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With inflation a key midterm issue, Americans’ fear of rising prices drops at a record pace



With inflation a key midterm issue, Americans' fear of rising prices drops at a record pace

For Democrats facing election in the upcoming midterms, inflation is a political thorn that digs into consumers’ budgets despite a concerted federal effort to combat the problem. New data shows that those efforts might finally be paying off.

On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released its most recent Survey of Consumer Expectations, which outlines how consumers anticipate prices to fluctuate in both the near-term and distant future. The survey showed its largest ever drop in inflation expectations since it began keeping track in 2013, signaling that consumers are starting to feel a bit more hopeful about the economy.

Those expectations, in turn, could help bolster Democrats during the upcoming midterm elections in November. In recent months, President Joe Biden’s economic approval rating has fallen in various polls as Americans grapple with higher prices.

The new Fed survey, which represents data from July, shows that consumers anticipate inflation to persist at 6.2% over the next year—down significantly from 6.8% in June. 

The downward trend holds steady for longer-term expectations as well. Consumers anticipate inflation to run at 3.2% over the next three years, down from 3.6% in June, according to the survey, and 2.3% over the next five years—down from 2.8%.

The Survey of Consumer Expectations is nationally representative, consisting of a rotating panel of about 1,300 “household heads.” Those household heads participate in the panel for up to a year before cycling off, allowing for a data set that reflects changes in consumer expectations and behavior for the same individuals over time.

The survey’s results for July are significant, as inflation expectations are widely considered to have a direct impact on actual inflation numbers. When consumers and businesses both anticipate high inflation, there’s an increased chance of the economy entering a “wage-price” spiral, with businesses setting higher prices and workers demanding higher wages as a result.

The cyclical phenomenon, which occurred during the period of stagflation in the late 1970s, is famously hard to control.

In July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that inflation had reached a four-decade high of 9.1% year over year in June, up from the previous peak of 8.6% in May. In response to persistent inflation, the Federal Reserve has instituted several interest rate hikes to try and combat it. Its two most recent rate hikes—75 basis points in June and July—were the bank’s largest since 1994.

That record inflation has been widespread across sectors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and most prominent in energy and food. Those sectors have proven especially difficult to control as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupts global energy markets.

For much of the summer, energy prices have been a particular pain point for U.S. consumers, with the price of a gallon of gas reaching an average of nearly $5 in June. 

Those prices have begun to ebb, spurring the Survey of Consumer Expectations’ more positive outlook. In July, the inflation expectation for gas over the next year decreased 4.2 points to 1.5% over the next year, according to the survey. At the same time, inflation expectations for food dropped the most since the survey began, falling 2.5 points to 6.7%. 

The survey recorded additional sector-specific declines in inflation expectations for rent, medical care, and education.

Beyond inflation, the survey also measured expectations with regard to job prospects and earnings growth. The perceived probability of losing your job in the next 12 months, according to the survey, declined slightly from 11.9% to 11.8%—a level still significantly lower than it was before the pandemic. In February 2020, the perceived possibility of losing your job was 13.8%.

The data follows last week’s most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the U.S. economy added 528,000 jobs in July, surpassing analysts’ expectations, with unemployment dipping to a record low of 3.5%.

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Coinbase’s near-term outlook is ‘still grim’, JPMorgan says, while BofA is more positive about firm’s ability to face crypto winter



Coinbase's near-term outlook is 'still grim', JPMorgan says, while BofA is more positive about firm's ability to face crypto winter

Coinbase is well positioned to successfully navigate this crypto winter and take market share, Bank of America said in a research report Tuesday. It maintained its buy recommendation following the exchange’s second-quarter results.

The results warrant “a muted stock reaction,” the report said. Net revenue of $803 million was below the bank’s and consensus estimates, while its adjusted $151 million loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization was better than the street expected. Importantly, the company remains “cautiously optimistic” it can reach its goal of no more than $500 million of adjusted EBITDA loss for the full year, the report added.

Coinbase shares fell almost 8% in premarket trading to $80.74.

Bank of America notes that Coinbase had no counterparty exposure to the crypto insolvencies witnessed in the second quarter. The company also has a “history of no credit losses from financing activities, holds customer assets 1:1, and any lending activity of customer crypto is at the discretion of the customer, with 100%+ collateral required.” These rigorous risk-management practices will be a “positive long-term differentiator” for the stock, the bank said.

JPMorgan said Coinbase had endured another challenging quarter, while noting some positives.

Trading volume and revenue were down materially. Subscription revenue was also lower, but would have been much worse were it not for higher interest rates, it said in a research report Wednesday.

The company is taking steps on expense management, and in addition to the June headcount reductions, is scaling back marketing and pausing some product investments, the note said.

The bank says the company’s near-term outlook is “still grim,” noting that the exchange expects a continued decline in 3Q 2022 monthly transacting users (MTUs) and trading volumes, but says Coinbase could take more “cost actions” if crypto prices fall further.

