• “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
     
    That’s the startling claim in a provocative new study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University.
     
    Many of us like to believe that popular opinion influences policymakers, at least indirectly. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. “The general public has little or no independent influence” on policymaking, the two political scientists found.
     
    Instead, Gilens and Page found that “economic elites” have a “quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.” Groups representing business interests are the next most powerful influence on policymakers. Sometimes, those two groups are aligned on an issue—they both tend to prefer low taxes, for instance--which generates the highest likelihood of government action.

    The complex study examined 1,779 public policy issues between 1981 and 2002, including the policy preferences of middle-income people, the wealthy,

    Read More »from The astounding power of "economic elites"
  • Alfa Romeo will soon officially return to the U.S. market after a 19-year absence. Car enthusiasts can see the luxury brand's 4C sports car up close at the New York International Auto Show, which runs through April 27. The Italian automaker became famous with American drivers when Dustin Hoffman drove the sporty Spider in the baby-boomer coming-of-age film "The Graduate" in 1967.

    The 237-horsepower, turbo-charged 4C coupe will have tough competition, including racers such as the Audi TT, Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK.

    Related: Why luxury brands are booming, even though the economy is not

    The 4C will hit Fiat dealerships across the country starting in late June or early July. The "Launch Edition" will be limited to 500 models with a sticker price in the $70,000 range. The standard 4C model that comes later will be priced near $54,000. Only 800 to 900 units will be available for sale in the U.S., according to Justin Hyde, managing editor at Yahoo Autos.

    "Fiat needs a

    Read More »from The new Alfa Romeo is a beauty, but it needs more than good looks
  • As cofounder and general partner of one of Silicon Valley's most successful venture capital firms, Ben Horowitz has enjoyed tremendous success. His firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has over $4 billion under management and was an early investor in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Pinterest, Skype, Box and many more.

    But Horowitz spends much of his new book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, focusing on his failures -- or at least his struggles as the CEO of Loudcloud and its software spinoff Opsware from 2001 to 2007.

    At the heart of the book is 'The Struggle', which Horowitz describes as "basically what you feel like when your world is caving in."

    It's a feeling many entrepreneurs know well and one Horowitz experienced both at Loudcloud, which went public during technology's "nuclear winter" in 2001, and Opsware, which faced intense competition and several 'near-death' experiences before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2007.

    "There was a time when people thought I was quite a

    Read More »from VC superstar Ben Horowitz is focused on failure
  • Subscriptions aren’t just about magazines or “wine of the month” clubs anymore. The variety of subscription services has expanded to everything from unlimited coffee and dog treats, to movies and designer footwear.

    It’s a wonder people bother driving to the store anymore.

    On Thursday, Target announced it will vastly expand its subscription-based online service, giving customers the chance to sign up for regular shipments of nearly 1,600 products at a 5% discount.

    If anything, Target (TGT) is late to the subscription service game. Amazon.com (AMZN) has run a subscription service for two years and even though Walmart’s attempt to join the party crashed and burned (it shut down its $7-a-month snack subscription service less than a year after launching), it’s clear that the business model is here to stay.

    It’s not hard to see the appeal of subscription-based shopping. If you’re a caffeine addict who drinks three cups a day, or you’re a parent who can never have enough diapers lying

    Read More »from Subscription-based services are changing the shopping game
  • Here’s one part of the economy you don’t have to worry about: luxury car sales.

    The auto industry has gradually recovered from the wipeout that occurred in 2009, when sales plummeted. But the luxury segment has left most mainstream models in the dust.

    Mercedes, BMW and Audi all notched record U.S. sales in 2013. The same pace continues this year, so far.

    “There are a lot of people out there who can afford luxury goods,” Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, tells me in the video above. “The wealth that has really been there, but been planted on the sidelines, is finding its way into the market.”

    Cannon says three factors are fueling the boom in luxury goods. First is the stock market, which is jittery this year but still up 17% during the last 12 months and 114% during the last five years. The housing recovery, though incomplete, has helped many home owners regain much of the equity lost during the housing bust. And with an overall improvement in the economy, consumers

    Read More »from Why luxury brands are booming, even though the economy is not
  • Get ready for a potentially slow buying season in the housing market.

    Pending home sales are down 11% from a year ago, mortgage rates are about 1% higher than a year ago and homebuilders are breaking ground at a slower pace than expected -- at an annual rate of 946,000 units,   more than 2% below forecasts.

