Inside Finance - August 23rd, 2019

Inside Finance (Aug 23rd, 2019)

Powell Pledges to "Sustain the Expansion / New Tariffs From China / Libra Reportedly Loses Support

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1. It's been a wild day for stocks. While the day started off timidly, stocks have since taken a steep dive. At last check, the Dow was down 1.63 percent, the S&P 500 was down 1.8 percent, and the Nasdaq was down nearly 2.2 percent. Newsmakers of the day include Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech, new tariffs from China, and President Trump's reaction to it all (more on all this below). In the past, flare-ups of tension with China have coincided with tech stock drops, and today is no exception. Stocks for Apple, Nvidia, and Broadcom were all sharply down midway through the day. Salesforce is a tech exception. The cloud company's enjoying gains after posting strong quarterly results. – CNN

2. China has announced new tariffs against the U.S., just about a week before new U.S. tariffs are set to take effect on Chinese goods. The new Chinese tariffs are either five or 10 percent, and they'll apply to about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. They'll take effect on September 1, and another round of tariffs targeting the auto industry will take effect on December 15. That timeline mirrors President Trump's tariff plan against China, which he announced earlier this month. The president responded to this morning's news on Twitter: "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China." – THE HILL

3. For today's #FollowFriday, let's remember to see the forest for the trees. That's Luke Gormen's mission (and his company's name). He's responding to an ever-expanding availability of information and news. And as availability expands, so too does information overload. News stories follow so many plot lines, use so many different pools of data, and ultimately come to so many different conclusions about the economic outlook. Gormen helps his followers narrow down their focus. He couples his carefully curated financial information with historical analysis that draws on more than two decades in the industry.

Forest for the Trees has a variety of tools you can make use of, including a newsletter, videos, and educational courses. Gormen also wrote a fictional book called "The Mr. X Interviews," which dives into issues of the global economy—and how the U.S. fits into it. His Twitter account is a must-follow though, for bite-sized, context-driven takes on the economy. His take on the CBO's debt revision earlier this week? Simply, "#voldemort." Make of that what you will. – @LukeGromen

4. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's highly anticipated speech this morning stopped short of guaranteeing significant rate cuts, but he pledged to do what he needs to in order to "sustain the expansion." He also readily admitted that the global economic outlook "has been deteriorating" since the Fed decided to cut rates last month. Among the factors clouding the economic horizon, Powell cited Brexit, slowdowns in Germany and China, and the new tariffs President Trump leveled against China (the speech was released before China announced retaliatory tariffs). However, Powell says the U.S. economy is "close to both goals" of low unemployment and low inflation. President Trump responded on Twitter, questioning, "who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or [Chinese President] Chairman Xi?" – YAHOO! FINANCE

5. Fed Chair Jerome Powell is reportedly at the center of one of the White House's plans to juice the economy ahead of the 2020 election. The plan would involve rotating Federal Reserve governors to check Powell's power. Other plans for an economic boost reportedly include weakening the dollar (to help exporters) by introducing a currency transaction tax and cutting tax cuts for corporations, small businesses, and the middle class. There are also reports that the president called his trade team in for a meeting, after he weighed in on today's economic news on Twitter. – WAPO

6. The latest recession warning signal comes from the freight industry, where the volume of shipments by air has dropped for the eighth consecutive month. The latest numbers cover the month of June, which showed a five percent slump. On the ground, the situation isn't looking much better. North American truck and rail freight dropped 0.8 percent between June and July. Compared to numbers in July 2018, truck and rail freight has slumped by six percent. – CNBC

7. As Facebook surges forward with its plan to announce its own cryptocurrency, Libra, some early backers are reportedly looking for an exit. When Facebook went public with its plan for Libra, it had 28 big-name backers including Visa, Mastercard, and Spotify. Each made a non-binding pledge to invest at least $10 million. But since the unveiling, Libra has faced intense regulatory pushback, and some early supporters are now concerned that the regulatory scrutiny could spill over and affect their companies if they continue to partner with Facebook on the project. – FINANCIAL TIMES

8. Stan Lee's daughter, Joan Lee, has lashed out at Disney amid a struggle for control of one of Lee's most popular creations: Spider-Man. Sony owns film rights for Spider-Man, and talks with Disney (which owns film rights for the rest of the Marvel Universe) to include Spider-Man alongside his fellow Marvel characters in movies broke down. Sony reportedly refused a 50/50 co-financing deal. Lee is cheering Sony on, saying that Disney has "commoditized my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency." She thinks Marvel characters need various points of view, rather than letting Disney control the entire Marvel Universe. – CNBC

9. While the U.S. considers moves to weaken its currency, China's is already low—really low. The Yuan is poised for a third weekly loss in four weeks. Just before markets opened, the Yuan's value dropped to 11-year lows. A U.S. dollar is now worth more than 7.05 Yuan. – YAHOO! FINANCE

10. David Koch, one half of the Koch Brothers, has died. The billionaire brothers have become synonymous with conservative politic funding. Their nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity, has spent more than $1 billion backing political candidates whose positions align with their own free-market, limited-government views. At the time of his death, David Koch was worth $42.4 billion. – NBC

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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