Growing investor angst about China’s real estate crackdown rippled through markets on Monday, adding pressure on Xi Jinping’s government to prevent financial contagion from destabilizing the world’s second-largest economy.
Hong Kong real estate giants including Henderson Land Development Co. suffered the biggest selloff in more than a year as traders speculated China will extend its property clampdown to the financial hub. Intensifying concerns about China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis dragged down everything from bank stocks to Ping An Insurance Group Co. and high-yield dollar bonds. One little-known Chinese property developer plunged 87% before shares were halted.
Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index slumped 3.3%, its biggest loss since late July. The selling also spilled over into the Hong Kong dollar, offshore yuan and S&P 500 Index futures. Holiday closures in much of Asia may have exacerbated the volatility, traders said.
“The repercussions from Evergrande’s prospective collapse will likely contribute to China’s ongoing economic deceleration, which in turn anchors global growth and inflation, and casts a pall over commodity prices,” wrote analysts led by Phoenix Kalen, head of emerging-market strategy in London.
The Fairfax County Police Officers Retirement System and Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System are planning to invest, pending board approvals, a total of $50 million in Parataxis Capital Management LLC’s main fund, which buys various digital tokens and cryptocurrency derivatives.
The outlays come on the heels of the Fairfax funds — which together manage about $7.15 billion — investing several times in Morgan Creek Asset Management funds, and, earlier this year, in crypto venture firm Blockchain Capital. While some of these investments ended up going into coins like Bitcoin, the majority was invested into technology startups, so Fairfax considered them venture-capital investments. Parataxis, with its focus on actual coins, is different.
But that same volatility can lead to outsized returns, which have been one reason for Fairfax’s expanded investment. Molnar’s $1.95 billion police retirement fund was planning for 2% exposure to crypto via Morgan Creek and Blockchain Capital, but at the end of June crypto accounted for 7% of assets, due to appreciation, she said. Although Molnar couldn’t discuss exact appreciation, crypto “was not an insignificant contributor to performance” in the second quarter, she said.
House Democrats continue to search for a way to satisfy lawmakers who want to scrap the deduction limit on state and local taxes without losing progressives wary of a tax cut that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy.
The budget blueprint Democrats passed this summer instructs lawmakers to include some form of SALT cap relief in a tax-and-spend plan of up to $3.5 trillion.
A full repeal would be costly and politically difficult to pass with razor-thin margins in both chambers. But a coalition of lawmakers from New York, New Jersey, and other states with high tax rates continue to insist that is what it will take for them to back the legislation.
Suozzi is one of the leaders of the “SALT Caucus”, an alliance of more than 30 lawmakers who want to roll back the $10,000 deduction limit established in the Republican-led 2017 tax law. While they argue that the cap unfairly targets Democrat-dominated states and encourages people to move to Florida and other low-tax states, progressives counter that expanding the deduction shouldn’t be a priority in a social spending bill because the lion’s share of the benefit would go to the wealthy.
That  bill passed the House, but 16 Democrats voted against it, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has described a full repeal as a “gift to billionaires.” Democratic leadership is dealing with a much narrower majority this Congress and can’t afford to lose that many votes with no Republicans expected to support the reconciliation package.
Economists are often reminded by well-meaning friends and strangers that economics is flawed for assuming people are rational when they’re not. It’s not always clear what these skeptics mean by rational — often it’s a propensity for making bad decisions. And there’s truth in that. People struggle to make sense of probabilities, especially in the midst of uncertainty. Just look at the difficulty most people have had understanding the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines.
We humans also tend to exaggerate remote risks and ignore more likely events. Even when we accurately assess risk, sometimes we procrastinate doing what’s in our best interest or make snap decisions we regret later.
But generally, the idea we could nudge people to make better choices by exploiting their behavioral biases was always oversold. It’s hard to persuade people to do something they don’t want to do, especially when you don’t fully understand their unique motives. And if data isn’t presented clearly and honestly, attempts to nudge people can be self-defeating when they don’t trust you.
The pandemic and the work-from-home environment it spawned also led many economists to speculate that workers would become better adapted to technology, more efficient and strike a healthier balance between work and life. This, in turn, would leave them more mobile. A Microsoft Corp. workplace trends survey found that 40% of Americans are considering leaving their jobs this year. And many are doing just that, with 2.5% of the employed quitting their jobs in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey. Although that’s down from the record 2.8% in April, it’s still higher than any other point since at least before 2001. Plus, consider that the quit rate was only 2.3% in 2019 when unemployment was just 3.6%, compared with 5.8% this May.