    Related: Housing forecast: A not so sunny spring

    Robert Shiller, co-founder of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index, tells The Daily Ticker that the momentum in housing may be changing.

    Investors who had become a growing part of the market are pulling back and the Fed, which has been supporting the housing market through its quantitative easing policies, continues to reduce those purchases, says Shiller.

    "It's not at all clear that momentum is a safe bet anymore," says Shiller, a Nobel prize-winning economics professor at Yale. But he expects home prices will continue to rise, though most likely at a slower rate.

    Related: ARMs are back! Reverse mortgages too! Is this housing

    Read More »from Momentum may be changing in the housing market: Robert Shiller
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen this week said the Fed's current forecast projects the economy could be recovered and full employment restored within a little more than two years. By the Fed’s definition, “maximum employment” means an unemployment rate between 5.2% and 5.6%. Speaking at the Economic Club of New York in just her second public speech since taking the top job at the Fed, Yellen said, “If this forecast was to become reality, the economy would be approaching what my colleagues and I view as maximum employment and price stability for the first time in nearly a decade. I find this baseline outlook quite plausible.” Her comments were in the context of how Fed policy might look depending on where the economic recovery stands.

    You and 5 million other Americans back to work

    So what would economic recovery and full employment look like? 5,734,816 new jobs would need to be created by the end of 2016 in order to reach 5.2% unemployment, according to an Atlanta Federal Reserve

    Read More »from Here’s what economic recovery could look like for your family
  • There was a time not so long ago when the income gap between the rich and the poor was shrinking and many near the bottom of the economic ladder moved into the middle class.

    Between 1910 and 1950 inequality declined, largely as a result of two World Wars and the Great Depression, writes Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century. But by the 1980s inequality was rising rapidly again, as it had before the industrial revolution, and it hasn't stopped. President Obama calls increasing inequality "the defining issue of our time."

    Related: "Absurd, insane deficit obsession" making U.S. income inequality worse: Jim Steele

    The source of rising inequality is capital growing at a faster rate than the economy, explains Piketty. He defines "capital" as profits, dividends, interest and rent and says this "fundamental inequality" has been with us throughout most of human history.

    Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, is on a book tour in the United States and

    Read More »from U.S. inequality looks like Europe before WWI: Thomas Piketty
  • Lynne and Tim Martin are breaking all the rules of retirement.

    At a time when they had every right to kick back in their cozy Paso Robles, Calif., home and live out their golden years surrounded by children, grandchildren and friends, they chose to sell their house, pack their lives in two rolling duffel bags, and see the world.

    Since 2010, Lynne, 73, and Tim, 68, have been chronicling their journey on their popular blog, HomeFreeAdventures.com, where they share the rules of living “home free” as they learn them first-hand. This week, Lynne’s memoir, “Home Sweet Anywhere,” hit shelves. Lynne retired from a career in public relations, and Tim retired from his job running a small electronics firm.

    Their lifestyle is the stuff of dreams for most retirees, but the couple’s decision to travel full time was very much rooted in reality.

    “We looked very carefully at what our overhead was living in California, and what it cost us to wake up every morning in our house,” says Lynne. “We added

    Read More »from 'Home Sweet Anywhere': Why these retirees traded their home for life around the world
  • Stocks ended a busy day of first quarter earnings mixed The Dow (^DJI) down 0.10% The Nasdaq (^IXIC) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC) were up slightly. The markets are closed tomorrow for Good Friday.

    IBM (IBM), Google (GOOGL) and UnitedHealth (UNH) were all lower on the day after disappointing earnings. Shares of Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) were both up after both reported better-than-expected earnings.

    The mixed bag of earnings news overshadowed two positive reports on the economy. Initial jobless claims rose less than expected in the latest week to 304,000. Economists were expecting to see 315,000 new claims for unemployment benefits. And the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s index of manufacturing activity for April rose to the highest levels since September.

    Meanwhile, a pair of tech stocks debuted today. China’s version of Twitter, Weibo (WB) ended its first day of trading on the Nasdaq up 19%. The stock priced at $17 a share and opened at $16.27. And Sabre (SABR), the online

    Read More »from Stocks end shortened trading week mixed on confused earnings results
  • Dear Mom and Dad: When I grow up, I want to be a nostalgist.

    Said no child, ever.

    Wait a few years, though, and that scenario is likely to change.

    By 2030, job titles that may seem bizarre today will be among the most-sought after careers in the labour market, according to the Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan.

    FYI. A nostalgist is an interior designer who specializes in recreating memories for wealthy seniors.

