Where Heating Fuel Prices Go From Here

With much of the U.S. feeling the effects of cold and snowy weather, now seems like an appropriate time to check in on heating fuel supplies and hazard some guesses about where fuel prices go from here. Many residential and business customers caught a break on heating costs last winter, with historically mild temperatures in many places. But the situation looks a bit different now that the calendar reads 2017.

Sizing Up Heating Fuel Stockpiles

Any analysis of winter heating costs has to start with how much natural gas, propane and heating oil is on hand to meet the season’s heating needs. And for the most part, those stocks of stored fuel look ample. Continue reading “Where Heating Fuel Prices Go From Here”

Promising Cancer Drugs Coming Soon

The war on cancer is on the verge of getting a number of new weapons. Many of them involve a novel approach known as immunotherapy, in which the body’s own immune system is engaged to fight the cancer.

One emerging immunotherapy treatment, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy, could be approved this year. CAR-T therapy involves genetically altering a patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell — to help the immune system find and kill cancer cells. The modified cells are infused into the patient after they are altered in the lab. Continue reading “Promising Cancer Drugs Coming Soon”

Trump’s Cybersecurity Challenges

Among the biggest questions facing President-elect Donald Trump: What will be the new “norms” of cyberspace in a rapidly changing technological and geopolitical landscape? The answer is far from clear. Moreover, there is very little precedent for tackling some of the thorniest problems the president must confront.

Expect Trump to favor firm retaliation for any major cyber-breaches, especially if China is the culprit. He has already voiced his intention to take a harder line against Beijing on a range of issues, including trade. China, meanwhile, will be more inclined to challenge the U.S. if it feels its vital interests, such as Taiwan and the “One-China” policy, are truly at stake. Continue reading “Trump’s Cybersecurity Challenges”

Even Without Tax Cuts, Consumers Will Boost Economy

Consumers will shoulder the burden of keeping the economy on track in 2017 while waiting for Donald Trump’s tax cuts to be passed. Low unemployment, job and wage growth will keep money in consumers’ pockets, while the rise in the stock market since the election will provide a bit of an extra bump up to spending.

Consumer spending should rise by about 2.8% in 2017, up from 2.6% in 2016. 2017 will be the fourth straight year that consumer spending growth will have been markedly higher than overall GDP growth, indicating how much this spending is carrying the economy. Continue reading “Even Without Tax Cuts, Consumers Will Boost Economy”

What Will Obama, Trump Do About Russia?

President Obama will almost certainly deliver a forceful response to Russia’s cyber-meddling in the 2016 presidential election before his term expires next month and Donald Trump moves into the Oval Office.

What that response will look like is hard to say, though sanctions are much more likely than harsher measures. Cyberdefense remains a weak spot for the U.S., and questions about the best way to respond to acts of online aggression have largely gone unanswered during Obama’s time in office, according to Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute. Continue reading “What Will Obama, Trump Do About Russia?”

Previewing Donald Trump’s Energy and Environmental Policies

It’s safe to say that under President Donald Trump’s administration, a lot is going to change for energy and environmental policies after eight years of President Barack Obama. Trump’s early choices for Cabinet heads – an oil company executive at the State Department, a pro-drilling former Texas governor for the Department of Energy, an outspoken critic of Obama-era climate regulations to head the Environmental Protection Agency – strongly hint at a shift toward more development of natural resources and less-restrictive environmental rules. But what exactly will be changing, especially at the beginning of the Trump administration?

Walking Back Obama Priorities

Admittedly, I don’t have a direct line to Trump Tower, so I can’t ask the Donald himself what sorts of new policies we should expect when he takes office next month. But I have been speaking with folks who know his advisers, or represent influential business groups, or understand the industries most likely to be affected. Here are the highlights of their comments. Continue reading “Previewing Donald Trump’s Energy and Environmental Policies”

Cyberattacks Threaten the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is giving cybercriminals millions of new vulnerable targets. Internet-enabled devices are plagued by shoddy security and lax regulation. Everything from baby monitors to the electric grid is susceptible to attack as millions more things get connected to the web—20 billion by 2020, up from 6 billion today, according to market research firm Gartner.

The number of connections will continue to soar as it gets cheaper and easier to slap a wireless chip and microprocessor on virtually any product. The ever-growing list of objects that have Wi-Fi includes drones, dolls, teakettles, televisions, lights, locks, refrigerators, thermostats, speakers, virtual reality goggles and bathroom scales. Continue reading “Cyberattacks Threaten the Internet of Things”

Steel Prices on a Sharp Upswing

Prices for steel will rise through early 2017 on the expectation of more infrastructure spending by the Trump administration and robust construction of hotels, office and school buildings. Over the longer run, though, production overcapacity in China will help temper increases.

The cost of steel plate products, used in bridge construction, pipelines, etc., are already up sharply—a 20% increase since the presidential election. Buyers are also shelling out 7% more for steel-reinforcing bar used in road and bridge and building construction. Also up: Prices for hot- and cold-rolled steel, used to make cars, appliances and more. Hot-rolled steel is up 14%; cold-rolled 11%. Meanwhile, scrap metal is selling for 16% more. Continue reading “Steel Prices on a Sharp Upswing”

Will antiestablishment fever sweep through Europe?

Europe is in for a bumpy ride next year, and U.S. business interests across the pond will feel the vibrations.

Populism is sweeping across the continent, generated by voter anger at the political establishment over weak economic growth, the scarcity of jobs, an anti-immigrant backlash and a perception that financial markets matter more to government leaders than the well-being of ordinary workers. It has just swept Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi from power and earlier did the same to British Prime Minister David Cameron—and it’s headed full bore for the European Union’s biggest and most influential economies. Continue reading “Will antiestablishment fever sweep through Europe?”

Trump Administration Will Dial Back Workplace Gains

The pro-labor regulatory agenda of the Labor Department will grind to a halt under President-elect Trump. Executive orders issued during the Obama Administration will be undone and enforcement actions against employers are likely to fall off dramatically.

At the top of the list of rules the Trump Administration will revisit is one on overtime. The rule was set to go into effect on Dec. 1, but a federal judge in Texas temporarily halted implementation. The matter is not expected to be resolved before the new administration takes office, which means that the rule can be pulled back and revised, or shelved. Odds are it will be modified, rather than scrapped, with the salary threshold in the new rule set at about $35,000, from $47,476 in the Obama rule. Continue reading “Trump Administration Will Dial Back Workplace Gains”