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The University of Michigan has released its updated consumer sentiment report for March. The month-end report was marginally lower than the mid-month reading, and that is said to be due to uncertainty about the impact of proposed trade tariffs. The Sentiment Index came in at 101.4, and that is still the highest level since 2004. Bloomberg had called for the preliminary reading of 102.0 to remain static.
Also worth noting was that the Current Conditions Index hit 121.2 in March, and that is a new all-time high. The Index of Consumer Expectations ticked down to 88.8 in March from 90.0 in February.
The sentiment report was on the heels of a February report showing that personal income was 1.8% year on year on the PCE Price Index and up 1.6% on the Core PCE Price Index.
What is interesting is where the income gap levels are driving sentiment. The media constantly reports on wage gaps, wage inequality and low pay raises over time. That made it surprising to see that all of the gains in March’s overall sentiment came from households with incomes in the bottom one-third, up 14.1 points. The middle one-third of household incomes were unchanged, and the index fell among those households in the highest one-third of income with a drop of 5.6 points.
In addressing the economic levels, the University of Michigan report said:
Households with incomes in the top third cited significantly greater concerns with government economic policies than last month, especially trade policies, with net references falling from +31 to just +1, offsetting their positive reactions to tax policies.
There is also not much concern over rising interest rates. Consumers do expect that interest rates will increase in the foreseeable future, but consumers still view the current level of interest rates as relatively low. The report said about higher interest rates and spending versus saving:
They understand that interest rate hikes are intended to dampen the future pace of economic growth. Their reaction will both emphasize borrowing-in-advance of those expected increases as well as heighten their precautionary savings motives. The trade-off between spending and saving will crucially depend on the pace of future interest rate hikes compared with the pace of income growth. It is likely that income growth will initially dominate, tilting consumers’ motives more toward spending than saving. Overall, the data are consistent with a growth rate of 2.6% in consumption from mid-2018 to mid-2019.I'm interested in the Newsletter
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Waymo, the former self-driving vehicle unit of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and the Jaguar Land Rover division of India’s Tata Motor announced Tuesday morning that the two firms will collaborate to create the world’s first premium electric fully self-driving vehicle for Waymo’s planned transportation service.
The technology developer said it would add up to 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE all-electric vehicles to its fleet in the next few years as it rolls out its self-driving ride-hailing service. Testing of the self-driving cars will begin later this year.
Although the companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal, Bloomberg reported that Waymo will purchase the Jaguar vehicles, which sell for $69,500. If Waymo buys 20,000, the total cost will top $1.3 billion.
Waymo already has forged a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) for unspecified thousands of the company’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The minivans presumably offer everyday ride-hailing services while the Jaguars offer a more luxurious travel experience.
The recent death of a pedestrian struck by an Uber-owned self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona, could toss a monkey wrench into Waymo’s plan to deploy the first of its self-driving ride-hailing vehicles by the end of this year. Uber has stopped testing its self-driving technology on city streets, and so has Toyota. Ford, Nissan and Waymo have not.
Last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that tries to establish some order for a patchwork of differing federal and state regulations on self-driving cars. A Senate committee has approved a similar bill, but the full Senate has yet to vote on it. While the bills differ in some important ways, they agree that federal rules will preempt state and local rules.
The Senate is also trying to fast-track regulations, but even at a rapid pace by government standards, rules for self-driving vehicles are likely to develop more slowly than technology companies are accustomed to.
MAKES SETTLEMENT IN FATAL CRASH
A law firm hired by the family of an Arizona woman who died after being struck by a self-driving Uber Technologies Inc vehicle said thursday the issue has beeen resolved. The Uber vehicle, hich as in self driving mode but has a human operator behind the wheel, hit 49 year old Elaine Herzbert while she was walking her bike ouside of a crosswalk March 18 Terms of the settlement were no available In wake of the first known fatality involving a self driving vehicle, Uber has suspended its autonomous car program in the four cities where it was testing it.
Moody’s downgraded Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA). According to MarketWatch:Moody’s Investors Services late Tuesday downgraded Tesla Inc. corporate debt rating to B3 from B2, one notch further down on its junk-bond rating, saying the Silicon Valley car maker “will have to undertake a large, near-term capital raise in order to refund maturing obligations and avoid a liquidity shortfall.”
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) will cut production of the Accord due to oversupply. According to The Wall Street Journal:Workers assembling Honda Motor Co.’s Accord will take off a total of two weeks from building the sedan over the next several months as the auto maker works to adjust bloated inventories.Unlike Detroit auto makers that have either eliminated entire sedan lines or slowed down sedan production over the past year, Japanese, German and Korean auto makers haven’t taken their foot off the pedal.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has made plans to move back into the education sector it once dominated. According to The Wall Street Journal:Apple Inc. said it is updating its entry-level iPad with capabilities designed to appeal to students and new software for teachers, as the company tries to recharge sales of the tablet and shore up its dwindling share of the U.S. education market.The company Tuesday said its new 9.7-inch iPad includes a faster processor and works with the Apple Pencil stylus, which previously worked only with higher-end iPad Pro models.The entry-level iPad’s price remains at $329, the lowest-priced tablet available from the company. Schools, which receive discounts on pricing, can buy the device for $299.
SoftBank has started a massive solar energy power program in Saudi Arabia. According to Bloomberg:Saudi Arabia and SoftBank Group Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $200 billion solar power development that’s exponentially larger than any other project.SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, known for backing ambitious endeavors with flair, unveiled the project Tuesday in New York at a ceremony with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The powerful heir to the throne of the world’s largest crude exporter is seeking to diversify the economy and wean off a dependence on oil.
Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln will launch a new sport utility vehicle. According to CNBC:After more than a decade in the dust-bin, Lincoln is resurrecting the mid-sized Aviator sport utility vehicle in a totally new form and aiming it squarely at well-to-do millennials starting families.Ford’s luxury brand gave reporters a preview of the new Aviator in Manhattan on Monday, days before the New York International Auto Show. The vehicle gives buyers another new option in a lineup increasingly focused on popular and profitable sport utility vehicles, crossovers, and trucks.
Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has lost an intellectual property lawsuit against Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL). According to CNNMoney:Google just lost a major copyright case that could cost it billions of dollars and change how tech companies approach software development.An appeals court said on Tuesday that Google violated copyright laws when it used Oracle’s open-source Java software to build the Android platform in 2009.
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