Why Japan Stands Virtually Alone in Keeping Interest Rates Ultralow

TOKYO — because the FRS has repeatedly pushed up yank interest rates in an endeavor to tame rampant inflation, nearly each major financial organisation within the world has disorganised to stay up the pace. so there’s the Bank of Japan.

The yen is in free fall. Inflation by some measures is that the highest in decades. and traditional knowledge says a rate increase might ease each problems. however the Bank of Japan — ne’er one to follow the group — has remained unwaveringly committed to its ultralow interest rates, dispute that creating cash costlier currently would solely suppress already weak demand and set back a fragile economic recovery from the pandemic.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida voiced sturdy support on for the Bank of Japan’s financial policy, as the yen fell to a 32-year low against the dollar, a plunge that has contributed to cost will increase in an exceedingly country unaccustomed to them and place a lot of pressure on his unpopular administration.

He offered his backing daily before the Bank of Japan’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, created clear in comments to Parliament that the bank wouldn’t jibe anytime soon. All the members of the bank’s policy board, Mr. Kuroda said, agree that “under the present economic conditions, it’s acceptable to continue financial easing.”

His principle is simple. Japan desires smart inflation — the type created by spirited client demand. however it’s gotten unhealthy inflation — the kind created by a powerful greenback and provide shortfalls relating to the pandemic and also the war in Ukraine — which is why the bank ought to keep the course.

The divergent economic circumstances within the u. s. and Japan have diode to drastically totally different monetary policies, a niche that has helped drive down the yen as investors look for higher returns elsewhere.

In the u. s. — where the economic recovery has been speedy and wages are rising chop-chop — the Fed is seeking to squash inflation by strangulation demand. It believes it can do the goal partly by discouraging payment through higher interest rates, although some distinguished economists have warned that going too way might be heavy for the economy.ImageJapan’s economy has barely came to its prepandemic levels.Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The big apple Times

In Japan, however, there’s broad agreement that — a minimum of for currently — a rate rise would do a lot of damage than good. the japanese economy, the world’s third largest, has barely returned to its prepandemic levels, and wages have stagnated despite a marketplace therefore tight that state remained below three p.c throughout the pandemic’s worst months.

“In order to bring inflation in Japan down, you’d have to be compelled to slow demand rather sharply, and that’s tough as a result of demand was already type of weak relative to different economies,” aforementioned Stefan Angrick, a senior social scientist at Moody’s Analytics in Japan.Inflation F.A.Q.Card one of 5

What is inflation? Inflation could be a loss of buying power over time, that means your greenback won’t go as way tomorrow because it did today. it’s generally expressed because the annual amendment in costs for everyday merchandise and services love food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

What causes inflation? It may be the results of rising client demand. however inflation may also rise and fall supported developments that have very little to try and do with economic conditions, such as restricted boring and provide chain problems.

Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. quick worth will increase spell trouble, but moderate price gains can result in higher wages and job growth.

How will inflation have an effect on the poor? Inflation can be particularly onerous to shoulder for poor households as a result of they pay a much bigger chunk of their budgets on wants like food, housing and gas.

Can inflation have an effect on the stock market? speedy inflation generally spells hassle for stocks. money assets normally have traditionally fared badly throughout inflation booms, whereas tangible assets like homes have command their price better.

While inflation pressures within the u. s. are generally distributed, in Japan they need primarily hit necessities like food and energy, that demand is glad mostly through imports.

Inflation in Japan (excluding volatile fresh foods prices) has reached three percent, the govt. reportable on Friday, the very best since 1991, excluding a short spike relating to a 2014 tax increase. however stripped of food ANd energy, Japanese costs in Sept were simply 1.8 p.c higher over the last year. within the United States, that variety was 6.6 percent.

The reasons for the low Japanese figure are various and not well understood. specialists have found explanations in stagnant wages and also the hurtful effects on demand from an aging, shrinking population.

Perhaps the most important contributor, however, could be a public fully grown wont to stable prices. Producer prices — a live of inflation for companies’ merchandise and services — have climbed nearly ten percent over the last year. however Japanese companies, not like their yank counterparts, are reluctant to pass away those extra prices to consumers.

