How Will the Presidential Election Affect the Housing Market?

If Democrats hold on to the White House, will that help the price of your home? Or would the housing market fare better with a Republican victory? The fact is, it won’t matter much which party wins the White House in November — at least not when it comes to housing prices.

A study of real estate in California going back to 1980, found that housing prices rose by as much as 6% in the year before an election and about 5% in the year after an election, but only 4.5% during election years. A possible explanation for the slower price growth is that presidential elections create uncertainty, making people less likely to take chances on large purchases, thus slowing down the rate of increase in home values.

The California Association of Realtors has looked at home prices in the state dating back to 1990 and found that elections historically have had little or no negative impact on the California housing market. It did find that house prices rose slightly faster in the last months of the last five presidential elections.

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How the Next Fed Rate Hike Will Affect You

We expect the Federal Reserve to raise its federal funds interest rate from 0.25% to 0.5% at its meeting on December 14. This will have a domino effect, boosting some loan and deposit rates for consumers, but not all of them.

How the Fed Rate Hike Will Affect Your Loan Rates

When the Fed raises, the bank prime rate will immediately jump by the same quarter percentage point. Interest rates on home equity lines of credit will also rise by the same amount, to a minimum of 3.75%. Auto and personal loan rates should rise, too. In fact, auto lenders may nudge their rates up a tick more in the months to come as delinquencies on subprime auto loans creep up.

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The Impact of the AT&T-Time Warner Deal

AT&T’s plan to acquire Time Warner underscores the seismic shifts rippling through the media landscape. The $85 billion deal would pair the Dallas-based telecom giant with the fourth-largest media company in the country, giving AT&T a stable of high-quality TV channels and movies, including HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and film company Warner Bros. AT&T’s wired broadband service and nationwide mobile network, tied with its recent acquisition of satellite television operator DirecTV, would give AT&T national distribution of all of Time Warner’s media properties. AT&T expects to finalize the deal by the end of 2017.

AT&T sees the deal as a way to jumpstart growth and fend off emerging competition. Vertical integration — owning the pipes along with the content that travels through them — is AT&T’s vision of making money in the shifting media landscape over the next decade or so. AT&T plans to incorporate advanced ad targeting of its 100 million-plus customers while gaining more subscriber dollars to video content. Advertising and media businesses spell faster growth and higher profit margins, with lower capital investment, compared to the business of building wired and wireless networks. AT&T envisions a future where it more closely resembles Facebook rather than a telephone company.

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Can Crude Oil Prices Keep Rallying?

A tentative deal by OPEC to reduce its oil production sparked an early autumn rally in crude oil prices. But now, with rumblings of internal dissent within OPEC, that rally has stalled. Can the oil market recover its recent momentum? Or should oil bulls prepare for yet another downturn?

OPEC to the Rescue?

Oil prices were climbing swiftly this spring after bottoming out at about $26 per barrel in the depths of winter. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate had just crested the psychologically important $50-per-barrel level in late June when British voters shocked the world by opting to depart from the European Union. The ensuing upheaval in financial markets knocked WTI back down to $40 per barrel, halting the rally in its tracks.

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Should You Prepare for Post-Election Violence?

Will America experience an outbreak of post-election violence? It’s a strong possibility. 2016 has been arguably the ugliest election year in recent memory, marred by allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct and fears that talk of “rigged” elections is undermining faith in the country’s political system.

Unfortunately, it’s likely to leave even more ugliness in its wake. Domestic terrorism experts are warning of a potential uptick in violent incidents associated with the result of the presidential election, regardless of who ends up winning the White House.

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Would You Feel Safe in a Driverless Car?

I’m in Boston this week for MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. The yearly event draws technology experts from around the globe, and I’m having a blast picking their brains. Here are some thoughts on riding in driverless cars and Facebook’s plan to make internet connectivity available everywhere.

If you fret about riding in a driverless car — or are quick to say you never will — note that people who have had the opportunity have been relatively quick to overcome their anxiety. So says Karl Iagnemma, CEO and cofounder of nuTonomy, an autonomous car startup in Singapore. His stance is based on surveys NuTonomy has run as it tests cars with a popular drive-hailing app. The company plans to have 100 vehicles on the road by next year. (Uber has started similar tests in Pittsburgh.) One of the key findings: Riders seem comfortable enough to turn their attention to surfing the web on their phones.

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Heating Bills to Tick Higher This Winter

By now, much of the U.S. has experienced at least a taste of autumn and some regions have turned downright chilly. With winter fast approaching, now seems like a good time to zero in on energy prices and heating costs. What should consumers expect and budget for this heating season?

Heating Costs in Check, for Now

As summer was winding down, we took a stab at guessing where prices for heating oil, propane and natural gas would be once cool weather arrived. Back in August, we figured that most heating oil users would see prices a “bit less” in the autumn of 2016 than they paid the year before, while residential propane costs ought to be fairly close to their level of autumn 2015. With the Department of Energy’s number crunchers currently reporting average prices for those fuels every week, we can check up on our earlier predictions. Continue reading “Heating Bills to Tick Higher This Winter”

The Race to 5G

The U.S. has a head start when it comes to 5G wireless technology. Federal telecom regulators recently passed new rules that unleashed huge swathes of untapped airwaves that will make the U.S. a leader in 5G adoption. The fifth generation of cellular technology is poised to bring mobile internet speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than today’s average speeds, enabling full HD movie downloads in under 5 seconds. Plus, the upgrade spells lag times less than one thousandth of a second and ultra-low-powered sensors that last for years.

I recently chatted with Brian Bain, founder of Investor in the Family, about how 5G will take shape. We talked about the progression from 2G to 5G, what 5G tech will entail, what type of infrastructure will be required, the many applications for 5G and a whole lot more. While full-fledged 5G service is expected to take off by 2020 or so, testing by AT&T, Verizon and other tech companies are already underway. Look for major trials next year.

Click here for the full conversation, “How 5G Technology Will Impact Your Portfolio,” or hit play below. I hope you enjoy the podcast. If you have any questions or comments, please email me or post them in the comments section.

Can This (Political) Marriage Be Saved?

When I was a kid, a regular feature in a magazine my mom subscribed to was called “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” That headline, which I hadn’t thought about in decades, popped into my head Sunday night as I watched Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton slog through the mud of their second debate.

The marriage I was thinking about is between Trump and his supporters and the mainstream wing of the Republican Party. Clearly, his supporters are much more fired up about Trump’s presidential campaign than the party regulars are. In fact, some of the regulars have already separated from Trump, deeming the White House unwinnable and deciding to focus on trying to keep the Senate and House in Republican hands as a last line of defense against a Clinton presidency.

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The Friday Jobs Report: Setting the Stage for the Federal Reserve’s December Rate Hike

The days of job gains of 200,000 or more per month are likely in the past as the labor market continues to tighten and employers struggle to find qualified workers. Instead, expect a gain of 170,000 jobs to be reported for September. Despite the modest number, this is still likely to cause a slight drop in the unemployment rate, to 4.8%, and push up wages by 2.7% from a year earlier. That’s a bit faster than the yearly rate of 2.4% recorded in August.

A decent jobs gain of 150,000 or more, a drop in the unemployment rate and faster wage gains would signal the further improvement in the labor market that the Federal Reserve is looking for to justify its first quarter-point interest rate hike in a year. The end of the next Fed meeting is November 2, and it’s obvious that Fed Chair Janet Yellen has enough political sense not to do anything the week before the presidential election, lest she be blamed by one side or the other for trying to influence the results. Therefore, the Fed move will likely take place on December 14, safely after the election.

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