Mid-September Update

Corporate Profits Hit New Record:  Economy


Revised estimates released on 8/29 revealed that the U.S. economy grew at 4.2% (Annual rate) in Q2 of this year, slightly better than the initial estimate of 4.1%.  Included in this release were estimates of corporate profits; On an after-tax basis NIPA basis (National Income and Products Accounts) corporate profits rose 2.4% in Q2.  When we use an accounting standard more aligned with private sector standards, after-tax profits rose 3.7%.  On this basis, profits in the U.S. hit a new record (See Figure 1).

While the economy and markets are booming, some feel it’s not really that strong because of the income equality gap and the markets will crash if Trump’s legal problems increase.  But if Trump left tomorrow, what would change?  There may be a selloff or correction due to the shock of the event, but would economic policies be altered?  Tariffs may go away, which is an economic boost, not a hindrance.  And tax reform and reduced regulations wouldn’t change much at all.


Figure 1





Mid-September Update

Wireless Rates Are Due To Climb:  Consumer Expenditures

Cell phone bills are rising across the country as providers eliminate promotions and consolidate operations. The announcement of recent mega mergers in the industry has reduced the number of providers and lessened competition, leading to increased rates for customers.

As tracked by the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the cost of cell phone service is a measurable component of the index. Over the years, cell phone costs have become a vital and expensive service for consumers nationwide, almost as important as groceries or rent. It is estimated that roughly 95% of Americans own a cellular phone and pay a monthly service fee to one of several providers.

Following years of technological advancement and intense competition for market share, cellular providers kept rates low. Adjusted for inflation, cell rates have consistently fallen in price since 1997, meaning that as the price for other services rose, cellular rates fell.

The recent mergers and expansion of new cellular infrastructure has begun to raise rates. Rather than absorbing merger costs and infrastructure build out, cellular service providers are instead passing along the costs to consumers. The higher fees are considered inflationary and thus add to the overall inflationary pressures that are gradually rising.

Source: BLS, Labor Department, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm

Leading Scams Targeting Seniors:  Retirement Planning

The National Council on Aging estimates that nearly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 experiences some form of financial elder abuse.

IRS Scams –  Callers claiming to be IRS agents often call unsuspecting seniors at home, accusing them of owing back taxes and having to pay immediately. The IRS impersonators threaten to foreclose on homes, garnish social security, and even threaten arrest unless payment is made immediately by phone.  The truth is that the IRS never makes outing calls to anyone, all correspondence is done via USPS or the IRS secured internet site. In addition, the IRS will never ask for payment information over the phone nor demand immediate payment.

Technology & Internet Fraud – Phone calls from individuals claiming to be from a major technology company target seniors. Callers ask for remote access to computers in order to gather sensitive data and financial details.  Pop-up ads claiming to fix pop-up ads many times are fraudulent advertisements used to gather credit card numbers and personal details.

Sweepstakes Scam – Unreasonable or ridiculous calls regarding a prize or major sweepstakes winnings.

Other Scams – Fake charities and relatives needing money. Be sure to review bank and credit card statements carefully for fraudulent or suspicious activity. If fraud is suspected, it is suggested to contact credit bureaus and relatives.

Sources: National Council On Aging, IRS.gov