That means that a lot of of the present inflation pressure is coming back from the sturdy greenback and provide problems moving imports — factors outside Japan and thus outside the Bank of Japan’s control. beneath those circumstances, bank officers “know full well that driving up interest rates isn’t about to attenuate those worth pressures — it’s simply going to push up business costs,” aforementioned Bill Mitchell, a academic of social science at the University of urban center in Australia.

The Bank of Japan introduced its current financial easing policy in 2013, once the prime minister at the time, Shinzo Abe, pledged sturdy measures to stimulate economic process that had stagnated for decades.

The set up enclosed unleashing a torrent of state payment and reshaping the structure of Japan’s economy through initiatives like encouraging a lot of girls to affix the work force.

But the foremost necessary component was creating cash low cost and without delay available, a goal the Bank of Japan achieved by bottoming out interest rates and vacuuming up bonds and equities. Mr. Kuroda pledged that it’d maintain those policies till inflation — that had been nearly nonexistent — reached two percent, tier economists believed was necessary to carry wages and expand the country’s anemic economy.ImageWeak client demand has created officers at Japan’s financial organisation cautious of raising interest rates. Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The big apple Times

Nearly a decade later, Japan’s old commitment to exploitation ultralow rates to stimulate growth has made its economy significantly liable to the harm that rate will increase will cause.

Between 2014 and 2022, per information from the Japan Housing Finance Agency, the share of variable-rate mortgages rose to 73.9 p.c from 39.3 percent as home buyers, convinced that rates wouldn’t go up, heaped into the riskier, however cheaper, money products. A change in disposition rates would increase payment costs, crimping already tight unit budgets.

A rate increase might conjointly build it harder for Japan to service its own giant debt, that in 2021 stood at virtually 260 p.c of annual economic output. The debt considerations became even a lot of salient because the government has provided monumental financial support to businesses and households to counteract the economic harm from recent world events. whereas disagreement exists over whether or not Japan’s debt is sustainable, nobody desires to risk finding out.

“Fiscal policy and financial policy are joined at the hip, and that’s what’s creating it so tough for the Bank of Japan to create a move,” aforementioned Saori Katada, AN knowledgeable on Japanese money policy at the University of Southern California. She other that policymakers feared that a wrong move might unleash a “doomsday scenario.”

The weak yen has bestowed a difficult electronic messaging downside for the japanese government.

The currency’s depreciation has contributed to tidy profits for export-heavy firms like Toyota, whose merchandise became cheaper for shoppers overseas. Mr. Kishida has conjointly said he expects a budget yen to draw international tourists, who began to come this month once a virtually three-year absence caused by Japan’s tough pandemic border restrictions.

But the currency’s weakness has been a problem on the finances of households and smaller businesses and will have a dangerous impact on public sentiment, aforementioned sequence Park, a academic of social science at theologiser Marymount University in l. a. who studies Japan’s financial policy.

The Bank of Japan has said the effect of the weak yen is principally positive. however on Wednesday, Mr. Kuroda told a parliamentary budget committee that the speedy depreciation had become a “minus.” Japan’s finance minister, Shunichi Suzuki, on Th known as the fall’s speed “undesirable” and pledged “appropriate” action.ImageInflation has reached three p.c in Japan, less than in several different countries however still the very best in decades.Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The big apple Times

In September, the Finance Ministry conducted a one-time yen-buying operation, its 1st in over 2 decades, but the trouble did nothing to prevent the currency’s slide. This week, investors were searching for signs of a smaller “stealth” intervention by the govt. to shore the yen. A sharp move higher by the yen on Fri raised speculation that Japan had after all intervened.

It’s unclear whether or not raising interest rates would even arrest the yen’s plunge. Rate will increase by other central banks have done very little to guard their own currencies against the muscular dollar. and also the political perils of sharp economic moves were created clear on once Liz Truss stepped down as Britain’s prime minister six weeks into the job.

Still, some speculators have bet that the Bank of Japan can fold beneath the gathering pressure and lift rates.

The bank is unlikely to flinch, academic Mitchell said.

“They’re type of runproof to Western philosophical pressure,” he said, adding, “They have worked out, sensibly, that the most effective strategy at the instant is what they’re doing: Hold the fort.”

