Flood Insurance Program Will Swell But Not Breach

Congress will reauthorize and revamp the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires at the end of September. Lawmakers are in no mood to let the program lapse in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. What’s less certain is just how extensive those reforms will be.

The 49-year-old Federal Emergency Management Agency program enables property owners in flood-prone areas to purchase flood insurance that is administered and backed by the federal government. Local governments must adopt and enforce floodplain management plans for their communities to be eligible. Continue reading “Flood Insurance Program Will Swell But Not Breach”

Hurricane Harvey Wallops the Energy Industry

The rain is still falling along the Gulf Coast and the flood waters are still rising, but it’s already clear that Hurricane Harvey has crippled the region’s energy infrastructure. As I wrote last week, many of the country’s oil refineries are located along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. The latest reports indicate that more than 10% of U.S. refining capacity is now offline because of flooding and closures of shipping channels, roads and railways.

Retail gasoline prices are already starting to show the effects of refinery outages. According to AAA, the nation’s average price for regular unleaded now stands at $2.38 per gallon, up 4 cents from a week ago. Gasoline futures contracts are showing even steeper gains, signaling that drivers can expect prices at the gas station to keep rising in the next few days. Continue reading “Hurricane Harvey Wallops the Energy Industry”

What Hurricane Harvey Means For Gas Prices

Residents living along the western Gulf of Mexico are no doubt carefully monitoring Hurricane Harvey, which is forecast to come ashore somewhere along the Texas coast Friday with flooding rains, powerful winds and damaging storm surges. It’s a dangerous situation for a region that hasn’t seen a hurricane since Ike in 2008.

Motorists throughout the U.S. might want to keep an eye on the storm’s impact, too. Why? Because the western Gulf is home to almost half of the country’s oil refining capacity. If flooding causes power outages or otherwise hobbles refineries, the production of gasoline and other fuels will take a significant hit. Continue reading “What Hurricane Harvey Means For Gas Prices”

Afghanistan: Donald Trump Continues America’s Longest War

President Trump’s plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and emphasize “killing terrorists” over “nation building” put to rest any notion that he intends to wind down America’s longest war.

Trump was short on detail during his first prime-time speech since addressing Congress in February. He didn’t say how many soldiers will join the 8,400-strong U.S. force already in Afghanistan, leaving that specific for the Pentagon to sort out. Nor did he elaborate on the most provocative component of his new strategy: Putting more pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring the Taliban.  

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2018 elections could become a GOP family feud

Look for Republican incumbents on Capitol Hill to face a wave of primary challengers in 2018 if by year’s end they cannot deliver two key campaign promises: Obamacare repeal and tax reform.

It’s very early in the election cycle so many potential challengers are waiting to see how 2017 ends. There’s time for congressional Republicans to mitigate their legislative shortcomings, but the clock is ticking. Continue reading “2018 elections could become a GOP family feud”

Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?

Apple faces a huge test next month. The world’s largest company will unveil an updated edition of its flagship product, the iPhone. The question is, can Apple’s latest model “wow” consumers and investors alike?

Apple’s near-term success rides on the fate of the new phone. The iPhone first came on the scene in 2007 and has become Apple’s profit engine, accounting for a whopping 60%-70% the company’s sales. Much of Apple’s ecosystem, from apps to music, stems from the device. The new phone debuts in early September and starts shipping soon after. Here’s what to expect: Continue reading “Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?”

Sizing Up Heating Fuel Supplies Ahead of Winter

It’s only August, but it’s not too early to check in on the supply of the heating oil, propane and natural gas that that will start warming homes and businesses in a few short months. Especially since consumers could face notably higher heating costs this coming winter than what they have paid recently.

Like every other product, the price of heating fuel is determined by supply and demand. Demand, of course, depends on the weather, and thus can swing wildly from one winter to the next. Supply, on the other hand, is easy to gauge now. Continue reading “Sizing Up Heating Fuel Supplies Ahead of Winter”

Conflict Still Unlikely in North Korea Nuclear Standoff

Don’t panic yet: The U.S. is not on the brink of war with North Korea, even after a heated exchange between the two countries that culminated with Pyongyang threatening to put Guam, a strategically important U.S. territory that hosts several American military bases, in the crosshairs.

Heated exchanges are routine in U.S.-North Korean relations. Pyongyang regularly threatens to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” This time, the stakes are higher — as are the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang — but the old rule of thumb still holds: Kim Jong-un knows that any needless military provocation could result in the destruction of his regime, which means he’s unlikely to take such a drastic step.

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Who Profits from Cord Cutting?

There’s no end in sight to paid TV customers joining the cord cutters in droves. The media business, reeling from the upheaval, is racing to adjust to this swift disruption that is rerouting billions of dollars in advertising, subscriptions and programming fees from traditional TV firms to tech giants and others.

A new set of winners is likely to emerge in the aftermath of the shake-up as incumbents try to ward off rising startups and tech behemoths. Count on even more turmoil over the next five to 10 years as new technology emerges, from virtual reality to next-generation 5G wireless, that further upends the way people consume media.

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North Korea Puts New York in Range

North Korea made another major leap forward in its nuclear program over the weekend, successfully launching a new missile that experts say puts most major U.S. cities, from Los Angeles to New York, in range.

Like most of the Hermit Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs, this one came sooner than expected. North Korea still has several additional steps to master before it officially has the ability to conduct a nuclear attack on the U.S. But American intelligence officials now think North Korea will be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as next year. Just a few months ago, the consensus estimate was somewhere between five and ten years. 

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