    “Rather than settling for a typical ‘retirement village’ experience where everyone’s apartment looks the same, the wealthy elderly of 2030 will have the luxury of living in a space inspired by their favourite decade. Nostalgists recreate the setting of their preferred time and place for seniors wishing to relive their past, from a small-town 1970s living room to a 1980s university dorm room,” the CST website states.

    The list of future jobs also includes titles such as Tele-Surgeon (operating on people using robotic tools, rather than human hands), a Localizer (helping communities

    Read More »from Jobs of 2030 may include ‘Rewilder’ and ‘Nostalgist’: report
  • It’s human nature for kids to make different choices than their parents. But when it comes to the influential Millennial crowd, the children of the Baby Boomers, companies would be wise to pay close attention.

    This is particularly true in the restaurant business, where retail analysts from RBC Capital Markets have found that this group of 18-to-34 year-olds has “dramatically reduced” trips to restaurants – and it’s not just the ones without jobs.

    The RBC report says Millennials have cut back on restaurants visits by 21 per cent over the last seven years in the U.S., and experts in Canada believe the trend is similar up here.

    “While some of this is likely due to macro factors, much of the change seems to be due to the different values of the Millennial Generation,” says the report.

    Those values include a search for food that is better quality, yet still comes quickly, and the restaurant has to have some entertainment value (think iPads on the tables and interactions through social

    Read More »from Millennials shunning restaurants — even the ones with jobs
  • You can point out how rich the 1% are, or pound home how hard it is to keep up these days. But whatever you do, don’t act like there’s a “recovery.”

    That’s the advice from a prominent public-policy firm to Democratic politicians running for reelection this year. Democracy Corps, founded by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg, recently conducted a series of polls to determine how candidates can best connect with voters as they campaign for the 2014 midterm elections in November. The results show just how disheartened many Americans are about their economic prospects, even though the recovery is technically entering its fifth year.

    By some measures, the economy is getting back to normal. The unemployment rate is down from a peak of 10% in 2010 to 6.7% today. In aggregate, Americans have regained all the wealth lost during the twin housing and stock-market busts, and then some. After six years of extraordinary intervention, the Federal Reserve is beginning to back

    Read More »from One thing you can’t say to voters about the economy
  • The proverbial window for IPOs may be closing, but it's still open at least a crack. On Thursday, Chinese messaging service Weibo and Sabre Holdings, the parent of Travelocity, made their public debuts. At 91 so far, according to Renaissance Capital, the volume of IPOs in 2014 is more than double the pace of 2013 -- the biggest year for IPOs since 2000. 

    But as with a number of recent deals, including investment bank Moelis, Weibo and Sabre each sold fewer shares than expected, priced offerings below the expected range and struggled on their first day. (Shares of both Weibo and Sabre were up modestly in recent trading.)

    it's hardly the stuff bubbles are made of, as I discuss in the accompanying video with Ben Horowitz, cofounder and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that has founded more than 2300 companies and has over $4 billion under management.

    "It's hard to see us in the bubble like we had in equities if we're not even back to [the year] 2000 in terms

    Read More »from Tech IPO bubble? "It's hard to see," Ben Horowitz says
  • What’s going on with IPOs?

    Host Lauren Lyster posed that questions to Breakout host Jeff Macke and Leigh Drogen, CEO of Estimize. Weibo (WB), dubbed the Chinese version of Twitter, began trading today. The company, which is owned by web-portal Sina (SINA), raised $286 million, less than expected and priced its IPO at $17, near the low end of the range. Sabre (SABR), the parent company of travel website Travelocity, also made its stock market debut today. It sold 39.2 million shares at $16. The company was expected to sell 44.7 million shares in the $18 to $20 range.

    Lyster asked if the lackluster performance of other IPOs in the last few weeks is due to less of an appetite for risky stocks.

    “They’re offering not very good companies for really high valuations,” Macke said of recent IPOs. He cautioned that it’s not an IPO bubble, because if it were, investers wouldn’t have “run away” from LaQuinta Holdings (LQ), which debuted last week at $17 a share, below the expected $18 to $21

    Read More »from What's going on with IPOs?
  • General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra has the unenviable challenge of explaining why a safety recall involving 2.6 million vehicles and at least 13 deaths took more than a decade to get underway. Her subordinates have a different but equally important job: To keep moving the metal.

