Now that the Fed has raised the effective federal funds rate a quarter of a percentage point to 0.9%, and indicated its intention to raise twice more this year, the effects will ripple out to most borrowing rates, but only to some savings rates.
The bank prime rate, which is the short-term borrowing rate available to the most credit-worthy customers, has already fully adjusted. The prime rate usually rises within one day of a Fed hike. Ditto for home equity lines of credit, which are tied to the prime rate. Continue reading “What Now for Borrowers and Savers After the Fed Move?”
Gasoline prices are behaving themselves right now. But if you’re planning a spring or summer road trip, you should budget for higher prices at the pump. Continue reading “Gasoline Prices To Trend Higher This Spring”
For much of 2017, oil markets had seemed abnormally calm. Sure, prices gyrated up and down every trading day. But the moves were never very substantial. Between Jan. 18 and last Wednesday, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude never closed lower than $51.08 per barrel, and never higher than $54.45 per barrel. Then, in a span of a few days last week, WTI dropped to about $48 per barrel.
What happened? And what happens next? Continue reading “What’s Next for Oil Prices After Last Week’s Tumble?”
While labor shortages have been most severe for technology and health care businesses, they are cropping up in more and more industries, now that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen. A recent survey of small businesses found that half of them can’t find enough qualified job applicants. The question: What can businesses do to make sure they have the workers they need? The answer, human resources professionals say, comes down to a three-part strategy: Recruit, retain and train.
With good workers increasingly scarce, employers are having to get creative about recruiting. A job ad posted on the company website might not cut it anymore. Companies may need to hire recruiters in order to find the social media websites or career niche websites where folks with desired skills tend to hang out. Recruiters can make sure that want ads are mobile-friendly for the millennials who never use desktop PCs, for example. They can arrange for quick interviews using Skype or Facetime. Some also offer applicant tracking systems. Continue reading “Finding and Keeping the Workers You Need”
As is the case with most presidents, Donald Trump’s first budget proposal is already “dead on arrival” in Congress, with Democrats and many Republicans opposed to his plan – though for different reasons – to finance an increase in defense spending with steep cuts to several federal agencies.
And with the parties at odds over how and where to spend taxpayer money, expect another year in which Congress fails to pass a budget. Continue reading “Will GOP Sink Trump’s Budget?”
Labor shortages are starting to weigh on businesses in many industries across the U.S., as this week’s Kiplinger Letter documents. (Click here to get the first page of this week’s Letter.) A recent survey of small businesses found that 30% of them have had to increase pay during the last three to six months to find or retain enough workers. That’s the highest level since 2001. About half of small businesses say they can’t get enough qualified job applicants. And the shortages span the pay scale across different industries: Everyone from carpenters to cooks to computer programmers.
One business that is no stranger to the problem: Trucking. Fleet owners have been grappling with a dearth of qualified, licensed truck drivers for years. Veteran drivers are reaching retirement age without enough young recruits joining the industry to take their places. That forces fleets to pony up higher salaries, bigger bonuses and richer benefits to attract or retain drivers. And since labor is the industry’s biggest cost, the competition for drivers points to rising freight rates for shippers this year. Continue reading “A Shortage of Truckers Will Drive Up Freight Rates”
It pays to shop around for cell service, now that Verizon has joined AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint with all-you-can-eat unlimited data plans. Verizon’s move comes as T-Mobile siphons off more and more customers through aggressive marketing and price cuts. “This was actually the first time that Verizon reacted to T-Mobile,” says Roger Entner, telecom analyst and founder of Recon Analytics. The action led to another round of price cuts, too.
Unlimited data plans come with a catch, though. Speeds slow after users hit a monthly data limit. When Verizon’s network is bogged down, its unlimited speeds are ratcheted back for users who have burned up 22 gigabytes in a given month. Other carriers’ plans come with similar fine print. Continue reading “The Spread of Unlimited Data Ignites Cellular Competition”
A lack of buildable lots and a shortage of skilled labor are among the major issues facing homebuilders. With builders unable to find qualified workers to fill vacant positions, the rate of job openings in the construction industry is now greater than during the housing boom in the early 2000s.
The skilled-labor shortage is likely to continue. Many young workers joined the industry during the boom, but lost their jobs during the Great Recession. When the energy sector began to slow down a couple of years ago, many of these workers were expected to rejoin the building industry. For a variety of reasons, though, a large share didn’t return to their old positions or other jobs in the industry. The average age of construction workers is around 41 years old. The average age was much lower during the construction boom of the early 2000s, indicating that the industry has lost many younger workers. The industry has started to make efforts to recruit younger people, but the product of these efforts isn’t likely to materialize right away. Continue reading “Some Hurdles Hamstring Homebuilders”
U.S. start-ups are making headway on next-generation nuclear reactors. But companies worry about the big challenges they face to get new designs up and running in the U.S. That’s the message I heard after spending the better part of a day with nuclear industry insiders in Washington, D.C., at the Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase, an event for top nuclear players to tout recent developments and make their pleas to lawmakers. The mood was a mixture of guarded optimism and deep concern over government inaction.
Designs in the works are smaller, cheaper and safer than the current crop of reactors, which account for 20% of America’s electricity mix. Small modular reactors, for instance, can be manufactured at a factory and pieced together at the power plant site. Some novel reactor designs turn trash into treasure by running on spent fuel from conventional reactors in operation today. Other reactors in the works are so small and cheap they could replace diesel generators in off-the-grid areas such as small islands. Continue reading “The Challenge and Promise of Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors”
For U.S. farmers and related industries, 2017 is shaping up as another down year.
They seem to have “nowhere to hide” from the low agricultural prices that have put many of them in dire financial straits, says Dan Basse, an analyst at AgResource Company. Continue reading “2017 may be a down year for farmers”