As Britain’s Economy Stumbles, One Sector Is Booming: Whisky

Britain’s economy has been buffeted by the effects of Brexit, the war in Ukraine and, most recently, the government’s dramatic reversal on a series of planned tax cuts that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss. But for Scotland’s whisky producers, business is booming, and the British pound’s precipitous decline against major currencies is providing an extra boost, making whisky more affordable for buyers outside of Britain.

“The currency has had a major effect — there’s no question about that,” said John Stirling, the co-founder of Arbikie Distillery in Scotland.

The volume of whisky exports from Britain has grown over the past two years, including a 10.5 percent increase during the 12 months ending in July over the same period the year before, according to government data.
ImageAt the Arbikie Distillery. Global demand for whisky has been growing.
At the Arbikie Distillery. Global demand for whisky has been growing.

The surge in exports, driven by higher demand from the United States and the Asia-Pacific region, comes as 20 distilleries have opened in Scotland in the past six years, bringing the total number of distilleries there to 141.

As demand for Scotch rises, the pound is trading near historically weak levels. Last month, the pound briefly sank to $1.035, a record low against the dollar in response to Ms. Truss’s economic overhaul, which included £45 billion ($50 billion) in unfunded tax cuts, spooking investors. Her government has since scrapped almost all of the planned cuts, but the pound’s decline has been part of a larger downward trend against major currencies, including those used in the United States, France, Taiwan, India, Singapore and China, the top destinations for Scotch. In the year ending in July, 18 percent of whisky exports, by value, went to the United States, according to government data.

Britain is also facing systemic economic issues, such as weak productivity, low pay growth, a shortage of workers and unsteady business investment since the country voted in 2016 to leave the European Union. On Wednesday, the government reported that the country’s consumer prices had risen 10.1 percent in the year through September, driven in part by food prices that recorded their largest increase in more than 40 years.
Mr. Perez-Solar with one of the casks at Arbikie Distillery. Twenty distilleries have opened in Scotland in the past six years.

With high inflation expected to weigh on consumer spending and business investment, the International Monetary Fund predicted the British economy would go from 3.6 percent growth this year to a 0.3 percent contraction next year.

But whisky companies like James Eadie have been able to weather the economic headwinds.

“Overall if you look at the last two to three years, we’ve just been going through an incredibly buoyant time,” Rupert Patrick, the chief executive of James Eadie, said. “We’ve all been slightly scratching our heads saying, I wonder why it is so good at the moment.”

Did You Start Your Career During the Pandemic?

For the thousands of young people who started their first ever jobs during the pandemic, there was little opportunity to experience the familiar rites and rituals of early adulthood. They navigated periods of economic chaos, from the Great Resignation to soaring inflation. Some graduated on Zoom, celebrated in their childhood bedrooms and then opened their laptops again to start remote jobs.

The New York Times is reporting on the experience of young people who started their first jobs during the pandemic. We’d like to hear about your experience.

We won’t publish any part of your submission without contacting you first. We may use your contact information to follow up with you.

These apps are trying to put car dealers out of business

City dwellers are used to switching between apps to decide the best way to get from A to B. Is it quickest to get the train or the bus? What about a taxi or a city bike? Which provider has the nearest e-scooter?

It can be inconvenient and time consuming. Which is why Finnish startup MaaS Global decided to aggregate all these services into one app called Whim. Available in more than 10 cities across Europe and Asia, users can access taxis, buses, bikes, e-scooters and rental cars.

“Whim’s sole purpose is to compete against car ownership,” CEO Sampo Hietanen tells CNN Business.

According to the International Energy Agency, transport is responsible for 24% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, most of which come from passenger vehicles. If Whim can persuade users to trade their car keys for a single app offering multiple transport options, the environmental impact could be enormous, says Hietanen.
Car competition

He admits this isn’t an easy task. To succeed Whim has to be more convenient and cheaper than owning a car. “The car represents freedom of mobility,” says Hietanen — even if a city dweller barely uses it, they still keep it parked outside as a “freedom insurance.”

To compete, Whim offers rental cars and taxis, but Hietanen says that users tend to opt for public transport or micromobility (shared lightweight vehicles such as bikes or e-scooters).
The app was launched in Helsinki but is now available in several European and Asian cities.
The app was launched in Helsinki but is now available in several European and Asian cities.

Users can choose between multiple tiers of service, including a pay-as-you-go option and a 30-day season ticket, which costs €62 ($73) in Helsinki — where the app is most established — for unlimited public transport and short taxi rides. The ticket also offers car rental from €55 ($65) per day.