    Related: Mary Barra’s strong leadership will lead GM beyond recall drama 

    GM’s sales have held up so far this year despite the worsening controversy over the safety recall, but that may be about to change. Data from research firm YouGov BrandIndex shows that GM’s reputation has deteriorated steadily during the last two months, as the recall has expanded and Congressional investigators have begun to scrutinize it. The same goes for Chevrolet, GM’s biggest division, which has also suffered a sharp drop in the “buzz score” BrandIndex calculates, wich is based on consumer polling. More people now say they have a negative image of Chevy than a positive image.

    Some of the recalled vehicles were sold by Pontiac and

    Read More »from At Chevy, some sharp cars fall victim to a recall controversy
  • Quarterly reports of two consumer-oriented stocks released this morning had very different results. Leigh Drogen, CEO of Estimize and Yahoo Finance's Jeff Macke joined Lauren Lyster to discuss toymaker Mattel (MAT) and burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG).

    Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie and Fisher-Price toys, reported a loss $11.2 million or $0.03 per share. Worldwide sales for Barbie and Fisher-Price brands both fell, 14% and 6% respectively, though sales for its American Girl line rose 5%. Total worldwide sales fell 5% to $946.2 million.

    Drogen said, “Kids aren’t playing with these dolls anymore. They’re playing with apps,” he said. "Look at Candy Crush. It’s making a ton of money.”

    Macke agreed. “So make apps, Mattel,” he said. Macke compared Mattel to Coca-Cola (KO), saying that soda sales are in decline. So, what did they do? “Coca-Cola went out and bought a bunch of water instead,” Macke said, referring to their $4.2 billion purchase of Glaceau, maker of Vitaminwater

    Read More »from Barbie is out of fashion, burritos are in
  • As if the cost of a higher education weren’t crippling enough; university is poised to rival your first mortgage for expense supremacy. If living away from home, the average cost of an undergraduate degree is expected to reach $150, 000 by the year 2031, according to a TD economics report.

    And despite the staggering costs to come, nearly one-third of Canadian parents with a child under the age of 18 are not saving for their education.

    The reasons are wide ranging. For one, 41 per cent of parents included in the survey say saving for retirement plays a significant role in their ability to save for their children’s education. And 50 per cent of parents cited in the survey say costs associated with recreational activities and the other costs of raising a child -- think daycare and vacations -- impact their ability to save for future education.

    “According to data from the Canada Student Loans Program, students in kindergarten today will be paying $13,100 per year in tuition fees by the

    Read More »from Cost to attend university, live away from home to be $150,000 by 2031: TD
  • Controversial Internet television service Aereo is much like other popular high-tech entertainment products that courts have found to be legal, the company’s chief executive, Chet Kanojia, maintains.

    The service, available in 11 cities so far, lets customers watch over-the-air broadcast channels via the Internet for $8 to $12 a month. Broadcasters have sued, saying Aereo is distributing their programming without paying the licensing fees required by copyright law.

    But Kanojia, in an interview with Yahoo Global Anchor Katie Couric, explains that Aereo dedicates a tiny television antenna to each customer and then streams the signal over the Internet to the customer’s phone, computer or TV set.

    “The idea that somebody using an antenna is somehow stealing the signal just flies contrary to the original relationship between the consumer, the government, for giving them the spectrum, and the broadcaster,” he says. “Now if somebody's come out with a smarter antenna, a clever, different

    Read More »from Aereo CEO defends antenna, slams broadcasters
  • Are we facing another housing bubble?

     

    In a housing or real estate bubble, home prices inflate because of overly optimistic speculation that they'll keep rising. When people can't afford to keep up, the bubble bursts. Demand for homes decreases, while supply goes up and home prices drastically drop.

    Today, certain markets across America are seeing home prices go up so quickly that people are starting to worry about another bubble. So where do we stand?

    From 2000 to 2006, home prices were skyrocketing. Why? It was fueled by overly-optimistic speculation on real estate, careless lending standards and very low mortgage rates. At the height of the bubble, homes were overvalued by 39%.

    Also see: Shark Tank Secrets of Success -- Building an Untouchable Career

    Built on that shaky foundation, when prices cooled millions of people defaulted on their mortgages and the bubble didn’t just burst, it exploded, creating the biggest real estate and credit crisis in modern history.

    Fast-forward to the present day, and we’re still in

    Read More »from Are we facing another housing bubble?
  • Nearly two years after Facebook’s (FB) tumultuous IPO, the company has found its grounding once again with strong financials and an ever-growing user base. Nearly one-fifth of the time Americans spend on their smartphones is spent using Facebook and the company has completed several large acquisitions including Instagram (for $1 billion), Whatsapp ($19 billion) and virtual reality platform Oculus ($2 billion).

