U.S. Economic Growth revised upward

According to the Commerce Department, for its third GDP estimate for the period, Gross domestic product grew at a 2.1% annualized rate which is higher than the previous forecast of 1.9%.

For the third quarter of 2016, the U.S. economy increased by 3.5% but overall showed only 1.6% economic growth for 2016. In 2015, the U.S. economy expanded by 2.6%.

Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at PNC financial, said, “Some of this softness is due to seasonal adjustment issues that will reverse later in the year. Consumer spending will lead growth thanks to higher incomes from more jobs and rising wages.” Faucher forecasts a 2.3% economic growth for the U.S economy this year.

This pace of economic growth has been enough to lessen unemployment, but the Trump administration has been struggling with its pro-growth agenda. It has given few details of its economic policies and last week suffered a defeat to repeal Obamacare. As such, there is a question as to whether his economic agenda will be realized. Also, some economists doubt whether he can achieve higher economic growth because the U.S. suffers from an aging workforce and weak productivity growth.

Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, said, “The primary question is whether the next few years will resemble the last several years with the growth of around 2 percent or whether better days lie ahead.” President Trump aims to have 4% or better annual GDP growth for the U.S. economy

The forecast GDP of the Atlanta Federal Reserve for the first quarter is 1 percent, and this tends to be lower compared to other quarters because of calculation issues which the government is currently resolving.

The good news is that the labor market is near full employment and so growth figure will likely understate the health of the U.S. economy.

Two-thirds of U.S. economic activity is driven by consumer spending. In the fourth quarter of 2016, it has been revised upward to 3.5 percent compared to the previous estimate of 3 percent. This growth in consumer spending is backed by a tighter labor market. A recent Labor Department report said that claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 for the week ended March 25. This means that more people are getting jobs and spending.

Domestic demand for the 4th quarter grew strongly at 3.4%.

Also, the Commerce Department reported that profit figures increased 0.5% for the fourth quarter, up from almost a 6% gain in the previous quarter. Profit figures take into account depreciation and inventory values.

Baird said, “The post-election surge in business sentiment is broadly expected to support stronger investment- a key support to stronger growth that has been largely elusive thus far in the current expansion.”

Some of the key adjustments to the 4th quarter GDP include imports revised upwardly from 8.5% to 9%, exports declining to 4.5% instead of 4%, and government spending increase was reduced to 0.2% from 0.4%. Also, increase in inventories was revised upwardly from $46.2 billion to $49.6 billion.

Continue Reading

Experts explain how to get into the investing and savings habit

saving money

According to an April 2015 report on CNBC, financial experts advise younger investors to receive some financial education before investing money. According to the budgetary gurus, it is best to pay off your credit card debt and maintain an emergency savings account before you invest as well. That way, you can cover any unexpected job loss or expenses. An emergency savings account, according to experts, should cover about three to six months of basic expenses.

Experts also advise that young people take full advantage of the benefits associated with tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Advisors suggest maxing out the retirement plan sponsored by your employer or your individual retirement account (IRA) before setting up a regular investment account.

According to budget planners, consumers should put their money into an employer retirement plan as employers often match whatever an employee invests. They add that taking advantage of an employer match is like receiving free money. Some of the popular retirement plans include 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and regular IRAs.

A Roth IRA allows investors to grow their savings tax-free while paying taxes on the contributions. On the other hand, if you take out a regular IRA, you are not taxed until you withdraw money. However, you won’t pay taxes the on annual gains. Before opening a regular investment account, though, make sure you are educated about saving on fees. That means choosing lower cost brokers like TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Schwab or Vanguard to manage your investments.

In addition, financial investment specialists suggest that you put your money into passive funds that feature a low fee. That way you can keep your expenses down while diversifying your account. Choose either an exchange-traded fund (ETF) or passive mutual fund, both which give investors access to a wide range of stocks, bonds or similar assets. These kinds of funds replicate indexes, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500, and also feature lower expense ratios. Investors can reference a funds’ historical returns or expense ratios through their broker or on Morningstar.com.

Diversification, according to financial professionals, is the key to overall investment success. Stockholders should not only diversify within their funds but extend diversification to their entire portfolio. While the markets can be volatile, the stock market, historically, maintains a median annual return of around 6 to 8%. Millennials who invest as little as $50 per month have the opportunity of compounding and growing their money so they can retire well in about 30 years.