While Helsinki has well-developed alternatives to driving, that’s not true of everywhere. If a city “does not have a wide public transport system or a lot of rental cars or taxis in place” then it will be difficult to convince people to give up their cars, says Maria Kamargianni, associate professor of transport and energy at University College London.

She says apps like Whim represent the first step in tempting people away from car ownership, and adds that the availability of alternative transport options is likely to improve as the market matures. Research firm MarketsandMarkets predicts the global mobility service market will grow from $4.7 billion in 2020 to $70.4 billion by 2030.
MaaS movement

Other providers include Citymapper, which launched a travel pass for Londoners in 2019, and Moovit, which launched an all-in-one mobility app in Israel last year.

Whim, launched in 2016, is one of the earliest providers and has raised more than $60 million from investors such as BP (BP), Mitsubishi (MBFJF) and Toyota Financial Services. It’s available in several European cities and in Tokyo, and has racked up 18 million trips globally since launch.

But the business has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, says Hietanen; with fewer people traveling, revenues are lower, stalling the company’s expansion into other cities.
According to Whim, public transport and micromobility are the most popular ways to travel using the app.
According to Whim, public transport and micromobility are the most popular ways to travel using the app.

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat recently reported that the company had spent €50 million ($59 million) on failed expansion ventures. Hietanen says the money was spent on integrating multiple transportation providers, establishing market readiness in several countries, and developing the complex technology that underpins the app.

“We’ve known from the beginning that the investment needed to create this would be substantial,” he says, adding that the company has recently secured further investment.
Greener travel

Though the industry is in its infancy, Hietanen is confident the demand will be there. A recent report from the International Transport Forum (ITF) says that mobility services will be vital in meeting the needs of a growing world population and fast-paced urbanization. But for growth to happen, “people must choose it over other travel options” such as private motor vehicles.

This is already happening, says Hietanen. According to a company survey carried out in Helsinki, 12% of its users said that Whim had prompted them to give up their cars. “People want the more sustainable solution,” he says, “but they still want the freedom of being able to go anywhere, anytime.”

Unprecedented 401(k) boost: IRS increases amount you can save for retirement in 2023


The IRS on Friday announced a record increase in contribution limits to 401(k) and other tax-deferred retirement plans for 2023.

Starting next year, you will be allowed to contribute up to $22,500 into your 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans or the Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees.

That’s $2,000 – or roughly 9.8% – more than the current $20,500 federal contribution limit. The jump is largely due to inflation, to which the contribution limits are indexed.
An elderly couple walk hand-in-hand in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

How much do I need to save for retirement?

The catch-up contribution in the 401(k) and other workplace plans – the amount plan participants who are 50 and older may save on top of the federal contribution limit – also will get a big boost. In 2023, it will rise to $7,500, up 15.4% from $6,500 today. That means if you’re 50 or older you can contribute up to $30,000 in 2023. And that doesn’t count any matching contributions your employer may kick in.

While the increases could help those hoping to power charge their retirement savings, most 401(k) participants do not save anywhere near the federal limit. Based on an analysis of the 401(k) plans it provides employers, Vanguard estimates that only 14% of participants maxed out their contributions in 2021, and only 16% of those eligible to make catch-up contributions took advantage.
Increases in IRA contribution limits too

Contributions to traditional IRAs and after-tax Roth IRAs will increase as well – to $6,500 from $6,000 currently, an 8.3% rise. But the IRA catch-up contribution limit stays the same at $1,000.

Eligibility to deduct an IRA contribution or contribute to an after-tax Roth IRA is based on income and access to a workplace retirement plan. (Here are the IRS rules.) But next year, more people will be able to take advantage.

To put any money in a Roth in 2023 your modified adjusted gross income must be below $153,000 ($228,000 if married filing jointly). That’s up from $144,000 ($214,000 for joint filers) currently.

For traditional IRAs, to get to deduct at least some of your contributions your modified AGI must be below $83,000 ($136,000 for joint filers) next year, up from $78,000 ($129,000 for joint filers) this year.