    Related: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg earns $1 salary in 2013

    Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times on Wednesday that he wanted to dismantle his $150 billion social media company. This year he began Creative Labs, which aims to revamp the way the company distributes it services.

    “What we’re doing with Creative Labs is basically unbundling the big blue app,” he told The Times. Facebook is planning on splintering into more focused, smaller services.

    Zuckerberg also told The New York Times that this splinter strategy has to do with the way people use mobile phones. “In mobile,

    Read More »from No more Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg has a vision says Ben Horowitz
  • As high-flying social networking stocks cratered over the past few weeks, it was the out-of-favor old guard of tech – the IBM’s (IBM), the Intel’s (INTC), the Google’s (GOOG) – that held up better.

    The theory was that the big companies would weather any difficult times, perhaps brought on by the Fed, better than smaller upstarts. But as the giants have reported first quarter earnings, it’s become apparent these lumbering behemoths were out of favor for a reason. There’s not much growth, and profits, while still sizable, may be under threat.

    On Wednesday IBM reported first quarter revenue of $22.5 billion, well below the $22.9 billion Wall Street expected, as hardware sales took a hit. Sales at the overall systems and technology unit declined 23%, including a 40% drop in sales of “Z” mainframes and a 22% drop in the “Power” server line. IBM said its sales related to cloud computing jumped 50% but the company didn’t actually disclose the dollar figure of those sales in its earnings

    Read More »from Old tech's mediocre earnings undermine investors' shift to safety
  • Despite a topsy-turvy first-quarter, there were decent inflows in to the equity and bond markets.  On the equity side, funds saw total inflows of about $73 billion. 

    About $68 billion flowed in to open-end funds and just about $4.5 billion went in to Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).

    Equity income products have fallen in and out of favor with investors since this time last year but seem to be seen in a positive light again. 

    “With the market gyrations we’ve seen recently in the tech and biotech space, we’re starting to see some flows come back in, so this could be back on again in Q2,” said Bob Jenkins, global head of research at Lipper Thompson Reuters.

    RELATED: Avalanche of bonds

    Bond funds didn’t quite match to equities, with $44 billion coming in to the space.

    Within the bond industry, a big winner was in the alternative credit focus strategy.  This space has hedge-like strategies embedded in to the funds in terms of market downside and currency -hedging.  It allows managers to be

    Read More »from Follow the money: Bright spots for equities and bonds
  • Editor's note: On Thursday, April 17, Chipotle reported its first-quarter earnings before the bell. While the company missed Wall Street expectations on earnings per share, coming in at $2.64 vs. a consensus of $2.86, revenue came in at $904.2 million, exceeding expectations of $873 million.  Same-store sales were up a very healthy 13.4%, which beat last quarter's 9.3% gain. On its earnings call, Chipotle CEO Jack Hartung also noted the company would be passing on some of  its increased costs to customers for the first time since 2011. The stock was up as much as 5% early Thursday but ended the day down close to 6%.

    As the nation's restaurant chains prepare to report their quarterly results in the weeks ahead, sales on the whole are expected to continue growing modestly. However, a few notable standouts should emerge, with Chipotle (CMG), Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) and Starbucks (SBUX) among them.

    The 25 largest restaurants measured by market capitalization will likely post a 1.8%

    Read More »from Chipotle, Starbucks among projected restaurant winners at earnings time
  • Despite a topsy-turvy first-quarter, there were decent inflows in to the equity and bond markets.  On the equity side, funds saw total inflows of about $73 billion. 

    About $68 billion flowed in to open-end funds and just about $4.5 billion went in to Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).

    Equity income products have fallen in and out of favor with investors since this time last year but seem to be seen in a positive light again. 

    “With the market gyrations we’ve seen recently in the tech and biotech space, we’re starting to see some flows come back in, so this could be back on again in Q2,” said Bob Jenkins, global head of research at Lipper Thompson Reuters.

    Bond funds didn’t quite match to equities, with $44 billion coming in to the space.

    RELATED: Avalanche of bonds

    Within the bond industry, a big winner was in the alternative credit focus strategy.  This space has hedge-like strategies embedded in to the funds in terms of market downside and currency -hedging.  It allows managers to be

    Read More »from Follow the money
  • For McDonald's (MCD), 2014 may well end up as one of the most pivotal in its nearly 60-year history: Either it succeeds in powering past its recent setbacks, or it becomes further viewed as a faltering giant in retreat.

