Inside Finance - August 2nd, 2019

Inside Finance (Aug 2nd, 2019)

New Tariffs by Tweet / Unemployment Holds Steady / $10B Defense Contract Bid Paused

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1. Stocks are continuing a losing streak today. On Wednesday afternoon, stocks turned sour after analysts called the Federal Reserve's comments "neutral" (read: not guaranteeing future rate cuts). Yesterday, stocks tumbled after President Trump announced new tariffs on Chinese goods (more on that below). Up until the tariff announcement, stocks had been doing well on Thursday, and the roller-coaster trading saw the Dow swing a full 600 points. But there's no swinging today, just a continuation of the slide. At last check, all major market indexes down by at least a full point, with the Nasdaq down nearly 1.9 percent. – CNN

2. President Trump has suggested new tariffs against Chinese imports might go as high as 25 percent. In a tweet yesterday, the president announced a new 10 percent tariff on $300 billion worth of goods, starting September 1. He later told reporters he may increase those taxes to 25 percent. The new tariffs came after Fed Chair Jerome Powell cut benchmark rates by a quarter-point, a move he justified in a relatively healthy economy by pointing to trade uncertainties. Some analysts think President Trump may be introducing more tariffs so he can achieve the deep interest rate cuts he has long sought. China urged the U.S. to reconsider, but it added that it is prepared to impose countermeasures. – CNN

3. This week's #FollowFriday dips into the crypto sphere a bit, but Jill Carlson uses her crypto expertise to address national economies, so it's a crossover follow. I came across her through Bloomberg's Odd Lots podcast. She was tapped for a recent episode on how cryptocurrency takes on more importance in countries with unstable currency, such as Venezuela.

Carlson co-founded the Open Money Initiative, which studies closed and collapsing economies. She's also a member of the investment team at Slow Ventures. You can find her frequently tweeting about crypto, national economies, and health care—with a dash of humor thrown in there for good measure. – JILL CARLSON

4. The Labor Department's jobs numbers for July were released this morning, showing that the low unemployment rate is still holding steady. U.S. employers added 164,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in July, and the unemployment rate remained at a near 50-year low of 3.7 percent. That's a slight miss compared to what analyst expectations of 165,000 new jobs, which would have pushed unemployment down to 3.6 percent. That's also a slowdown compared to the last three months of 2018 when the economy added an average of 233,000 jobs every month. Still, there were plenty of positive highlights in the report, including an expectations-beating year-over-year wage growth of 3.2 percent. – YAHOO! FINANCE

5. A $10 billion deal to move military operations to the cloud is on hold, following President Trump's accusations of favoritism among military elites. Both Amazon and Microsoft are finalists for what's known as the JEDI contract (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure). But several high-profile meetings between Amazon and military officials  have cast doubt on the fairness of the bidding process. President Trump, a frequent critic of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, picked up on those criticisms this week. In response, the military is pausing and reviewing the bid process. The new spotlight on the contract has revived hope for Oracle and IBM, which didn't make the cut in the previous bid process. Oracle, in particular, has been a vocal critic of the contract, going as far to sue the Defense Department – ENGADGET

6. New laws adopted in Illinois and New Jersey this week add to a growing number of states that ban salary history questions on job applications. Critics say the question introduces a barrier to wage growth and reinforces gender and racial pay inequities. MIT research has supported that theory, though it does force employers to put more time and resources into the hiring process. – MARKETPLACE

7. In the campaign finance sphere, Democratic 2020 front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly looking to shut down his PAC, American Possibilities. The move follows a growing Democratic trend of breaking ties with big-money PACs, though they have still played a major role in recent years. In the 2018 election cycle, for instance, Biden's PAC raised $2.6 million and spent nearly as much. – CNBC

8. It's been roughly a decade since Fitbit took the U.S. by storm, but today, the company is struggling. Shares are down after the company's quarterly report showed it's struggling to keep up with the increasing competition in the wearable technology field. Apple is perhaps the most consequential competitor. Fitbit's answer to the Apple Watch, the Versa Lite smartwatch, saw sales that fell way short of expectations. Some other areas of Fitbit's report beat expectations, but Versa Lite's miss appears to have overshadowed the hits in the eyes of investors. – MARKETS INSIDER

9. Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel penned a critical op-ed this week aimed at Silicon Valley. The piece uses criticism of Google's partnerships with China as an example of how big tech companies operate without concern for the larger impact of their work. He says tech companies have done "exceedingly well for themselves while their fellow citizens have been left behind in a stagnant economy." Thiel himself is a member of the tech community who sits on Facebook's board of directors, maintains investments in companies like Airbnb and Lyft, and recently sold his San Francisco home for $7.4 million. – NYT

10. Lowe's has told thousands of employees it plans to outsource their jobs. The job cuts come amid an overall cost-cutting push from the home improvement chain, which has included closing stores around the country. It also fits into a larger story about a struggling retail sector. One industry tracker expects retail companies to close more than 12,000 stores by the end of 2019. – CNBC

Schuyler Durham writes Inside Finance. He’s a lifelong Portlander who got his start covering the local music scene, but later became enamored with the complexities of financial and political reporting. After three years in broadcast news, he's now diving back into the digital realm. You can keep up with his writing on Twitter at @SchuylerWriter or watch him goof around on Instagram at @bitterbuddha.

Editor: David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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