If you personally don’t have access to a workplace plan but your spouse does, then your modified AGI must be less than $228,000, up from $214,000 currently, to get some deduction for your IRA contributions.
More changes on tap

And stay tuned: The changes the IRS just announced may not be the only ones in store for next year. More may be on the horizon if lawmakers pass a popular piece of legislation that would make several changes to tax-advantaged retirement plans, especially for workers 50 and up.

That said, negotiations may change when provisions take effect. “Some of the problematic 2023 effective dates in the legislation could be pushed out a year or more, but lawmakers will be somewhat constrained by how the bills are scored for budget purposes,” said Margaret Berger, a partner in the Law & Policy Group of Mercer, a benefits consulting firm.

The retirement contribution limits weren’t the only inflation-related news from the IRS this week. It also announced the inflation adjustments that would be made to federal income tax brackets and other provisions for 2023. The upshot for anyone with earned income: A likely boost in take-home pay early next year.

3 things that will help reduce the sting of high inflation

There’s really nothing nice to say about inflation when it comes to your bottom line.

It’s hard on your wallet. It’s hard on your savings because it reduces the buying power of the dollars you socked away. And it’s hard on your paycheck, because chances are your last raise did not keep pace with headline inflation, which the latest reading puts at 8.2%.
Wallet bills – stock

How does inflation affect my standard of living?

But that same high inflation has led to a couple of changes that might offer you a little relief. And every little bit helps.

Starting next year, your paycheck could be a little bigger thanks to inflation adjustments that the Internal Revenue Service will make to 2023 federal income tax brackets and other provisions.
1. Your take-home pay may go up next year

The net effect of those adjustments is this: More of your 2023 wages will be subject to lower tax rates than they were this year. And you may be able to deduct higher amounts of income.

Here’s the skinny on that.
2. You can reduce your taxable income … and save more for the future

When you save money in a tax-deferred workplace retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), you can reduce your taxable income because you get a deduction for your contribution the year you make it. The more you save, the more you cut your tax bill.

Starting next year, you will be allowed to contribute up to $22,500 into your 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans or the Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees.

That’s $2,000 – or roughly 9.8% – more than the current $20,500 federal contribution limit, a direct result of higher inflation. Those are the biggest adjustments made to the contribution limit in decades.

More about those changes and changes to IRA contribution limits can be found here.
3. Your Social Security payments will go up

Social Security recipients will receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 8.7% next year, the largest increase since 1981.

The spike will boost retirees’ monthly payments by $146 to an estimated average of $1,827 for 2023.

No one will be living large on that amount, but the extra cash will offset some of the higher prices for everyday expenses that seniors incur.

Here’s more on the coming boost to Social Security checks, along with welcome news that there will be a drop in Medicare Part B premiums next year.

Stocks soar on hopes that Fed will slow rate hikes

A disastrous earnings report from Snap and less than inspiring results from Dow components American Express and Verizon weren’t enough to keep the Wall Street bulls at bay Friday. Stocks surged on hopes that the Federal Reserve may soon come to the rescue by slowing the pace of its rate hikes.

The Dow rose nearly 750 points, or 2.5%, even as AmEx (AXP) and Verizon (VZ) fell nearly 2% and 5% respectively. The Dow has now gained for the past three weeks, its longest weekly winning streak of the year.

It was a broad-based rally, with all sectors rallying. In fact, Verizon and AmEx were the only two Dow stocks that weren’t in green Friday. Blue chip stocks Exxon Mobil (XOM), health insurer Cigna (CI), Big Pharma stock Eli Lilly (LLY) and defense contractor Northrop Grumman (NOC) even hit new all-time highs.

Stocks opened lower but were quickly off to the races after a Wall Street Journal report indicated that even though the Fed is likely to raise rates by another three-quarters of a point in November, Fed members are debating whether to signal that a smaller hike could be in the cards in December.

Investors have started to become nervous that the Fed’s series of unprecedentedly large rate hikes could tip the economy into recession. And apparently some at the Fed are having doubts about the pace of rate increases as well.

Reuters reported that San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly said in a speech Friday that the central bank should not create an “unforced downturn” for the economy with too many massive rate hikes.

Long-term bond yields pulled back slightly, too, after the rate for the 10-year Treasury hit its highest level since late 2007.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock exchange during morning trading on October 18, 2022 in New York City.