    McDonald's, to be clear, isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's too large and entrenched, with $89 billion in system-wide sales and 35,000 locations globally, to suffer serious damage quickly. In the U.S. alone, its 14,000-plus units, the majority of them franchises, had sales in excess of $35 billion last year. Should its demise ever come, it will be in a far distant future.

    But cracks in the structure are there. McDonald's has mended them before, as with ongoing restaurant remodels meant to improve the perception of stores by offering fresh looks and cleanliness. Its menu additions, both the permanent and limited-time offers, regularly nod to changing consumer interests. Even after the "Super Size Me" era, it thrived.

    Now, however, McDonald's has a new set of

    Read More »from Ahead of earnings, McDonald's arches showing cracks
  • China's GDP slows: Time to panic?

    China’s economy grew by 7.4% in the first quarter of 2014, the slowest rate since September 2012 and below the 7.5% target set by the Chinese government.

    “The big picture is that this did miss the [Chinese] government’s target which is what raises eyebrows because China is the ‘engine of global growth’,” says The Daily Ticker’s Lauren Lyster. “But the truth is that’s what the economy is supposed to do there. They are trying to wean themselves off of their desperate addiction to investment-led growth.”

    Related: Russia, China aiming for dollar’s demise: Jim Rickards

    Retail sales in China were up 12.2% year-over-year, beating expectations but industrial production missed estimates at 8.8% and fixed asset investment also slowed down. “Clearly they have a slowdown going on,” says The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task, “and they’re trying to manage it.”

    One of the ways China is attempting to manage is by intervening in the currency markets to weaken the yuan after years of increasing in value. A

    Read More »from China's GDP slows: Time to panic?
  • Canada’s housing market is headed for a soft landing in 2014, but buyers are still likely to feel the squeeze as record-high property prices remain surprisingly resilient, especially in major urban centres such as Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

    That’s the message from Scotiabank, which released its annual real-estate industry trends report Wednesday at an economic conference in Toronto.

    Among its key predictions, senior economist Adrienne Warren said we can already see the slowdown in resale activity, a trend she expects to continue over the next year or two due to a combination of high housing costs, rising mortgage rates and tighter mortgage regulations.

    At the same time, housing prices are expected to hold near the 10-year average under pressure from continued population growth, particularly in major urban centres, and relatively healthy labour market conditions.

    The only relief buyers can likely expect will be weak to flat house-price gains – a trend affecting the more amply

    Read More »from Resale activity to suffer as housing affordability deteriorates: Scotiabank
  • In conjunction with the April 15 tax deadline, the organization Americans for Tax Fairness released its annual report on Walmart and the Walton Family.

    Subtitled "How Taxpayers Subsidize Americas's Biggest Employer and Richest Family," the report concludes the company and its founding family received $7.8 billion in tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies in 2013, featuring:

    • $6.2 billion in public assistance to Walmart workers, namely Food Stamps and Medicaid
    • $1 billion in federal tax breaks, notably via the use of accelerated depreciation
    • $670 million directly to the Walton family due to lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends vs. wages

    Related: America’s 30M hourly workers deserve a raise: Ralph Nader

    Walmart (WMT) calls the report "inaccurate and misleading” and even some who support its overall focus take issue with the specific findings.

    The $1 billion in federal tax breaks cited by Americans for Tax Fairness overstated the case by about $900 million, according to David Cay

    Read More »from Yes, Walmart works the system: Don't hate the player, hate the game
  • Spring is usually the time when potential home buyers hit the road in search of that perfect house, and sales pick up. But this spring isn't looking so sunny.

    Housing starts in March rose less than expected, at a 2.8% annual rate, housing permits fell 2.4% and pending home sales in February fell to their lowest level in almost two and a half years. Homebuyer traffic in 40 major U.S. markets in March was down about a third from a year ago, according to a Credit Suisse index.

    Related: Housing outlook "still very positive," says PIMCO's Kiesel

    "We might have already seen the peak of the recovery," says The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task. "Unless overall economic activity picks up and wages pick up we may be plateauing in the housing market."

    And there's more data to support that thesis. Mortgage lending is at a 14-year low, 30-year fixed mortgage rates are averaging about 4.6% vs. 3.6% a year ago and the homebuilder confidence index last measured 47 (below the key 50 level) indicating more

    Read More »from Housing forecast: A not so sunny spring

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