JPMorgan is less optimistic than Bank of America about the company in the near term, saying pressure on revenue from falling crypto markets will have a negative impact on the stock price. Still, it sees positives including higher interest rates, from which the firm will generate revenue. It also sees opportunities for the exchange to grow its user base, leveraging almost $6 billion of cash. The surge in crypto prices in July, and the forthcoming Ethereum Merge are also seen as positive catalysts, it added.

The bank maintained its neutral rating on the stock and raised its price target to $64 from $61.

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Elon Musk sold $6.9B in Tesla stock in case he’s forced to buy Twitter



Elon Musk sold $6.9B in Tesla stock in case he's forced to buy Twitter

Elon Musk sold $6.9 billion of his shares in Tesla Inc., the billionaire’s biggest sale on record, saying he needed cash in case he is forced to go ahead with his aborted deal to buy Twitter Inc.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” Musk tweeted late Tuesday after the sales were disclosed in a series of regulatory filings. 

Asked by followers if he was done selling and would buy Tesla stock again if the $44 billion deal doesn’t close, Musk responded: “Yes.”

Tesla’s chief executive officer offloaded about 7.92 million shares on Aug. 5, according to the new filings. The sale comes just four months after the world’s richest person said he had no further plans to sell Tesla shares after disposing of $8.5 billion of stock in the wake of his initial offer to buy Twitter.  

Musk last month said he was terminating the agreement to buy the social network where he has more than 102 million followers and take it private, claiming the company has made “misleading representations” over the number of spam bots on the service. Twitter has since sued to force Musk to consummate the deal, and a trial in the Delaware Chancery Court has been set for October. 

In May, Musk dropped plans to partially fund the purchase with a margin loan tied to his Tesla stake and increased the size of the equity component of the deal to $33.5 billion. He had previously announced that he secured $7.1 billion of equity commitments from investors including billionaire Larry Ellison, Sequoia Capital, and Binance. 

“I’ll put the odds at 75% that he’s buying Twitter. I’m shocked,” said Gene Munster, a former technology analyst who’s now a managing partner at venture-capital firm Loup Ventures. “This is going to be a headwind for Tesla in the near term. In the long term, all that matters is deliveries and gross margin.”

At the weekend, Musk tweeted that if Twitter provided its method of sampling accounts to determine the number of bots and how they are confirmed to be real, “the deal should proceed on original terms.” 

Musk, 51, has now sold around $32 billion worth of stock in Tesla over the past 10 months. The disposals started in November after Musk, a prolific Twitter user, polled users of the platform on whether he should trim his stake. The purpose of the latest sales wasn’t immediately clear.  

Tesla shares have risen about 35% from recent lows reached in May, though are still down about 20% this year. 

With a $250.2 billion fortune, Musk is the world’s richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, but his wealth has fallen around $20 billion this year as Tesla shares declined.    

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The rent is too d*mn high for Gen Z: Younger generations are ‘squeezed the most’ by higher rents, BofA says



The rent is too d*mn high for Gen Z: Younger generations are 'squeezed the most' by higher rents, BofA says

Most of Gen Z is too young to remember the 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan.

But over a decade later, they would probably agree with his signature issue (and catchphrase): the rent is too damn high.

This July, median rent payments were 7.4% higher than during the same period last year, according to a Bank of America report released Tuesday. 

The national median price for a one-bedroom apartment has been hitting new highs nearly every month this summer. It was $1,450 for July, according to rental platform Zumper. In the country’s largest city, New York, average rent exceeded a shocking $5,000 a month for the first time ever in June. 

But inflation in the rental market hasn’t hit each generation equally, and no one is getting squeezed harder by the higher monthly payments as Gen Z. Those born after 1996 have seen their median rent payment go up 16% since last July, compared to just a 3% increase for Baby Boomers, BofA internal data shows. 
“Younger consumers are getting squeezed the most by higher rent inflation,” BofA wrote.

The great rent comeback

Early in the pandemic, landlords slashed rents and gave significant COVID discounts to entice tenants to stay instead of leaving urban areas. Once those deals started expiring in 2021, many landlords suddenly raised payments once again, sometimes asking for over double their pandemic value. 

Young people across the board have been hit hard, and rent burdens compared to age can be seen even within a single generation. Younger millennials had their median rent payment grow 11% from last year, while the median payment for older millennials rose 7%. Gen X experienced a 5% median rent increase, according to BofA. 

It’s not a surprise, then, that Gen Z feels so strapped for cash. The majority of young people, 61%, said they want to receive their wages daily instead of twice a week, a practice typically reserved for workers living paycheck to paycheck, according to a report from the Center for Generational Kinetics, which specializes in research across the generations. Rising rent inflation has even priced nearly a third of Gen Zers out of the apartment search altogether. Around 29% of them have resorted to living at home as a “long-term housing solution,” according to a June survey from personal finance company Credit Karma.

It’s no wonder—the rent really is too high.

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