Beware of fad stocks. Truly owner, Snap and Zoom have plunged

“The market has been looking forward to the Fed taking a break,” said JJ Kinahan, CEO of IG Group North America, which owns the online brokerage firm tastyworks.

“I think it’s the right call to let the rate hikes they’ve already done play though the system a bit and see what shakes out,” Kinahan added.

The Nasdaq and S&P 500 surged too, rising 2.3% and 2.4% respectively. All three major market indexes are now up about 5% for the week, their biggest gains since June, and have posted solid gains for the month of October.

That’s despite the fact that Snapchat’s parent company (SNAP) plunged nearly 30% following its earnings, news that sent shares of other social media companies spiraling downward as well. Facebook owner Meta fell more than 1% and Pinterest (PINS) sank 6%.

Twitter (TWTR) also fell nearly 5%, due to reports that the Biden administration may closely scrutinize Elon Musk’s other businesses for a national security reasons before allowing Musk to buy Twitter (TWTR). There were also reports suggesting massive layoffs ahead at Twitter (TWTR) if the Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX CEO closes the deal.

Lurking behind Britain’s political mess is an economy on the edge

The spectacle surrounding Liz Truss, who on Thursday secured her fate as the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history, has quickly given way to a frenetic race to determine who will replace her. Will it be former finance minister and her recent opponent, Rishi Sunak? Or predecessor Boris Johnson, who could engineer a stunning comeback?

But as the world watches the drama unfold, a grim reality lurks: Whoever steps into No. 10 Downing Street next will inherit an economic mess with no easy fixes.

The Bank of England believes the country may already be in recession, and the economic outlook is expected to get worse before it gets better, as high energy prices push households to curtail their spending.

A government report released Friday showed retail sales fell 1.4% in September, a worse-than-expected drop. Sale volumes are lower than they were before the pandemic. Consumer confidence is near its worst level on record as inflation sits at a 40-year high.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt speaks at the House of Commons, in London, Britain, October 17, 2022.

The UK just stepped back from the brink. But there’s more trouble ahead

At the same time, investor concerns about the United Kingdom’s finances, which burst into the spotlight during Truss’ tenure, will make it difficult to unveil any stimulus beyond immediate support for energy bills.

“A key focus for the next Prime Minister and their chosen Chancellor needs to be fiscal responsibility,” Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said in a statement on Friday. “We need a credible plan to ensure that government debt can be expected to fall over the medium-term.”

Although one top Bank of England official indicated this week that investors may be pricing in too many interest rate hikes, the central bank is expected to remain tough in the near-term in its campaign to get prices under control.
An economy in recession

Economists agree that if the United Kingdom isn’t already in recession, one is likely to arrive soon. The country’s output shrank by 0.3% in August, following an expansion of just 0.1% in July.

Dean Turner, an economist at UBS Wealth Management, called the spending outlook “pretty grim, to say the least.” The main questions now, he said, are how long a contraction lasts and how deep it becomes.

The picture of the United Kingdom’s financial position also darkened with the release of fresh data on Friday showing that Britain’s government borrowed £20 billion ($22 billion) in September, £5.2 billion ($5.7 billion) more than the country’s fiscal watchdog had expected.

“The weakness in retail sales and overshoot of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s March public borrowing forecast won’t make the next Prime Minister’s task any easier in navigating the economy through the cost of living crisis, cost of borrowing crisis and the cost of credibility crisis,” Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

The pound fell 1.4% against the US dollar on the heels of the gloomy reports, sinking below $1.11. It could continue to lose ground as the dollar pushes higher.
The cost of uncertainty

Truss has said the Conservative Party will install a new prime minister within a week. Despite questions about who it will be — and who will lead the Treasury under his or her leadership — investors and economists expect the revamped economic plan outlined by current finance minister Jeremy Hunt to remain intact.

On Monday, Hunt — just days into the job himself — announced the rollback of almost all tax cuts in Truss’ original “growth plan,” which had been rejected by investors. Citing a renewed commitment to controlling the country’s debts, Hunt also said the government will universally cap energy prices only until April. Support beyond then will cost taxpayers “significantly less than planned,” he added.

“Whoever becomes PM — and even if they decide to change the Chancellor — it seems to me that the fiscal path is pretty much set in stone, because the markets will not tolerate anything other than what’s on the table,” Turner said.

