grill. If I were younger, I’m sure I would crave a customized Instagram calendar ($40) that I could pin to my Snapbook, or whatever you do with it.
But in some corners of retail America, I’m sorry to report, merchandisers have gone a wee bit overboard, as I explain in the video above. Here are some of the gifts you might want to stay away from:
- The Exchange4 days ago
The main question this year about the Federal Reserve’s extraordinary easy-money policy has been when it will begin curtailing $85 billion in monthly purchases of bonds. If it doesn’t happen soon, at the end of the Fed’s in-progress mid-December meeting, the betting money is on a decisive move at the gathering in March.
But that binary set of options — "tapering" or not, to use Wall Street’s overworked term — is a vastly oversimplified view of the Fed’s options.
Many critics feel quantitative easing, as the Fed’s bond-buying policy is known, has failed to achieve its goal of jump-starting the economy and helping create jobs, even though the unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of 10% in 2010 to 7% today. Those folks would like to see the policy rolled back as quickly as possible, since it may be contributing to an overinflated stock market and other economic distortions.
- The Exchange5 days ago
America has a new Public Enemy No. 1. And chances are, you voted for it.
CEOs are the usual target of ire over the diverging fortunes of the rich and the rest. But 2013 is turning into the year when members of Congress made greedy CEOs look good. Congress had its least productive year in decades in 2013, and may have done more harm than good through a government shutdown and other gridlock-fueled antics that hurt the economy. The partisan hostility in Washington has pushed Congress’s already low approval rating to the sorriest level on record.
- The Exchange5 days ago
If you saw "Skyfall" — the latest James Bond installment — you likely marveled at the breathtaking opening scene in which 007 chases a bandit across the rooftops of Istanbul on a motorcycle. Filming it all was a remote-controlled helicopter resembling a weed-wacker with an overhead projector attached — the latest in aerial filming technology.
But for now, such unmanned aerial-filming contraptions are effectively banned in the United States — the birthplace of the motion-picture industry — along with virtually all other commercial uses of unmanned aircraft, or drones. That’s because the U.S. government has stalled in its efforts to regulate and manage the use of drones, a breakthrough technology fostered largely by the U.S. military. As a result, nations including Europe and China are gaining an edge over the U.S. in yet another industry.
- The Exchange9 days ago
For conservatives, the introduction of Obamacare this year triggered a kind of political gag reflex. In retrospect, however, President Obama’s signature health-reform law may turn out to be the high-water mark for the activist government conservatives loathe, and an inflection point in Americans’ increasingly sour attitude toward Washington.
The disastrous rollout of Obamacare and the not-ready-for-primetime website Healthcare.govcould barely have been better scripted by Obama’s worst enemies. The troubled launch has pushed Obama’s personal approval rating to the lowest levels of his presidency. It has also convinced some voters who weren’t sure before that the government does more harm than good when it strays beyond its core missions.
- Daily Ticker10 days ago
You had to work hard to blow a fortune this year.
Stocks, of course, continued a bull-run stampede that began in 2009, with the S&P 500 gaining close to 30% in 2013. Bonds had a tougher year, but a squeeze that seemed like it might become acute in May and June relented, giving bond investors time to recalibrate. And U.S. home values rose by more than 10% as well, helping restore some of the “wealth effect” that gives consumers the confidence to spend and take risks.
But somebody always bets against the trend, and this year’s notable losers include the usual mix of the arrogant, the foolish and the unlucky. Here are some of the people who've suffered major losses, monetary and otherwise, thus far in 2013:
- The Exchange10 days ago
A brief defense of the word “twerk”: This lascivious dance move had a place in the world before Miley Cyrus made it ubiquitous in 2013. Plus, it sort of makes you giggle when you say or hear it.
But many other words have outlived their usefulness or simply gone flat from overuse during the past year. Here’s our list of 15 words or phrases we ought to leave behind in 2014:
Online waiting room. Who else but the government could push technology backward by 50 years by pairing a 20 th -century inefficiency with the Internet? For those who haven’t had the pleasure, the online waiting room is where you “hang out” while waiting for Healthcare.gov, the troubled Obamacare website, to work through its backlog and get to your request. Earth to Washington: The whole purpose of the Internet is to eliminate waiting around.