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”

Will Trump Bring Better Days for Coal?

One of Donald Trump’s clearest campaign promises was to revive the beleaguered U.S. coal industry and bring back the thousands of mining jobs that have been lost in recent years. Trump pinned the blame for coal’s woes on the Obama administration’s pending climate change regulations, which would discourage burning coal to generate electricity. Trump isn’t in office yet, and his environmental policies are still taking shape. But the coal industry is already enjoying a bit of a comeback.

Natural Gas: Fueling a Coal Comeback

“Coal hit bottom in the spring of this year,” says Andrew Moore, managing editor of Platts Coal Trader at S&P Global Platts. Back then, coal consumption had plummeted and coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation had fallen to its lowest point on record. (It was around that time that we first spoke with Moore, who predicted that 2016 could mark the low point for the coal business.) Continue reading “Will Trump Bring Better Days for Coal?”

What to Expect From the Trump Administration on Four Key Tech Issues

A Farewell to Net Neutrality

Look for federal telecom regulators to take a hands-off approach to regulating the internet after Trump appoints a Republican chairman to the Federal Communications Commission. The appointment will give Republican commissioners the majority vote for the first time since 2009. Though the FCC operates as an independent agency of the government, its decisions will surely be shaped by Trump’s choice for chairman. The pick is likely to be a pro-business Republican who supports a light regulatory touch.

To recap: Net neutrality regulations, which call for all lawful web traffic to be treated equally by web providers, took effect in June 2015. Most contentiously, the rules reclassified consumer broadband as a utility, so it faces new red tape on everything from pricing to privacy. (I wrote about the impact of the FCC’s net neutrality rule back in March 2015.) Continue reading “What to Expect From the Trump Administration on Four Key Tech Issues”

Coming: GOP Infighting over Federal Spending

It’s a good bet that federal spending and the annual budget deficits will increase during the Trump administration, despite opposition from many members of his own party who will hold firm on reining in government outlays.

But the Republican-controlled Congress isn’t about to give President-elect Donald Trump a blank check. The credit rating service Moody’s forecasts that if he were to get everything on his spending wish list, the deficit as a share of GDP would likely top 10% by the end of his four-year term, compared with 3% now. That’s not going to happen.

Continue reading “Coming: GOP Infighting over Federal Spending”

What now after a Texas judge has blocked DOL’s overtime rule?

Now that a federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked implementation of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule, what’s likely to happen next and what should employers do in the meantime?

Don’t be surprised if the contentious overtime rule is dead. With just over a week before the Dec. 1, 2016, effective date, the injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant in Texas ruled that the department had overstepped “its delegated authority.”

Continue reading “What now after a Texas judge has blocked DOL’s overtime rule?”

What Rising Interest Rates Mean for the Housing Market

Low inventories of homes, especially those at the lower end of the price range, should keep rising mortgage rates from pulling down sales growth much. But home price gains are likely to slow, especially for homes at the higher end of the price range and ones in large metro areas of the West where price growth had been high for a while.

Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates have risen by about half a percentage point since the election. For a new $250,000 loan with a 20% down payment, the principal and interest payment has risen by $55 per month. The annual income a borrower needs to qualify for that loan is now $44,000, up from $42,000 earlier. Qualifying income for those who make a down payment of 5% has risen from $50,000 to $53,000. For a $350,000 loan with 20% down, the increase in the monthly nut will be $80, with qualifying income at $65,000, versus $62,000 earlier.

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Changes to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)

There’s no doubt that changes are coming to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, now that the White House and both chambers of Congress are in Republican hands.

The big questions are what will replace it and when? Part of the uncertainty is that President-elect Trump has already said he won’t kill parts of the law that are popular with consumers, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 and requiring insurers to accept all comers, even those with preexisting conditions. The law also contains hundreds of provisions affecting Medicare, the health care workforce, prevention and many others that few associate with Obamacare. Continue reading “Changes to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)”

Previewing OPEC’s Latest Confab

All eyes in the oil market are on OPEC’s upcoming meeting. But whether the cartel finally makes good on its long-awaited promise to cut production or not, we counsel taking a longer view on prices.

Production Cuts: Are We There Yet?

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has been disappointing oil bulls for two years now. In fact, it was just about two years ago, when the group shocked markets by publicly opting not to cut production despite weak crude prices, that oil’s rout began in earnest. Traders seemed flummoxed that OPEC was abandoning its long-standing role as the unofficial regulator of global oil supply at a time when U.S. crude output was soaring and the world was awash in excess oil. Continue reading “Previewing OPEC’s Latest Confab”

Will Trump’s foreign policy upend the post cold war consensus?

With his victory in the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump has the potential to upend the consensus that has governed American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.

Will he? The short answer: Probably not. There’s an old saying about presidential candidates and foreign policy: “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” In other words, Trump the president will take a far different approach than Trump the Republican nominee, much as Barack Obama did after he was elected in 2008.

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’Tis the season for holiday discounts

Sale signs will be as prolific as tinsel and mistletoe this holiday shopping season. Marketers have already begun peppering storefronts and e-mails with markdowns — 50% off, 40% off, 25% off, buy-one-get-one-half-price — joyful music to price-conscious consumers’ ears.

Holiday shopping

Many merchants have trapped themselves in a cycle of promotions, fueling consumers’ reluctance to pay full price. Inventory levels are evening out, but years of near-constant discounting and a lack of exciting new product lines have pushed shoppers to hold off on purchases longer, until sellers slash prices.

Continue reading “’Tis the season for holiday discounts”