Continue Reading

Calgary task force seeks new regulations for payday loan industry

city hall in Calgary

Soon after the province of Alberta proposed new legislation that would rein in the payday loan industry, one city’s task force began to also seek out new regulations for the industry that has been accused of being predatory. Is it necessary when the provincial government is already clamping down on the industry?

Calgary’s City Hall task force on payday loans is looking to install extra oversight to the often criticized industry. It suggests that the municipality introduces brand new licensing rules and exorbitant fines for violators for payday loan companies.

As part of the proposal that is scheduled to be presented to a council committee Wednesday, some of the new regulations would see operators be required to display signs on money management and debt counselling. Also, the payday loan stores would be legally required to verbally inform customers about these personal financial services.

If the businesses refrain from following these rules then they would face a $1,000 fine.

“We’re all wanting to have responsible lending practices,” said Shelley Vandenberg, president of First Calgary Financial and a member of the task force. “This is a practice that does ensure you’re lending for the right reasons and the borrower knows all their choices.”

The industry is already airing its grievances over the proposed new rules. One industry group stated that any such changes would be unnecessary and duplicate other laws that are currently in place. It would also apply additional headaches to payday loan stores that are facing heavy restrictions from Alberta’s New Democratic Party.

Tony Irwin, president of the Canadian Payday Loan Association, argued that stores already offer clients financial literacy literature, adding payday loan stores are provincially licensed.

Calgary’s task force concurred that it does mirror the NDP legislation at the provincial level, like suggesting to clients to seek credit counselling. But members averred that the city should move ahead with the modifications anyway.

“What’s being proposed by the City of Calgary seems to me to be a lot of duplication from what the province already requires us to do,” Irwin said. “We are a compliant industry.”

There are many businesses that provide consumers with payday loans bad credit which are complemented with very high interest rates. A lot of customers use these alternative financial services to pay their rent or cover the lighting bill, and they can’t use credit because they have don’t have access to it. Moreover, due to the enormous and numerous fees and interest charges, customers can’t cover the first loan so they take out several new loans to pay off old ones. Critics say this places them at a disadvantage and sends them into a never ending spiral of debt.

Representatives from the industry note that payday loan companies are needed, particularly in the province’s fragile economy. However, Lisa Holmes, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, says because Alberta’s economy isn’t performing well that these kinds of restrictions and regulations are needed.

“The economy in Alberta is not the greatest right now,” Holmes said. “We’re seeing more people that are laid off. More people will be accessing these types of loans and so this is an important way to be able to protect them in a proactive sense.”

If payday loan stores begin to close down in Calgary then they do have the choice to use First Calgary Financial. It’s a credit union that does offer short-term loans to borrowers up to $1,500 with an 18-month repayment period that has a 12 percent interest rate.

Continue Reading

Look at the BIG picture when purchasing a vehicle


Every year, many Americans invest in a new car and naturally most are keen to get the best deal when it comes to the price. For many, this means planning a negotiation at the showroom on the price of the vehicle in a bid to get the sales people to knock a percentage off the cost. However, officials have said that one thing consumers are failing to do when negotiating the price of a new vehicle is to take other related costs into account.

Experts have said that when buyers negotiate with sales staff during the purchase of a car they often only take the cost of the actual vehicle itself into consideration. However, they said that this is only one aspect of the purchase and that consumers should first do their research so that they can take all other costs into account when negotiating a deal.

Other costs that should be considered

According to officials, there are a number of other related costs that car buyers need to take into consideration when thinking about negotiating over their vehicle purchase. It is important for buyers to realize the value of any trade in as well as researching areas such as sales taxes and fees, all of which have an impact on the final cost. Experts said that by making sure they were aware of the value and cost of these related services, consumers would be far better equipped to negotiate the best deal when they got to the showroom in order to complete their vehicle purchase.

A consumer advice expert said that many people focused far too heavily on just the price of the car itself rather than taking these related costs into consideration as well. She said that people often forgot that there were various other costs that made up the final price of the vehicle and with this in mind buyers needed to discuss the ‘out of the door’ price of the vehicle includes factors such as sales taxes, trade ins and other fees. This would then enable them to properly negotiate and get the best deal possible.

She also said that buyers needed to know when to pass on a deal if things such as fees and taxes took them over their budget even if the sales staff has offered a discount on the cost of the actual vehicle. She said that buyers should be aware of exactly what fees would be involved prior to even stepping into the showroom as this would enable them to plan their negotiation and put them in a far stronger position.

Continue Reading