That could keep financial markets in check for the time being, though firm assurances and more detail on budget plans would be welcome at a time when bond markets around the world are showing signs of strain, said James Athey, investment director at Abrdn, an asset manager.

“It just again keeps the pause button pressed on international investor engagement,” Athey said.

There’s also some ambiguity about the Bank of England’s next moves. Ben Broadbent, deputy director of monetary policy, on Thursday warned that investors may have gotten too far ahead of themselves in projecting rate hikes amid the recent chaos.

“Whether official interest rates have to rise by quite as much as currently priced in financial markets remains to be seen,” he said in a speech.

The central bank is still expected to be very tough at its November and December meetings. If the economy slows sharply next year, it could later pull back. That said, if the government withdraws some support for energy bills in April, that could reignite inflationary pressures — once again complicating the calculus.

“Let’s be honest, we have no idea what the energy price will be in April, so we have no idea what the effect will be on household budgets,” Turner said.

That leaves investors guessing for longer, and economists waiting to revise their forecasts.

“Clarity and certainty, unfortunately, are all too absent,” Athey said.

The era of the meme trade is over


It’s been a tumultuous year for retail traders — people who buy shares of individual companies or indexes on popular trading platforms like Robinhood or E-Trade. Facing an economic outlook full of bear markets, high inflation and interest rate hikes, they’ve finally decided that they’ve had enough.

What’s happening: Back in the spring of 2020, the world shut down because of Covid-19, and markets plummeted. But Americans, bored and stuck on their couches, turned to stocks as a source of entertainment. Using the stimulus money lining their pockets and taking advantage of new technology that made it easy and cheap to trade, they entered the markets. This new cash led to a quick stock rebound as well as the rise of meme stocks.

Daily average trades at companies like TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and Charles Schwab (SCHW) spiked to new highs in March 2020 and again in January 2021 and February 2021.

That’s no longer the case. The market downturn this year has knocked about $15 trillion off the valuations of publicly traded companies, and retail investors, once eager to buy the dip and save fledgling markets, are fleeing.

The average daily number of retail trades handled at Charles Schwab fell to 5.5 million in the third quarter, down from 6.2 million in the second quarter. The number of daily retail trades at Morgan Stanley fell more than 15% over the third quarter from a year earlier, to 805,000 trades a day.

In the first quarter of 2021, the height of the retail trade boom, Schwab reported 8.4 million daily average trades, while Morgan Stanley (MS) reported 1.6 million.

Order flow data from Robinhood and Interactive Brokers also show steep declines in activity over the past three months. In Februrary 2021, Interactive Brokers registered an average of 3.7 million daily retail trades. By September 2022, that number declined to 1.9 million, according to data collected by S&P Global Indices.

Recent search trends on Google also show a drop in interest in the stock market. Market-related searches reached their high in March of 2020 and remained high through 2021. But searches for terms related to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Apple (AAPL) and Tesla (TSLA) have fallen in recent days. Those declines are a good proxy for actual market participation, said DataTrek Research in a report.

In general, individual investors are feeling bearish. The Investor Movement Index (IMX), created by TD Ameritrade to indicate the sentiment of retail investors, fell by 7.26% during the September period. The IMX sat above 8.0 in 2021, today it’s at just 4.5%.

Robinhood (HOOD), the app-based stock trading platform, has been cutting costs in response to a declining user base. The company announced in August that it would cut 23% of its full-time staff, the second cut this year.

“Last year, we staffed many of our operations functions under the assumption that the heightened retail engagement we had been seeing with the stock and crypto markets in the Covid era would persist into 2022,” Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev wrote in a message to employees following the announcement. “In this new environment, we are operating with more staffing than appropriate.”

Shares of Charles Schwab have dropped by about 20% so far this year. Robinhood is down 47%, and Morgan Stanley is down 24%.

The bottom line: A loss of retailer investors is concerning for many reasons. One is that it could spell a longer, deeper market downturn. It also could mean that the heyday is over for meme stock fan favorites like AMC (AMC), GameStop (GME) and Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY).