At least 65% of Asian people have been vaccinated, on average, in states that Bloomberg is tracking. That compares with 45% of White people with at least one dose, 40% of Hispanics and 34% of Black people. In New Mexico, New York and Washington, more than three-quarters of the Asian population has been covered.
Even as rates slowed, Asians remained the most likely to get newly vaccinated, with an average of more than 5% getting their first dose over the past month compared to 3.5% or less for the other groups.
The observation that downward mortality trends have reversed in recent years for some groups of Americans is not new. Economists Ann Case and Angus Deaton helped start the discussion with their 2015 paper on rising mortality among middle-aged, non-Hispanic White Americans, and subsequently gave the phenomenon a resonant name: “deaths of despair.” Research has also identified those without college degrees and rural Americans as especially troubled.
In March, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee summed up the current state of knowledge in a 475-page report on “High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults.” Advances in overall life expectancy stalled in the U.S. after 2010 even while continuing in other wealthy countries, the committee summed up, attributing this mainly to (1) rising mortality due to external causes such as drugs, alcohol and suicide among those aged 25 through 64 and (2) a slowing in declines in deaths from internal causes, chiefly cardiovascular diseases.
Those aged 15-to-44 have seen fluctuating mortality rates since the 1950s, deviating from all other age groups that have seen steady decreases over the years. The age group’s mortality rate for the COVID-19 pandemic “pales in comparison” to the 1918 pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
“In March, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee summed up their findings in a report titled ‘High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults.’ Advances in overall life expectancy stalled in the US after 2010 even while continuing in other wealthy countries, the committee summed up, attributing this mainly to (1) rising mortality due to external causes such as drugs, alcohol and suicide among those aged 25 through 64 and (2) a slowing in declines in deaths from internal causes, chiefly cardiovascular diseases,” wrote Bloomberg.
Historically, bond yields have not been very good at predicting inflation.
In the last 70 years, bond yields rarely rose ahead of inflation, going up only after inflation takes hold. One study indicated that past inflation trends were a better predictor of bond rates than what future inflation turned out to be.
Does this mean bond traders are wrong? Not necessarily. It may just reflect that inflation is unpredictable and bond traders don’t know any more about the future than the rest of us. All they have is the past data and current prices to make their predictions, too. So when inflation suddenly spikes — as it has in the past — bond traders are as surprised as everyone else.
(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department is sending a message to states and cities that the billions in aid from the American Rescue Plan should provide relief to residents, not their governments’ debt burdens.
The department on Monday released guidance on how state and local governments can use $350 billion in funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package. The funds are intended to help states and local governments make up for lost revenue, curb the pandemic, bolster economic recoveries, and support industries hit by Covid-19 restrictions. In a surprise to some, these funds can’t be used for debt payments, a potential complication for fiscally stressed governments that had already etched out plans to pay off loans.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had suggested using some of the state’s $8.1 billion in aid to repay the outstanding $3.2 billion in debt from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facility and to reduce unpaid bills. Illinois was the only state to borrow from the Fed last year, tapping it twice. On Tuesday, Jordan Abudayyeh, a Pritzker spokesperson, said the administration is “seeking clarification” from the Treasury on whether Illinois can use the aid to pay back the loan from the Fed.
The rule could also affect New Jersey, which sold nearly $3.7 billion of bonds last year to cover its shortfall during the pandemic. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, in April had called for Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to use some of the federal aid to pay down the state’s debt.
The rate of growth in retired Americans who collect Social Security has slowed down sharply, and the drop may be due in part to the disproportionate number of deaths from Covid-19 among the elderly.
The number of people who received retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration rose 900,000 to 46.4 million in March, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2009.
While the Office of the Chief Actuary at the government agency said it is still too early to assess the impact from Covid-19, the year-over-year change appears to reflect excess deaths. About 447,000 people who died from the virus were 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 80% of total deaths.
China plans to raise retirement ages gradually over a number of years instead of in a drastic one-time change, a government researcher said last week, without providing any detail on when the changes might start.
When the retirement age starts being lifted, it will be by a few months every year, or by a month every few months, according to Jin Weigang, head of the Chinese Academy of Labor and Social Security under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. Mr. Jin didn’t say when the changes would begin, but the current five-year plan calls for “raising the retirement age in a phased manner.”
“People in different age groups will be retiring at different ages,” Mr. Jin said in an interview with the state-run Xinhua News Agency published March 13. “For example, in the first year of the policy’s implementation, female workers who were originally scheduled to retire at 50 will retire one month or a few months after 50.”