The U.S. markets are closed today for the MLK holiday. But enjoy the news, and an open thread for today!
This week’s calendar of economic and earnings reports:
TUESDAY: U.S. Existing Home Sales report, Google (GOOG), IBM (IBM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Verizon (VZ)
WEDNESDAY: Apple (AAPL), McDonald’s (MCD)
THURSDAY: Microsoft (MSFT), AT&T (T)
FRIDAY: U.S. New Home Sales report, Proctor & Gamble (PG)
No surprises here:
Financial services and banks were the least-trusted industries for the third year, with half of people surveyed saying they could be trusted to do what’s right, according to an annual poll by public relations firm Edelman.
The numbers improved from 45 percent who trusted financial companies in the survey released last year and 47 percent who trusted banks. Technology (MXWO0IT) companies topped the ranking again with 77 percent, down two percentage points from a year earlier, according to the poll of the so-called informed public ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries.
I wonder if those 47% who trust the banks are the same 47% which Mitt Romney was talking about? But I digress…
Institutions were more trusted overall this year and the reputation of business continued to surpass government. The portion of the informed public who said they trust business climbed to 58 percent from 53 percent a year ago, while trust in government rose to 48 percent from 43 percent, the survey found. The share who said they trusted business “a great deal” was 17 percent, the same as for government, according to the online poll, which surveyed 4,600 people in October and November.
The countries with the highest proportion of people who said they trusted business were Mexico, at 82 percent, and India, at 81 percent. Those with the lowest trust were South Korea, at 31 percent, and Russia, at 40 percent, the survey found.
In the U.S., 62 percent said they trusted business to do the right thing, compared with 53 percent who said they felt the same about government. In the U.K., business garnered 56 percent and government got 47 percent, according to the survey.
Personally, I think business and government both deserve a healthy scepticism, at the very least. Give them trust when they earn it.
A sign of things to come?
Angela Merkel’s conservatives appeared to be struggling to hold onto power in a German state election on Sunday against a center-left opposition showing it could yet mount a strong challenge to her chancellorship in September national polls.
In exit polls released after voting ended, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) remained the biggest party in the swing state of Lower Saxony with 36 percent. The chief victors of the evening, however, appeared to be their Free Democrat (FDP) allies who defied doomsayers to win 10 percent.
But the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens were also at 46 percent in the exit polls. Victory in Lower Saxony would boost their chances of depriving Merkel of a third term in the autumn despite a poor start by the SPD challenger Peer Steinbrueck.
I won’t say “Merkel is doomed”. But this is something to keep an eye on going forward. If Merkel loses control of Germany, the markets wouldn’t be pleased.
An unusually early and vigorous flu season is drawing attention to a cause that has scored victories but also hit roadblocks in recent years: mandatory paid sick leave for the 40 percent of American private-sector workers — more than 40 million people — who don’t have it.
The flu spike is making people more aware of the argument for sick pay, said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work, which promotes paid sick time initiatives around the country. “There’s people who say, ‘OK, I get it — you don’t want your server coughing on your food,’” she said.
Advocates have cast paid sick time as both a workforce issue akin to parental leave and “living wage” laws, and a public health priority.
But to some business owners, paid sick leave is an impractical and unfair burden for small operations. Critics also say the timing is bad, given the choppy economy and the hardships inflicted by super storm Sandy.
Michael Sinesky, an owner of seven bars and restaurants around the city, was against the sick time proposal before Sandy. And after the storm shut down four of his restaurants for days or weeks, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that his insurers have yet to pay, “we’re in survival mode.”
“We’re at the point, right now, where we cannot afford additional social initiatives,” said Sinesky, whose roughly 500 employees switch shifts if they can’t work, an arrangement that some restaurateurs say benefits workers because paid sick time wouldn’t include tips.
Employees without sick days are more likely to go to work with a contagious illness, send an ill child to school or day care and use hospital emergency rooms for care, according to a 2010 survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that a lack of sick time helped spread 5 million cases of flu-like illness during the 2009 swine flu outbreak.
I have always hated it when my co-workers come to work sick. There was one time I asked my boss to send one co-worker home. While I appreciate a good work ethic, showing up at work sick is not evidence of your dedication. It shows you place work above your own health, and more importantly, above the health of your co-workers.
However, I also appreciate the fact that many workplaces only have limited paid sick days, if any at all. And most small businesses cannot afford a paid sick day policy.
Whatever the law should be, it should at least be applied to companies above a certain size (maybe 100 employees?).
One Harbaugh will win Super Bowl XLVII. Another will lose it.
That much is guaranteed, after the San Francisco 49ers coached by Jim Harbaugh and — a few hours later — the Baltimore Ravens led by his brother John Harbaugh beat their respective foes in conference championship games Sunday. Those wins mean the Harbaughs will be the first siblings to face-off on the sidelines of the NFL’s title contest and, in fact, for any major U.S. professional sports championship.
Both teams rallied from half-time deficits on the road to earn berths in the Super Bowl, which will be played February 3 in New Orleans.
Baltimore did it by reeling off 21 straight points, to overcome Tom Brady and the New England Patriots by a 28-13 score. It was sweet revenge for the Ravens, who lost last year’s AFC Championship — to the same Patriots foe, on the same Gillette Stadium field in Foxborogh, Massachusetts — in a nail-biter last year.
A few hours earlier, the 49ers rallied from a 17-0 hole to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, who had posted the best regular season record in the NFC.
Congratulations to the Ravens and 49ers. I think somebody around here predicted this Super Bowl matchup on Friday…
Another new cost, brought to you by Obamacare:
While the most sweeping provisions of the health care overhaul have not yet gone into effect, plenty of Americans will still be paying higher insurance premiums this year — as insurance companies try to preemptively cover the cost of a tax increase included in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
That tax doesn’t take effect until next year, when other major provisions like the so-called “individual mandate” and insurance subsidies also kick in. But that hasn’t stopped insurance companies from charging higher premiums this year to cover the hike, as well as the cost of ObamaCare benefits such as free birth control and preventive care.
Premiums for individuals and small businesses are projected to increase due to the tax by roughly 2 percent this year and by as much as 3.7 percent in 2023, according to a widely cited analysis by the insurance industry.
Officials will argue about who is to blame for the hike — insurance companies for sticking customers with the cost, or the government for imposing the industry tax hike in the first place. But the projected increases are the latest sign that Americans, in exchange for expanding and strengthening insurance coverage, will in many cases be paying more.
Even if you argue that the insurance companies are being greedy by raising prices early, they wouldn’t even have had that excuse if the tax wasn’t going to happen.
This brings up another question: Taxes typically are used to reduce demand for something, such as cigarette taxes or gas taxes. But the mental midgets in Washington placed a tax on health insurance, just as they require it from all Americans? Just like the Social Security tax, this is a regressive tax, which will hit the poor harder than the rich. The very people that Obamacare was intended to help will be hurt the most by this.