But don’t panic yet. “While activity is certainly a far cry from the meme stock rally, I’d say it’s holding up fairly well,” said Thomas Mason, senior analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Some are undoubtedly pulling out of the market and buying bonds, but it seems like retail investors are mostly taking a wait-and-see approach to equities, holding onto Big Tech stocks and rotating into more stable, dividend-paying sectors like energy.”
Goodbye Liz Truss, we hardly knew you

Kim Kardashian can officially say that her ill-fated 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries lasted longer than the tenure of British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

A revolt among members of Truss’ Conservative Party sealed her fate as the shortest-serving prime minister in Britain’s history on Thursday, reports my colleague Julia Horowitz.

But the failure of her fleeting leadership was really written by financial markets. Investors immediately protested her disastrous “growth plan” when it was revealed in September.

UK government bond yields rose at their fastest rate on record, sending borrowing costs surging, upending the country’s mortgage market and forcing the Bank of England to make three successive interventions to rescue overstretched pension funds.

Need more proof? Markets usually hate uncertainty. But on Thursday, they shrugged. UK bonds held their ground. The pound ticked up 0.4% to $1.125.

“Although the resignation of Liz Truss as Prime Minister leaves the UK without a leader when it faces huge economic, fiscal and financial market challenges, the markets appear to be relieved,” said Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics.

Another Conservative leadership election is due to take place within a week, with the next prime minister expected to be announced on Friday, October 28. The UK will now see its fifth premier since the divisive 2016 Brexit referendum.
US home sales fall for the 8th month in a row

Home sales in the US declined for the eighth month in a row in September as surging mortgage rates and high prices pushed buyers out of the market, reports my colleague Anna Bahney.

That continues a slowing trend that began in February and marks the longest housing sales slump since October 2007 during the subprime mortgage collapse.

Sales of existing homes – which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – were down 23.8% in September from a year ago and down 1.5% from August, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales in September were at their weakest level since May 2020, which was an anomaly because that was in the early days of the pandemic lockdown. Setting that aside, sales last month were the weakest they have been since September 2012.

A fragmented market: The slowdown is manifesting differently in markets across the country.

In the West, sales have dropped the most dramatically, plunging 31.3% since last year. Meanwhile, home sales have dropped 18.7% from a year ago in the Northeast, 19.7% in the Midwest and 23.8% in the South.

“While we often talk about a national housing market, this is really the sum of trends in tens of thousands of local real estate markets across the country,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “As the national market is at an inflection point, the range of local market conditions has grown wider.”

Apple’s industrial design chief to depart company three years after Jony Ive

Apple’s industrial design chief who most recently oversaw the design of products including the iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac computers is leaving the company.

Evans Hankey was one of two people promoted to oversee the design team after the departure of Apple (AAPL)’s longtime product designer, Jony Ive, in June 2019. Apple (AAPL) told CNN that Hankey will remain at the company for a temporary period.

“Apple’s design team brings together expert creatives from around the world and across many disciplines to imagine products that are undeniably Apple,” a spokesperson said. “The senior design team has strong leaders with decades of experience. Evans plans to stay on as we work through the transition, and we’d like to thank her for her leadership and contributions.”

The departure, which was first reported by Bloomberg, comes at a time when many of Apple’s best-known products are mostly receiving incremental design updates while long-rumored products such as a mixed reality headset — a wearable device that’s said to be capable of both virtual and augmented reality — have yet to launch.

Hankey stepped into the role after Ive left to start his own design company, LoveFrom. (At the time of his departure, Apple said it would become one of his clients but reportedly stopped working together earlier this year.) Ive worked closely with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on a remarkable run of products, ranging from candy-colored iMacs to the iPod and the original iPhone, that revived Apple’s fortunes and eventually made it the most valuable company in the world. His work earned him design awards, a knighthood and the company of celebrities like U2’s Bono.

In December 2021, Hankey and Dye offered Wallpaper, a design and lifestyle publication, a rare look inside how Apple’s design team approaches new products. Hankey detailed the methods Apple took to refine notifications and the “tap” on the Apple watch, and how it scanned thousands of ears to perfect the shape of AirPods.

“So much of what we value for the team and for the company, really started in the early days of design at Apple,” Hankey said. “We cannot overstate how lucky we are to be at a company with such a rich and deep foundation. From the very early ‘think different’ mantra to Steve and Jony’s collective focus on craft, care and making tools, to their reverence for the creative process, this is what still drives us.’

Apple has not yet announced Hankey’s replacement.